We are convinced that our health has nothing to do with our diet. We have created a mental separation between food and illness. When we become ill, we believe that it is due to our genes, bad luck, or a punishment or test from God. What’s staggering, though, is the fact that the three leading causes of death in the United States: Heart Disease, Type II Diabetes, and even Cancer, are potentially preventable. Poor dietary choices are directly associated with the development of these diseases as well as acute disease states such as colds and flu. Grandma used to say, “You are what you eat.” The scientific literature supports this opinion. How we eat and live (our lifestyle) determines our present and future health.
The belief that disease is caused by events beyond our control makes us feel as if we are helpless victims. The scientific literature emphatically supports that diet and lifestyle are primary determinants of disease risk. Numerous research studies have shown that chronic degenerative diseases such as; heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases, are much more common in populations consuming diets consisting of processed, calorically rich, and micronutrient poor foods that are heavily laden with pesticides, and much less common in countries with diets rich in vegetables and fruits. Foods are known to affect the action of hormones and the strength of the immune system. While fruits and vegetables contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that protect the body, most Americans simply do not consume enough. Of the thirteen known vitamins, eleven are made by plants. The two exceptions: Vitamin B12, which is made my bacteria, and Vitamin D, which is actually a hormone, is made by the action of sunlight on the skin.
The Standard American Diet is indeed very SAD. Many substances that are toxic to the body are consumed in increasing quantities. These include saturated fats, trans fats, refined flour, sugar, preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, sweeteners, antibiotics and pesticide residues. Over time this massive assault of chemicals and empty calories leads to metabolic derangements and disease. Mankind did not evolve to eat a diet so full of chemicals and simple sugars. The human digestive and metabolic machinery is not designed to withstand these insults.
As a result, I recommend a natural, whole food diet with emphasis on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, berries and high quality protein sources such as fish (low pesticide and mercury residue), poultry (preferably organic), eggs, and grass fed meats. Simple sugars, high fructose corn syrup (which contains mercury and can lead to metabolic syndrome), artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, artificial flavors, processed foods (e.g., “TV dinners” and other manufactured snacks and convenience foods) should be minimized or eliminated all together. Chemical preservatives, partially hydrogenated oils, saturated fats, and flavor-enhancers, such as monosodium glutamate and carrageenan, are likewise avoided.
Many ask the question; do I have to go vegan? The answer is NO. A vegan diet, as recommended by Dr. Campbell, is full of micronutrients from fruits and vegetables but the exclusion of animal protein requires ingestion of high amounts of grains and legumes which contain large amounts of lectins, which bind bacteria (acts like Velcro) to the gut lining cells (enterocytes) and can exacerbate Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), increase gut permeability (leaky gut), promote autoimmune disease, activate inflammatory pathways, contribute to circulating immune complexes and is quite immunogenic (pro-inflammatory and pro-allergic). Not exactly the picture of health you had in mind, is it?
Though we cannot alter our genetic makeup, our health can be greatly improved with a better diet and lifestyle that leads to ‘epigenetic’ changes in which we do not alter our genes but alter the expression of our genes. Fatigue, headaches, stomachaches, arthritis, and other aches and pains are a signal that something is wrong. If you pay attention and listen to your body, you can halt and reverse the onset of subsequent chronic disease.