This is a guest post from Helen Denton who blogs at Sensitive Brains
Stop for a few moments and see if anything sounds familiar about yourself in this blog. Consider how you feel about your own health right now…
I wrote a blog earlier this year discussing my concerns about the modern epidemic of childhood behaviour and health problems. Conditions such as ADHD, autism, ASD, eczema and asthma are all on the rise. There seems to be no medically-recognised answers for this and certainly no established treatment beyond pills, inhalers and lotions. Even the most cynical person can see that a child with asthma will never be cured from their underlying problem by inhaling some chemicals!
Adults have not escaped the modern epidemic of poor health either. I suspect we just happen to accept more things as ‘normal’ or inevitable. Health complaints like IBS, depression, poor sleep, high blood pressure, generalised fatigue, aching joints and back pain, weight gain and blood sugar problems are just everyday life for many. I was once guilty of this roll-over-and-accept attitude towards my own health.
What catalysed the change for me was seeing what was happening to my own children. Both of my daughters had vague non-specific health problems: poor sleep, skin problems, tummy upsets. To me the most distressing issues were behaviour-related. I remember seeing my eldest daughter ‘melt down’, writhing and moaning on the floor because her knickers were just too ‘uncomfortable’. She couldn’t cope if she didn’t get the correct colour of cup or worried if her favourite bag was out of sight. I recognised that this was not my daughter’s bad behaviour – she was a victim of something, I just didn’t know what that something was. I spent days and months seeking solutions whilst acting as a bystander to my children’s unhappy tantrums, restless sleep and manic moods.
Many would label this ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), perhaps happy in the knowledge that a diagnosis justifies the upsetting behaviour. I held up my hands up and said ‘this is wrong’. Where is the health? Where is the happiness? I was criticised by many. Surely this is just normal childhood behaviour? I disagreed wholeheartedly and set about making some big changes to my family’s diet.
There is a lot of information out there about various diets for health. Who hasn’t heard of the Mediterranean Diet or the Atkins Diet? In fact, there is so much info out there that it is easy to dismiss it all: they can’t all be right! As a family, we decided to use the Paleo principles as a template as this seemed the most logical. It is a diet based on human evolution.
The rest, as they say, is history. We did some crazy things. Followed some good and not so good dietary guidelines. All the time we were looking and waiting for improvements. Through this period we confirmed to ourselves that the food you eat most definitely affects your health. Eating grass-fed venison liver may well be highly nutritious but it utterly devastates the health of both my children! I can look back now with a wry smile but at the time I felt helpless.
What I have learned is that we must all take responsibility for our own health. What you eat can profoundly affect how you feel. So, back to the first question…how do you feel about your own health? Are you vibrant, happy and energised? Are you comfortable in your own body?
I was not. I had a list of grumbling non-specific ailments as long as your arm and no diagnoses to show for it. My children slept badly, had uncontrollable behaviour and just looked plain glum most of the time. We were not the vision of health I was hoping for.
What changed was my appreciation of the underlying cause of our dis-ease. We had cut out so much and still seemed to make no notable improvements. Eventually, after chasing explanations and with a cupboard full of various vitamins, minerals and super-food supplements, we cast them off. No ‘healing’ coconut oils, no ‘seeding’ with probiotic bacteria, no ‘digestive’ vinegars or ‘anti-oxidant’ vitamin C.
After experiencing this journey, I now believe we can all experience better health. The answer lies in understanding not what we can cut out or which dietary principles you can follow but what the problem is in the first place. The answer to that is complex but the basic concept is simple: we are all in a state of inflammation. Inflammation is linked to obesity, diabetes, depression, mood disorders and even cancer. Bring down this inflammation and you can begin to feel better.
The dietary causes of inflammation are fairly well established: sugars, fats, additives like MSG and glutamate. We went wrong in our modern interpretation of what this meant: we had an unprocessed diet with no added sugar, no grains or legumes, no refined carbs, and no food additives yet we still had problems. Unfortunately we had also removed lots of anti-inflammatory foods in an attempt to avoid food-related responses aka ‘food intolerance’.
On top of this we weren’t respecting our Microbiome. You need lots of good resistant vegetable fibre for your colonic microbes to flourish. Your happy colonic friends can then provide you with all sorts of good things ranging from vitamins to fatty acids. This doesn’t come from drinking kefir or eating grass-fed raw butter, it comes from within.
The wrong diet can negatively impact on your Microbiome. Pro-inflammatory bacteria can grow, pushing up your inflammation resulting in ‘leaky gut’, food intolerances, fructose malabsorption, allergy and inflammatory conditions like arthritis. It is also implicated in histamine release in your gut. This can unbalance your body’s normal response to food so that the very act of digestion causes problems. This goes to explain why so many of us respond directly to the food we eat with drippy noses, catarrh, red cheeks or rashes, irritability, feeling hot/cold etc.
So the upshot is that with the correct balance of foods we can all bring down our inflammation. We were staggered by how many niggly ailments were linked to our diet: my husband’s back pain disappeared, my headaches vanished and my children no longer had ‘melt downs’.
My question to you is how much better can you feel? With an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, low GI diet, health and vitality may be possible for us all.
You can contact Helen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the blog Sensitive Brains