The Masai tribe, due to their near-absence of chronic disease, have often been held up as a standard to aim for. So too the Inuit, who too have traditionally maintained exemplary health. And while they are separated by language, genetics and geography, they share a lot of similarities. One such similarity is the limited diet that they consume. Day-in, day-out.
How can this be? Well it turns out that, when the diet suitably nourishes you, your body remains suitably nourished! Human beings are arguably the most adaptable species on the planet when it comes to thriving on various dietary fayre; the mechanisms for recycling key nutrients can be as complex as they are inspiring.
There is often a need to rotate the diet, especially for individuals prone to developing food intolerances and those prone to mismanagement of vitamins and minerals (anyone with a deranged metabolism may not self-regulate nutrient levels in the way a Masai may). However, the single biggest priority is to ‘feed you without inflaming you’, which is the first step in allowing healing to occur (this, ironically, reduces the likelihood of food intolerances and supports better self-regulation). Anyone with metabolic imbalance is likely to struggle to produce the digestive secretions required to process various food chemicals and this sets the seen for perpetual inflammation. Unless we break this cycle.
Most dietary advice for individuals with illness is made under a weird belief system that, even though the mitochondria is misfiring, the central nervous system is imbalanced and the hormonal axes are suppressed, the digestive process will somehow handle inflammatory chemicals (like lectins, oxalates, etc) in the usual fashion. As crazy as this sounds, this is still standard dogma among my profession; the desire to recommend all these healthy and antioxidant-rich foods runs so deep that it overwhelms our logic.
In reality, the same level of enzyme dysfunction occurs across all systems. Your digestive tract is not magical. And, while such issues can normally resolved in a matter of weeks, it is important to recognise that there may be limitations to begin with. Better a limited diet than a diet that limits your progress.
“It’s not natural!”
Surely it can’t be natural to be taking this many supplements? This is something that comes up from time to time. And it is most definitely not natural swallow tablets and capsules; there is no precedent for this at any point in human evolution. Equally, there is no precedent for the complex metabolic problems that my clients face. Evolution has selected the current ‘brand’ of humans – all 7 billion of them – to perfectly match the surroundings in which they evolved. These surroundings do not include living in groups of more than 150, wearing suits, waking by alarms or living in brick houses. They definitely do not involve antibiotics, vaccines or pharmaceuticals.
There is almost zero chronic disease found naturally. More accurately, chronic metabolic issues were found so rarely throughout the course of evolution that there was not sufficient evolutionary pressure to develop additional systems that resolve them. This is why, once the initial trigger has been applied, the metabolism may become stuck in a cycle of dysfunction, with many physiological cycles becoming self-perpetuating. In most cases, the right intervention breaks these cycles. In almost all cases, this intervention is ‘unnatural’.
This is not to say that we ignore nature’s rules and throw in novel chemicals unrecognized by the body (eg. pharmaceutical drugs). But it does mean that we may need to compensate for poor handling of a nutrient by delivering it in much more generous quantities. To offer examples, individuals with disturbed gall bladder function may need 100x the amount of Vitamin K in their diet to maintain a decent cellular status. People hit with the double whammy of poor digestive absorption and oxidative stress may need 25x more B12. Vitamin C requirements may skyrocket above those seen ‘naturally’. And so on.
Illness affects the body’s function and we must compensate for these effects. The irony here is that we are aiming to restore your cellular status to those levels seen naturally, but often need to take unnatural steps to do so. Put another way, my suggestions are always guided by evolution and inspired by nature, but never limited by them. And whenever we have a choice of choosing between what is most natural and what works, I will choose the latter.
Stop looking for the ‘best’ strategy and the ‘best’ foods
Most weeks I might receive a similar email from prospective clients. Such emails often express a wish to come and see me, but then comes the question: “what is the best way to support the adrenals?”
Of course, there is no accurate answer to this. Are we looking at low cortisol levels, or high? What about the DHEA? Is the daily rhythm where it should be or is it reversed? How much of the adrenal issues relate to inflammation at the hypothalamus, and what is the source of this inflammation? The answers to all of these questions will determine what is best for the individual, and therefore what I suggest.
This applies across the board. “Is milkthistle good to take?” It depends. “Should I avoid oxalates?” It depends. “What probiotic is best?” It depends…
You were not as healthy as you thought pre-crash
Except for incidences of extreme trauma, the cause of your ‘crash’ was not actually the cause. It was the straw that broke the camels back. During each initial consultation, I will create a timeline, which tracks the early signs of imbalance and records the additional factors that compounded this. In every single individual, we can track the development of metabolic problems, from ‘minor’ to ‘show-stopping’.
We do live in a culture that considers that you are ‘healthy’ providing you are upright and can play your role in society. This is why I so often here “I was fine until…” Yet, when we go through the history, that individual may have had their tonsils out, may have had years of constipation and/or digestive discomfort, may suffer with migraines, etc etc. All of these are clues of growing metabolic imbalance. It is important to recognise this because a healing journey will always stall unless you provide the right support for all the important areas.
I sometimes hear individuals with major postural issues tell me that ‘it cannot be my posture’, on the basis that they had such issues for a long-time before the crash occurred. This logic is understandable but it simply does not play out. To use postural issues as an example, many ‘healthy’ people may have some pronounced issues that affect blood flow into their head and therefore the conditions in their central nervous system. This may simply compromise sleep quality or coordination. Or maybe it will just make them a bit more anxious than they need be. It does not necessarily cause the crash to occur, it just means they are much closer to the ‘crash threshold’ than they otherwise would be. In other words, their otherwise-normal state betrayed an underlying vulnerability; that they were one metabolic insult away from a crash and had been for years. Put another way, their overworked adrenals may have been the only thing stopping them from metabolic collapse but, the second the adrenals no longer ‘pick up the slack’, the game is up. This vulnerability is found in 100% of people who crashed from an insult (the very same insults that prove innocuous for others).
Which leads me on to the next point…
Whatever caused the crash was normally the trigger, not the cause
In a medical world obsessed with a ‘pill for every ill’, it is very easy to become convinced that we only need to find the right antidote for whatever caused our drop in wellbeing. Then we can get on with life the way we did before.
Except, as I have touched on in my previous point, the human body is a complex web of inter-dependant organ systems. When one goes down, it places pressure on the others. Months of antibiotics, known to wipe out your microbiome? This regularly sees a change in immune function, which itself activates the adrenals much more than nature ever intended. Equally, B vitamin status is compromised, which can have huge knock-on effects in methylation (itself required for neurotransmitter function, healing, detoxification, hormonal processing, and more). The cascade continues in every other area of life. Add a lack of sleep to this mix. This adds further stress to the adrenals, reduces opportunities to release growth hormone and screws up immune function further. We now have an organism unable to complete detoxification, unable to heal and unable to extract nutrients from food in an effective manner. This is a ticking time-bomb. Whatever adds significant stress to this situation is near guaranteed to bring the whole show to a stop.
Maybe this comes from a viral infection. Or an emotional/life stressor. Or mould exposure. The actual trigger is extremely relevant and normally requires some focus, but it is naïve to blame this trigger for the larger problems.
There will always be multiple factors at play when humans are unwell. Understanding this is important to manage expectations. I often see individuals who are disappointing that I have outlined eight major obstacles standing between them an optimal health (as they really wanted me to provide a special vitamin tablet that will fix them). I get it. During my own darker days, I would have loved to swallow a pill and for it to all go away. The only problem is that it doesn’t work that way.
The human body is made up of 74 trillion cells, hundreds of biological systems and complex interdependent systems. Equally, it is incredibly resistant to changes in conditions and can provide remarkably flexible in the face of metabolic insults. It is truly amazing how we can wipe out the good bacteria in our guts and still function. How we can go without optimal sleep for years and yet still think reasonably clearly. How we can stay alive with near-zero B12 intake. Yet, sooner or later, something has to give…
Your are not abnormal. In fact, you are the most normal one
I think it is very natural for anyone with chronic illness to ask, ‘why me?’. As a community, we can look outward and see colleagues and friends abusing their body with alcohol, drugs and late nights, then gulping down a double-expresso-and-aspirin combo and going about their lives. Yet we have one beer and pay the price for a couple of days!
However, it is worth considering that the human body was never evolved to take such punishment and that it is a true miracle that some people come through this in one piece (and it is only some… most people hellbent on the work-hard-play-hard-drink-harder approach will end up in my office eventually).
After a years of antibiotics, painkillers, excessive stress and caffeine with insufficient sleep and low nutrient intake, it’s no surprise that our metabolism becomes deranged. The only surprise is that not everyone around us has crashed too. To endure that amount of punishment and still function is truly abnormal.
Which leads me onto my next point…
Our bodies have not let us down, we’ve let them down
By ‘we’, I mean society. You didn’t choose to take those antibiotics when you were a toddler. And your parents were simply doing what the doctor told them when they cut back on real fats and replaced them with margarine and ‘healthy’ grains. But the fact is, evolution selected your body’s responses in line with its environment. While our lifestyles appear ridiculous to anyone living outside of the system, modern society thinks very little of the changes we have inflicted upon our bodies. We have:
- Taken our bodies from country to city
- Flipped the carb-fat-protein balance of our diets
- Placed toxic metals into our teeth
- Made exotic fruits available all year round, negating the ebb-and-flow of seasonal variability
- Over-ridden our body clocks through electric lighting systems
- Sealed off our homes to the environment (through double-glazing, etc), creating mould-friendly micro-environments in the name of energy efficiency
- Introduced around 3,500 untested chemicals into the diet (the GCAS list means these chemicals need not be named, despite having never been tested alongside one another)
- Wiped out the bacterial balance of our intestines through antibiotic use
- Abandoned traditional cooking/preparation techniques, postural care and sleep hygiene
As I have alluded to in Paradigm #2, this creates a very unnatural set-up that is unique throughout the course of human evolution. The more removed we become from our natural set-up, the more extreme and comprehensive the response must be.
No condition has a solution
More specifically, if you are suffering from a particular condition, you must understand that there is no specific solution. All labels in mainstream medicine relate to the symptoms, not the cause. Take migraines, for example; there is a good reason why migraine medications work for some people and not for others, because there can be many different causes (estrogen/progesterone issues, dehydration, mineral shortages, viral infection, food intolerances to name just a few). I’ve explored this particular issue more <a href= http://www.blueprintfitness.co.uk/will-i-recover-from-cfs-and-in-how-long/>here</a>.
Therefore, expecting magnesium to stop a hormonally-induced migraine is extremely optimistic. Equally, asking me what my approach is for CFS is futile (the same goes for ‘Cipro-poisoning’, etc). All your label tells us is what symptoms your doctor picked up on (and even then, different doctors will give you different labels). So I recommend that you stop considering that you ‘have’ a condition and instead consider these are instead the ‘surface’ symptoms of an underlying imbalance. It’s the same screening process whether you are hypothyroid or Cipro poisoned…. If your central nervous system, immune system, liver, adrenals and digestion are working in an optimal fashion, you will always be well. My primary focus is therefore the same for all: what changes should we make to bring about optimal function of these organ systems <u>in you</u>? The specifics will vary, although the important factors remain the same across all humans.
Reset / Remove obstacles
The last 12 years have shown time and time again that the body is self-healing, providing there are no obstacles in the way. If your body is not healing, then you have not removed the obstacles effectively. Maybe this is a deficiency of a particular nutrient, maybe this is an inflammatory trigger. It’s normally one or the other. Of course, genetics can play a role here, as can neurological tension and other arcane areas.
Most people reading this for the first time will say, “but I’ve tried everything”. I’ve heard this hundreds of times (I’d estimate 600 in total). In every single case, we determined a number of key obstacles that had been entirely ignored. Spotting these sometime takes a few seconds and sometimes takes a few minutes. But there are always obstacles still in place. If there were none, you’d be feeling great…
…because the body is self-healing, providing there are no obstacles in the way.