part 2. paleo
Although each chapter makes sense on its own, I believe that the greatest benefit is provided by following my relatively longer story gradually as I was gaining experience and knowledge chronologically. The mosaic of stories and sequences thus makes more sense.
part 2. paleo
- Paleo Diet
The next step for me was the Paleo ‘diet’, which I was on consistently for about a month and a half starting in September 2014; I was motivated by the incredible book It Starts with Food which I have already referred to several times. There are quotation marks used in the word ‘diet’ because Paleo focuses more on content/food selection than on quantity which is eventually set by everyone consuming natural foods themselves. The quotation marks are also used because I consider Paleo to be not a diet but eating healthy. The book is great; I literally inhaled it and recommend it to everyone. It contains a huge amount of knowledge confirmed by doctors/scientists and tried by several thousands of people on how the body, hormones, diet and its components, food industry and its artificial taste traps work, how hard it is to get out of these traps due to addiction. Paleo shows a way out of these traps with methods (30 day Whole30 programme), experience, recipes and more. It is obviously extremely readable for a person with an interest in health.
On Paleo Diet
To illustrate, this is one example from the book to open your eyes, if they are still closed regarding this matter. Nature gave our brain a so called ‘reward centre’ through the evolution that gives us satisfaction (we are still talking about the diet :). This centre is activated for us (for the body) when we eat suitable (nutritious) food. The body identifies it by its taste where e.g. a sweet taste is a safe source of energy and a fatty one means a dense source of calories. At the same, the centre provides a still smaller reward (giving us less and less satisfaction) if we eat particular food too often. Thus we are gifted with a mechanism to ensure the selection of nutritious foods and healthy variety of our diet. Evolution/nature is amazing, isn’t it?
It would be if it hadn’t been circumvented by the food which victimizes us and fosters addiction in the brain. But there are 2 catches in it. The first exception to the rule is a declining reward that is sugar. (Note that when talking about the harm of sugar, I mean the industrial sugar added to ‘food’ not its natural form in fruit and vegetables). Besides sugar’s promotion of inflammation in the body, it also has many other drawbacks – there are entire universes of information about it on the Internet. My addiction to sugar and other information will be shared later. As for sugar, it has been guaranteeing the previously mentioned basis of energy, securing our survival for hundreds of thousands of years of evolution in nature. That’s why you will always be able to (regardless of alarm signals from an already full stomach) stuff yourself with something sweet. Day after day. And the brain will still provide signals of pleasure because it still thinks that a sweet donut bought at a petrol station will allow you to escape from a predator. Even worse, if you do not know, sugar is included in the vast majority of food under its various forms (hidden under a variety of different and healthy-looking names). Such names include sucrose, dextrose, glucose (grape, starch sugar), lactose (milk sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), chemical sugar substitutes and sweeteners (sorbitol E420, mannitol E421, glycerol, E422, acesulfame E950, aspartame E951, cyclamates E952, isomalt E953, saccharine E954, sucralose E955, neohesperidin DC E959, alitame E956, thaumatin E957, glycyrrhizin E958, xylitol E967, maltitol E965, lactitol E966, steviol glycosides E960, erythritol E968, salt of aspartame E962) and beet, agave, maple syrup. The result? The food industry is constantly stuffing us with sugar, we eat these products throughout our entire lives (because we like the sweet taste and will always like it because of the brain) and we are addicted to sugar.
The other catch is the intensity of taste. Food today is full of chemical ingredients that give you great and irresistible flavours in the form of artificial sweeteners and substances emphasising flavours and aromas. These flavours are much more intense than anything naturally occurring in nature. No wonder that it is a sign of attractiveness for us (our brains) and the addiction arises from these intense flavours through the reward centre. Think about your addictions and habits. Give it time. Face it! I think it is exceptional to find someone who, opening a pantry with a craving for a sweet finish after lunch or a salty crunch during passive entertainment, resists the temptation. As a result, we don’t really perceive our hand automatically continuously stuffing us with some potato crisps, crackers, pretzel sticks, chocolate, etc. The brain, addiction and tastes are indeed met but the body and health suffer.
Although we eat (artificial and fake) tasty stuff, we suffer from malnutrition because all those fatty fried, salty or sweet foods lack micro and macronutrients. They are comprehensively covered in real food (what has really grown on the ground, in the ground or walked it). We are slaves to our tastes and addictions which have been imprinted in the brain by artificially created intense chemical stimuli jammed into the ‘food’. Even our tastes suffer from it as we need to buy and eat those extra salty, spicy or sweet things and intensify it all by further seasoning to enjoy the food; and our ability to perceive the natural taste of real food is long gone. Do you recognize yourself or someone else from your immediate surroundings in this introduction to the Paleo diet and wonder what to do? Paleo is the solution.
Due to the minutely stated alternatives to sugar and since each of those E numbers has a different effect, a perfect tool for orientation in the chemical E number madness should be mentioned.
On NutriAtlas App
With this great app which can be found here you will see the effects of each E number on your health – see the picture. You can do so either by scanning the label of a food product/food (if it is in the database, where you can also add it after being approved by the administrators) or manual searching. The E numbers are ranked by a scale of harmfulness from 0 (‘completely safe, natural substance produced naturally’) and gradually increasing unsuitability with each level (‘unsuitable for children, causing allergies, hyperactivity and stress’) up to level 6 ‘probably carcinogenic effects’and level 7 ‘dangerous substances’. Thus, you can quickly find out the suitability of various healthy-looking yogurts, sweets for children and actually every processed ‘food’ with more than one component description of the content. Each E number has its category, characteristics, manufacture, use and side effects described in detail. The app provides additional information on the E number and a link to more information on the Internet. You will be often surprised by the effects of the content of what you buy every day for yourself, your children and loved ones. You will find out what have you been eating since you haven’t yet received the information or have your eyes closed thinking you aren’t affected by this. It is no wonder that these ‘foods’have an infinite shelf life, intense far from natural, artificial tasty flavours and that autoimmune diseases, allergies, eczema and digestive problems affect more and more people (you can find the statistics yourself).
The NutriAtlas app will definitely open your eyes (wide) even on the practical level of shopping. It can be used in real time when deciding between different products in a shop e.g. by determining that you won’t go for a harmfulness level 3 and higher. If you will not be deterred from food products completely, it lets you choose the lesser evil at least. You simply need the NutriAtlas app. It helps, among other things, to broaden the awareness of food and health; more people might perhaps buy more on the basis of relevant information and not advertising. My idealistic goal would be an increased demand for healthy foods, which could consequently lead to a reorientation of the food industry to a healthier direction. However, it takes a lot of people to do this, you included.
If you prefer english to czech language, you might find it useful to take a look at these instead: Guide to Food Additives - E-numbers, E-Inspect Food Additives App or Eat Informed - Food Additives. They will do the same job as NutriAtlas.
On IF Tracker App
Speaking of apps, there is one more to mention – the Inflammation Factor Tracker, which evaluates huge amounts of food from the perspective of an (anti-)inflammatory effect on the body. This effect is detected through the means of evaluation of more than 20 different factors of a given food such as the amount and type of fats, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, glycaemic index, anti-inflammatory ingredients and more. The app outlines the way to help you fight inflammation by choosing better food more easily.
On Calorie Counter App UP
The Calorie Table App is another smartphone application as well as an online database of foods and what they contain. Comprehensive, informatively abundant and apt. You don’t need to watch and convulsively count every kilojoule of your energy intake and expend all day, but it is an ideal tool for an overview of what good or bad a given food contains. The Calorie Counter is a good choice.
Before I get to what Paleo actually is, I will mention the main reason for choosing this, for some perhaps a strict, ‘diet’ and it is nothing less than health. Our health is influenced by several factors. Genes are one of them. While our genes determine susceptibility to disease, it is our environment that determines whether the genes are activated or not. The intersection of genes and environment is the topic of epigenetics, which says that genes are not a curse, and that their activation is in our hands (in our environment – i.e. the diet, amount of sleep, stress, exercise, sport, etc.). In other words, the genes are a loaded gun, but it depends on whether you shoot as a result of an inappropriate lifestyle. Which is good news, right? By selecting a suitable diet, you can improve the quality of life and level of (perhaps already weakened) health. Do you honestly believe that the way we live and usually eat does or doesn’t lead to better health? I will not beat around the bush in vain, but our way of life and eating supports chronic (long-term) systemic (widespread throughout the body) inflammation, which manifests itself with plenty of diseases and is a contributory cause of most of the so called diseases of affluence. (For the sake of completeness, it is also differentiated between acute and local inflammation, e.g. an acute local inflammation in a sprained ankle and an acute systemic flu inflammation). The following comprehensive but not complete list of disorders and diseases is related to this systemic chronic inflammation (and here I would like to quote from the book):
|Allergy||Fibroid tumours||Myasthenia||Multiple Sclerosis|
|Atherosclerosis||Hashimoto’sthyroiditis||Heart disease||Spastic colon|
|Bipolar disorder||Hepatitis||Osteopenia||Irritable Bowel Syndrome|
|Celiac disease||Interstitial cystitis||Hair loss||Vasculitis|
|Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes||Insulin resistance||Periodontitis||High level of triglycerides|
|Dementia||Carditis||Polycystic ovary disease||HighCholesterol|
|Depression||Colitis||Polychondritis||High blood pressure|
|Gout||Lupus||Raynaud’s syndrome||Inflammation of the kidney|
I suppose you’re a person looking for solutions to problems with bowel or indigestion through a healthy lifestyle. I copied this table with great effort also because there is a chance that you know someone (with systemic inflammation and) with these problems whom the information that there may be a chance to get rid of or at least mitigate them by the change of dietary habits might help, or at least reveal a way towards better health.
All the food according to the Paleo diet must meet the so called 4 standards (4s) of healthy food, therefore it must promote: a healthy psychological response, healthy hormonal response, healthy digestion, immune system function and minimize inflammation. The book then examines in great detail the negative effects (failure to meet these criteria) of individual foods or their ingredients. Before I mention what is harmful, I have some more information and ideas to share.
On It Starts with Food, prosperity and body
The book does not fiddle around; it focuses on calling things as they are and demolishing many myths, half-truths and falsehoods. These myths have been hammered into us (even nourished by our parents) since childhood by advertising; that is why they seem so natural and true for us. Without a quest for the truth behind advertisements and various allegations, we falsely justify our unhealthy behaviour to ourselves. The examples of the myths include: stevia and agave syrup are healthy, beer (even gluten-free) is healthy, red wine is healthy for the heart (in order to get an adequate dose of resveratrol as the mice from which the research were based, one would have, you’d have to drink 80 bottles of red wine a day), whole wheat bread is healthy, we need milk (for calcium) and many others.
The aim (philosophy of the Paleo diet) is not to consume something less evil or ‘not so bad’ but to introduce what meets the 4s. Product/food that someone presents as ‘healthy’, ‘good for the heart’, etc. may indeed be healthier (i.e. less harmful) than its alternative/competition, yet it does not mean that it is healthy and/or meets the 4s. An objection may be the argument that people here and there survived/functioned on this and that (e.g. rice) for long periods of time. However, we don’t want to just survive, we don’t live (don’t survive) somewhere in the countryside and in need cut off from those crowded hypermarket shelves. We live in the unique period of the 21st century when you don’t need to care too much about history to (fully) appreciate the rarity of today in comparison with a turbulent, war, often inhuman, medieval and distant or much closer past and still more uncertain, but certainly less calm future. At the same time, we live in a unique location – Central Europe, the Czech Republic and, compared with much of the world and billions of people living in materially less secure areas with fewer freedoms and life opportunities within which we can really talk about their survival, we can (fully) appreciate the place of our residence.
Do you realize that in this time and place, we have vast material abundance, abundance of possibilities and freedoms in comparison to other time periods and other places on the planet? And do you respect that? Therefore, we should use them meaningfully and shouldn’t want to just survive but rather to thrive (this applies not only to our health but also to the spiritual level) and to heal. At least, this is how I feel.
To have relevant information about the effects of food is the way to go. Empowered by this information, we are much freer and legally competent (from advertising, social and family concepts and habits) in choosing what we really want to eat, even if we are driven elsewhere by our addictions, habits and tastes. The previously mentioned book provides all such information. How much you want to push the boundaries between the consumption of healthy and harmful foods will be up to you. The main motivation is obviously acquisition/consolidation/maintenance of health, which is in no way inconsistent with enjoying food and its flavours. I’m not on a diet, I eat and live healthy by choosing food without gluten, sugar and other harmful ingredients because I want to and because I have the information and also because it is possible to eat healthily here and now.
But what if you are completely healthy or too young to suffer from any illness? My sincere congratulations! Although I will add that the human body is indeed an amazing, incredibly efficient tool capable of huge regeneration. However, if we are healthy and live unhealthily, the body is able to function in this way for some time (depending on your genes and lifestyle) metabolizing toxins (alcohol) and withstanding the impact of unhealthy foods. But NOT in the long term; in 30s-40s-50s, health problems begin to appear which wouldn’t have emerged if we had lived healthily. Therefore, it is necessary to respond to the first troubles in time and to respond to the signals of the body. It is not my idea but Dr Walker’s.
Back to the body and health: everyone knows that old age, sickness and death is waiting for all of us to strike sooner or later and in different forms. Awareness of these facts once again strengthens gratitude for the preciousness of the current situation and the pursuit of its meaningful use. Simultaneously, the knowledge/experience of (not only medical) impermanence indicates that it does not make sense to pay more time than is necessary to your own health-physical-dietary maintenance of the body (assess your need yourself), make it the meaning of your life, thus not having the time/energy for other meaningful activities. The body, similarly to a car, needs reasonable and proper treatment, a suitable fuel for a properly working engine, correct oil and the like to be able to take us comfortably and far through the colourful journey of life to its end. A petrol car can’t certainly run on diesel and requires no time/energy/cost-wasting activities à la tuning in the form of ear-shattering exhaust pipes or even a backlit chassis for driving. Similarly, I think it is not necessary to spend all day jogging and jumping around health/bio/green/healthy affairs not have time for anything else.
Our body can also be seen as a tool to interact with the world and bring joy and benefit to others. Our body and illness can also be taken less personally, which is variously difficult. Thus, we are doing a minimum maximum to be in a healthy and functioning body and use it meaningfully. The fact that it begins to fall apart (and it sometimes really does) is taken as the natural course of life, death included. Buck-passing statements like ‘the body should go to the grave shattered’ (but why so early?), or ‘what if I start to live healthily and I am hit by a car tomorrow?’will apparently do only for couch potatoes with strong taste addictions, and not a man with the ability of self-reflection and honesty to oneself.
Anyway, the book It Starts with Food will change your life, at least you will get information and insights into food and health and won’t recklessly harm your health not knowing the effect/impact of what you eat, what tastes you like and what the body ‘naturally’ requires for health. It will put you on the right track for stronger health.
Now we have a relatively strong base of motivation and perspective to build information about what is harmful, no matter how much we like it and how much we are attached to it. So, the following products are harmful to one’s health: sugar, sweeteners, alcohol, oil from seeds, cereals and legumes and dairy products. These are the names of relatively nutritious chapters of the book providing explanation in detail (unlike me here) on why and how they are harmful. Then, the choice is yours. However, we all agree that (in the past socially respected/tolerated) drugs like cigarettes are harmful and shorten lives, so why don’t we live other truths and behave according to them as well?
The fact that there are other harmful things like alcohol, bread, sugar, sweeteners, milk and that they are socially accepted (or not so much cursed) is not correct. The fact that food lobby/marketing unfortunately managed to make something natural, normal and traditional from them during decades of media massages is just a reflection of society and the level of independence of its thoughts. These are considered ‘normal’ concepts: bread and cheese for breakfast or a snack, beer and football, wine socially, a shot at the bar, champagne at New Year’s Eve, children’s champagne for their birthday, candy or chocolate for school reports, ‘healthy’ cereals with milk and (chemical) yogurt for breakfast, (not only diet) coke, an energy drink behind the wheel or at a party, sweet lemonade not because of the image but instinct, (alcoholic) a toast to health(!) and other absurdities. These concepts of ‘normality’ should disappear form ads and our subconscious as well as cigarette advertising, if we really want to be healthier.
Another explanation is that consumers are just unaware and/or their weak will. Luckily, these states aren’t unchangeable. The producers, on the other hand, I have no illusions about them not knowing what and with what consequences they produce. Only, I would be interested in the ratio of their effort to give people something healthy and good to their pursuit of profit. Again, it is a reflection and game of society which we play by purchasing their products and which we allow to be played on (on us).
Alcohol is the most socially accepted, tolerated and widespread drug and kills more teenagers than all other drugs combined. ‘Benefits’ for which it is consumed are caused by intoxication of the organism. Alcohol is, even in small amounts, acutely neurotoxic. It modifies the activity of the nervous system, can damage nervous tissue, harms and even kills the neurons. These are the reasons for the desired relaxation, jolliness and drunkenness. Other neurotoxins include mercury, lead, insecticides, formaldehyde, and biotoxins such as botulinum toxin. Each shot you knock back or a glass of wine that you enjoy is advertising and social habits winning over common sense and a step backward/off on the road to health.
Let me preach if I don’t drink, right? I enjoyed wine, beer and shots as the result of which I often spent the weekends numbly recovering. Now, when I try it sometimes to remind myself of what I am ‘missing’, even the sweetest of wines seems to be sour and disgusting and I don’t like it anyway owning to my changed tastes. I don’t like beer anymore, and I had never drunk shots because of their taste. Besides tastes, I don’t drink alcohol because of my beliefs, nor do I smoke or take other drugs...
Do you really like the shots or drink them just because of the social and historical habit/pressure? And are you strong enough to be the only one abstaining in a restaurant having fun with a group of friends? And is the social situation able to relax, open up and be fun even without the symptoms of poisoning the nervous system? And are your friends your real friends, those who wish you happiness and respect your decision of abstinence? These are rhetorical questions referring to how the concept of consuming the poison called alcohol is considered normal and deeply rooted in our society.
I'm not a judge; the judge is everybody to themselves. I just show you different than (for society) ‘normal’ perspective on alcohol. Of course, one glass of wine does not kill you, just like one cigarette. But it’s about working with these habits; moreover, it all counts – one beer here, the second donut there, the third innocent little chocolate over here. The attempt to live healthily is dissolved in these small steps as an empty New Year’s resolution, and we return to the ‘good old, normal’ habits. I (repeatedly!) went through this all (see the experience from the visit to the doctor of Chinese medicine above) and it was enough for me. Finally, it was the book Food First which opened my eyes, motivated me sufficiently and simultaneously to the experience with the doctor of Chinese medicine, and thanks to the information on the harmful effects of individual foods, it helped me to finally make the decision to heal, thanks to the Paleo diet, by eliminating all these harmful substances from my diet. Moreover, as far as drinking is concerned, don’t think that I suffer somehow because of the taste; the exact opposite! We can do such amazing vegetable and fruit juices at home that sometimes I fear they may soon become illegal thanks to their flavour induced ecstasy.
So, according to the Paleo diet, we know what is harmful and what we should avoid if we want to get rid of the systemic inflammation causing the afore mentioned diseases. The body is able to get rid of the systemic inflammation or mitigate it thanks to ketosis – a state in which the body stops using carbohydrates/sugars as the main source of energy and changes to burning fat as the main energy source instead. The body always uses a combination of carbohydrates and fats as its energy source. The more intense activity, the higher the proportion of carbohydrate. On the contrary, the body can greatly increase the proportion of fat if you let it by a wise choice in food within the activities of low intensity. Therefore, it is necessary to stop supplying the body constantly with sugar that is added in almost everything.
Getting rid of the addiction to (the industrial) sugar (added into ‘food’) was the biggest obstacle for me. Since childhood, I had liked sweets, my grandmothers (having more sympathy than sense) were covering me in sugar in various chocolate forms even in adulthood (maybe the more the less we saw each other), I was happily accepting their sugary gifts and was able to eat 200 g chocolate bar in one sitting like a croissant and visit the pantry to get Nutella whenever I liked. My various resolutions to limit eating of this drug lasted several days at most. Despite my resolution, I mostly found myself eating some chocolate candy bars when I was tired, sleepy (see ‘On the Importance of Sleep’) or when I wanted to reward myself for some performance or just relax. The turning point came when I decided to abide by a strict Paleo diet.
I eliminated carbohydrates and ate only proteins, fats with cooked vegetables and a minimum of fruits from the beginning. Some withdrawal symptoms appeared caused by the addiction to sugar strongly demanded by my body. I had crazy cravings and even my hands were slightly shaking. I do not know if I got rid of the sugar addiction only during September/October 2014 when I ate so strictly. Maybe it was an ongoing process, and thanks to the information on the harmful effects of sugar and its replacement with fruit alternatives, I gradually got rid of it. Now (September 2015), while browsing around the candy section in a shop, it definitely doesn’t make my mouth water, I don’t need to fight different smells or tastes and don’t have any desire for unhealthy added sugars, quite the contrary – probably due to the knowledge of the harmful effects of these products. Of course, I still like sweet tastes (and always will), I only got its consumption under control, I eat it in moderation and only in natural forms (fresh or dried fruit or added to porridge or raw bars). If I prepare a sweet (carbohydrate) gluten-free porridge, I try to do it at least every other day. I know that handling the sugar addiction is (at least for me it was) very hard, but when such a chocolate addict like me managed to do so, you certainly can do it too!
From the beginning, I avoided fruits more, I eat them almost every day now, but I still eat more vegetables than fruits. Regarding the fruit, there should also be (like for drinking) an interval from any other food. As far as the sweet alternatives are concerned, I like bananas, berries, peaches, melons, pineapples, grapefruits, oranges, and dried figs and dates – all non-sulphurized.
Here is the information on sugar from the book Become Younger by Dr Walker: ‘The body needs sugar, but not cane, corn or beet. It needs natural sugar and only it can be taken full advantage of: sugar found in vegetables, fruits and honey (Paleo advises against honey, so eat it carefully and intuitively, do not replace Snickers with a pound of honey). Industrial consumption of white sugar has a damaging effect on teeth, stomach, intestines and the whole digestive tract: it causes intestinal disorders, diabetes, cancer, eye diseases, septic processes, loss of teeth and gum disease. White sugar is especially harmful to women; it provokes and intensifies menstrual pain and worsens anxiety, which, although considered a “natural” phenomenon, is in fact obviously unnatural. Omitting sugar often removes these problems. Do as I do. I consider white sugar a poison, so I treat it like that. It has no place in a programme leading to radiant health.’
Another view of the addiction to sugar and tastes in general is the finding that if you want a specific food or component, the cause may be the fact that your body is missing something. E.g. when you desire chocolate, you lack magnesium, which can be found in bananas, dates, figs, etc.; and cravings for sweets, you lack chromium, phosphorus and sulphur, which can be found in many other alternatives. Everything is nicely shown in this table.
Moreover, there is a Czech documentary film named Sugar Blues (on YouTube here, without english subtitles still) saying about itself: ‘One mother’s fight against the global sugar mafia. A tragicomic, vibrant and emotional story that will set you free from the Sugar Blues.’
To get rid of any addiction, it is suitable to have a similar solid information base on which you can build your desires, resolutions and dietary measures. If you always have an extra healthy sweet alternative at hand to diminish the appetite for unhealthy sweet, you have won half the battle. I have shown you the journey from sugar addiction, the rest is up to you. Good luck and willpower!
Now back to food; what we actually have left to eat from the Paleo diet after crossing out all these ‘delicacies’? Just real food, as, unlike us, our grandmothers knew it: meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits and the right fats. And these are also the names of nutritious chapters of the book and I (showing the direction) won’t paraphrase it here nor copy its many recipes based on proteins, fats and low amount of carbs. Anyway, if you find this offer of food a little rich, then believe that it includes a whole universe of possibilities.
Concerning the quality of the food, here are some of the tips from the book: we should focus mainly on meat, fish and eggs; conventional fruits and vegetables (not organic) is better than no vegetables and fruits at all; take food in a relaxed manner (don’t be stressed when you can’t get anything at any quality) and do the best possible with what you have available.
Here, I will mention the recommended forms of vegetables that should be eaten regularly: sweet potatoes, broccoli, onions, leeks, garlic, courgettes, Chinese cabbage, pumpkins, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, lettuce, chard, carrots, peppers, lamb’s lettuce, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, beets, spinach, turnips, green shoots (beet, mustard, etc.), cabbage. I think Walker wrote that it is a good idea to eat some fermented vegetable with any vegetable for better digestion. Here are the best fruit alternatives: blueberries, grapefruits, strawberries, kiwi, raspberries, melons, apricots, blackberries, plums, cherries; although the fruits taste better, they should never replace more nutritious vegetables.
Furthermore, caution should be exercised in case of intestinal inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders and diseases: vegetables should be cooked, consume cautiously when eating fruit (peel thoroughly, they contain too much sugar, avoid the seeds, rough surfaces), nuts and seeds should also be avoided (can scratch the intestinal lining), stop drinking coffee (even decaffeinated severely irritates the gastrointestinal tract, can increase stomach acid level which has a pro-inflammatory effect in the gastrointestinal tract), drink plenty of liquids (not during meals – it dilutes stomach acid and digestive enzymes, I keep min. 30–60 minute interval of drinks from food).
Furthermore, these fats are recommended: avocado and oil from it, olive oil, hazelnuts, coconut oil, macadamia nuts, and olives. From animal fats, these are clarified butter, duck fat, ghee (a type of clarified butter), goat butter, lard and beef tallow. I leave a space for your own research to find out the information on the type such as: olive oil is only virgin, in glass, minimizing air access and exposure to heat sources, animal fat for hot dishes, oils for cold dishes and salads, etc. The healthy fats include also nuts and seeds, the best choice being cashews, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts; almonds, Brazil nuts and pecans should be eaten reasonably and pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts should be limited.
The seeds and nuts are designed to survive our digestive system. They are equipped with enzymes that protect them from digestion and absorption. Soaking and germinating them gradually reduces the content of these enzymes and increases the amount of vitamins, minerals and other important substances. Soaking and germinating them ensures both easier digestion and a higher nutritional value. The Soaking and Germination Time differs for each specific type.
I deliberately saved the following fancy for the end of the section on fats: coconut and its products – oil, milk (watch out for E numbers), flakes (watch out for sulphites) and butter. Coconut oil (organic virgin cold pressed) rightly belongs among the superfoods in a chapter unto itself. It has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal effects, supports the immune system, healthy metabolism, and thyroid, is perfect for everything in hot meals and it smells good and tastes sweet. (Caution, not to be confused with palm oil/grease, which is located in the opposite corner of the universe as far as the effect on health is concerned. It is extra cheap and it is therefore not surprising that it is a part of a large quantity of packaged food; try to find something more on palm oil on the Internet). Coconut oil is used as a seasoning and a source of healthy fat in the kitchen for everything from salmon steaks, cooked vegetables (my favourite is baked sweet potato; we have had more than one visor overindulge by having seconds of this delicious dish), scrambled eggs to banana-coconut-egg pancakes. It may be used externally on the skin providing it with suppleness and a pleasant smell; I use it after shaving, as a mouth wash, for cold sores or mouth ulcers. I know some girls using it on their hair. I warmly recommend.
Generally, use your good judgement while eating, don’t overeat (certainly not with nuts as I did before) and closely observe what and how the diet works for you so that you yourself maybe a guide. Let your feeling after eating be a guide for observing the effect and elimination of a given type of food if something inside you ‘burns’, if you feel slightly or severely bloated or if you’re fresh or prefer to take a nap. You can also make a table where you enter the food consumed and how you feel after eating it. You will know what is and isn’t good for you after some time. By eliminating all those intense, chemically seasoned, artificial tasting flavours contained in ‘food’, your sense of taste returns (even my sense of smell is greatly sharpened) to its original natural level. Previously bland vegetables are now sometimes an orchestra of taste for me.
In the previously discussed book as well as on the Internet, there is a large number of varied Paleo recipes. Note that not all Paleo recipes on the Internet adhere to a strict Paleo diet according to the book. The strictness of observance is up to you. However, the best is to exchange of experience, ideas and recipes is with your friends. Once, we lost ourselves in the exchange of experiences and recipes so much that a not-Paleo-practicing friend rather chose a different seat after an hour of our enthusiastic debate.
On Dining and Eating in General
Our health is affected not only by what we eat but also the way we eat. Thanks to a 6-day stay in the dark (see ‘On Dark Therapy’ below), I discovered how much an external distraction (not talking about food but, watching TV, using a phone, etc.) deprives us/tears us away from the experience of food and how great development potential our taste and smell has. There is nothing distracting you in the dark, nothing but your inner world employing you, so I had nothing else to do while eating than the eating itself. A big surprise was the largely intensified taste even in the most ordinary meals in the form of lentils with bread or an apple alone. After a few days, everything was a complete symphony of taste and I very much enjoyed it. In the dark, I was able to eat properly and stay focused (nothing else was left to me anyway) and enjoyed it thoroughly. I sometimes remind myself of this experience during meals. A rhetorical question: how quiet is your dining in general and how much attention you pay to food and to your surroundings? How much do you see/eat using you eyesight and sense of smell?
I don’t remember where I got the following information from, but it goes like this: properly chewed and slowly eaten less healthy food is healthier (less harmful) for the body than devouring a healthy one. It is not a universally valid manual for excuse makers, but you know where this is going. Bites should be properly chewed and watered, which will help and facilitate digestion. If you have the will to perceive the food with your sense of smell and sight, you’ll be rewarded by both greater enjoyment, which we so heavily rob ourselves of by turning our attention away from eating, and better digestion. By really chewing and eating slowly, you give your stomach the time to inform the brain that it is already full resulting in, among other things, not overeating.
Properly enjoying meals (instead of a TV show) is not only the recognition of the work of a man who spent the energy to prepare it for you/himself but also an expression of gratitude/appreciation of the life of the animal living its short life to be partially placed on your plate and become identified with you in the moment.
Since I warned you in the introduction that I don’t consider myself to be only a body and health is affected not only by the material but also by our inner life and living it; I provide my observations from my finding myself in the dark. You might be inspired or informedby it, or it may not be just your cup of dark coffee. See or don’tsee. Anyway, I’m still aware that we are in the subchapter on the Paleo diet, but since I have mentioned the intense tastes in the dark and since I was in the dark in 2011, i.e. for two years before my first bowel problems, I put this experience here.
On Dark Therapy
In relation to dark therapy, there are two types of people – one part takes inquisitive interest, enthusiasm, desire for (self-) knowledge through insight into themselves, they feel the dark draws them in and enjoy getting there; and the other part feels it differently or they feel the exact opposite. If you should(not) set out in the dark, you will know according to your initial response to the findings of this dark possibility of self-knowledge. My reaction was the one mentioned first. I prescribed 5.5 days for myself, i.e. in a cabin adapted to this purpose (searching for ‘dark therapy’ on the Internet, you will find several offers with bookings done months in advance), I turned off the lights after an examination of my little room, hall, toilet and shower on Thursday evening and turned them back on Wednesday morning. I was looking forward to the dark, I was curious to see what would happen when I cut off sight, which is the source of most of our perceptions and inputs. Introspection and other positives should increase.
In addition to sharpened taste, smell and hearing, I also perceived an increased ability to vividly recall the images of memories and I was able to easily recall/hear songs. The perception of time was also greatly changed. I could orientate just roughly according to the sound of birds active from the early morning until sometime into the night in summer. I was waking up early mostly in the morning and thought it was later. The only fixed point of the day for me was the owner visiting me around noon to bring me lunch and dinner at the same time to the dark hall. I spent the first three days mostly meditating. Then it somehow stopped working and I was browsing my lifetime memories instead, which I perceived (as well as the entire stay) as a gift to myself. When do you have the time (when you take the time) to just browse all the important memories that you remember for several days? In a hospital? In a nursing home? With this reliving of situations, I felt great gratitude for my life and for what I have managed to live through.
Selfie during the Dark Therapy
I used a method recommended by Mr Průzračný (meaning ‘transparent’ in English; interesting name, isn’t it?), the cabin owner, on every negative memory. The method is based on the fact that, as soon as you feel something bad, negative, dark, unresolved or not dissolved in a memory, situation or relationship, try to send wholeheartedly (from the heart) radiant energy and emotion which was lacking in this situation: love, understanding, forgiveness, compassion, courage, etc. to the situation. And you shine and shine (in the dark), trying to live it up to a maximum, melting and transforming everything sincerely and from the heart until you see the given situation clearly. This method obviously works well in the light, too. And so I purified (once even with some tears – or, we really take our previous life in us, even if we do not know about it and run away from it...) my whole life, relationships and all what I thought would be necessary to cleanse in this way for the next day and a half. The reward for this ‘work’ was my feeling of lightness, purity, easy/light (internal) breathing, feeling clean, feelings of ‘a load off my mind’ and an inner smile. I believe you don’t need to walk in the dark to find out that the method works wonderfully. An idea might cross your mind that the dark therapy can also be used as a slightly rigorous method of applying a diet, or getting rid of e.g. a sugar addiction and perhaps killing two birds with one stone. Thinking about it, I think the struggle with addiction in the dark could be an unnecessarily burdensome impression and could ruin the stay that due to the fact that one should enjoy the dark. For this reason, I recommend the dark only to work on spiritual health. Upon its return, our perhaps more stable, cleaner and more concentrated mind (a driver) can easily seize the reins of taming the bad habits of our body (a horse - see the Tibetan medicine).
Back to the Paleo diet, providing a real milestone for me, it showed me new perspectives on eating and food both in general and specifically. I was on it really dutifully, probably too much. The level of ketosis can be measured using paper indicators bought at a pharmacy. I was in a mild ketosis, but it was the most difficult period during the whole search for me. Without sugar/carbs, I was weaker, wearier, got tired more easily and overall, I was not feeling well. Somehow, I missed the information that came to me later and from elsewhere saying it may be difficult for the body to cope with the immediate exclusion of carbohydrates from the diet and switch to fats instead, especially when I was previously really sugar-oriented. I trusted the book and was apparently waiting for the body to change to burning fat instead of sugars resulting in the treatment of inflammation. If I had had that information, I would have started with the Paleo diet gradually; as I suggest you to do. Although I didn’t feel good after a while strictly without carbs, to conclude this part I want to say that I am extremely grateful for the book Food First not only because I have strengthened my discipline due to it but also because I have gained an insight into food, eating, body functioning, and finally, started to eat real food. In this situation, with the enhanced discipline and a sort of a well started journey, I met Honza, who is the next big chapter of my journey to health.