It is incredible how many resources there are on how to combat disease, how to be healthier and how to heal yourself from anything. I’ve had a lot of troubles myself a few years ago and even though health is an ongoing project, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned so far. Googling anything nowadays throws you into a jungle of misinformation and self-proclaimed authorities, which is a very confusing space to be in. I think many of these mainstream people like Dave Asprey, Chris Kresser, Paul Jaminet have a lot of experience and wisdom to bring but it lacks one very important thing: Peer review.
When what you do is not guided by the critical review of other authorities you will inevitably start to think that your standpoint is the only truth. There’s a reason why scientific journals are structured the way they are, so that people don’t just write what they belief and sell it as truth. Of course this system is also prone to error as can be seen by the conflicting interests that are uncovered time and time again. So, to think that someone who is giving advice based on his own experience alone to be better in any way than the troubled scientific literature would be idiotic. But still sometimes its convenient to take the advice and then test it for yourself, I do it all the time. The point is to never identify yourself as a follower of that person and to never follow the whole system instead of just taking what is useful and rejecting what you don’t need, as Bruce Lee said. So here goes general tip Nr.1:
1. Go to Google Scholar and search for review articles instead of googling for mainstream advice.
These review articles are peer reviewed, comprehensive summaries of all the scientific literature on a particular subject. Depending on the keywords, e.g. review article microbiome human allergies, you can find this great paper: The human microbiome: at the interface of health and disease. This will give you a list of excellent resources which you can trust with much more confidence than regular blogs, even the really big ones. If you are a student you should be able to get access to the PDF using your university ID, otherwise there’s a huge russian site that provides them all for free. This will give you a powerful tool to do some fact checking, because it is just silly to argue about something that is already a non-controversial truth in the scientific literature. Paleo, vegan, fruitarian, Atkins or whatever, look it up, then you can be sure.
Are grains, beans, nuts and seeds all bad? No, it depends. Is fruit or honey bad? Nope, it depends. I like people as Paul Chek who are open about diet and lifestyle changes, more than the inflexible kings and queens of the diet business. So here comes my personal story in a nutshell: I had severe stomach pain after eating, fever and sickness that just wouldn’t go away and felt extremely weak most of the time. I was actually quite healthy otherwise, or so I thought, with martial arts training, strength exercise, running, and a diet of whole grains and fruits. I won’t go in the details at this point because it’s a long story. What I did to make a difference:
2. Diet: Stop eating processed food and concentrate on organic fresh whole foods. Listen to your body, some foods might give you an inflammatory response. Your skin might get red, you might get muscle twitching or diarrhea. Listen to your body!
I gave up all grains, started eating lots of salad (usually just green stuff), fish (salmon) and meat (lamb is my favourite). I season with olive oil, apple cider vinegar and sea salt / Himalayan salt. This is basically my go to meal, I vary on a weekly basis with other vegetables or fruits. At this point you might have noticed that my seasonings are actually processed foods and you would be right. So this is about choosing wisely and trying different things to find the products of good quality. Diet is the first and easiest thing to change, because you’re already eating anyway! No new habit necessary. I see it like this: All the unhealthy foods you crave exist in a healthy form somewhere around you, you just haven’t found them yet. Never forget that when you look at that delicious cookie. It’s just second best. The next thing is the always fun subject of supplements. Here we go:
3. Supplements: Don’t take too much. Buy online and not in your local store, it’s probably low quality. The ones I find most important: Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Iodine, Cod Liver Oil, Betaine HCL, Inulin, Probiotics, Potato Starch, B Vitamins
At home I have over 22 different pills and lots of powders, but to be honest: I rarely use them. I try to only use the most basic things daily and take the rest on occasion. I take my magnesium (about 600 mg usually after dinner), probiotics (1 tablet), betaine HCl (5 pills during every protein meal) and prebiotics (inulin and potato starch after waking up and before dinner) daily. Fish oil, zinc, selenium and iodine I take every 3 days and all the B vitamins once a week. I think that in this case that less is more. We will just kick ourselves out of balance the more we take from only one specific thing. These you can order online and while you wait you can make an appointment at the doctor to:
4. Get tested! Depending on your health care system your doctor can test your blood, stool and urine for many things in addition to ultrasound, MRI and X-Rays. If the doctor thinks it is necessary then he can test you for free and if he doesn’t, look for a new doctor. Always get a copy of the data and research according to tip 1. Obviously, there are many companies where you can pay to get tests for almost anything.
I have been annoyed with doctors for a long time because they just didn’t listen and wanted to prescribe me a pill. Just recently I went back to a doctor (my criteria was just that the doctor should be female – they listen more) to find out the cause for a slight anemia. Living in germany I got many test for free like stool tests for parasites and blood, ultrasound, and blood tests for inflammation, B Vitamins, Iron-Levels and many more bloodmarkers. This amazed me and I plan to do as many more as I can. So, my tip is to change the doctor until you get the analysis you want or pay a company! Then take the data and do your own research on Google Scholar. That way you can treat your doctors opinion as just that, an opinion, and not the absolute truth. Now lets get to my common sense approach of healing through diet:
5. Remove foods that make you feel bad. Heal your stomach first: that’s where the food is digested and acidified (take betaine HCl). Then, heal your gut, thats where it goes next (take probiotics, inulin and potato starch).
So, you’ve probably heard about food intolerances. Its one of the phrases I’ve come to dislike. Until you feel healthy you might have to avoid a lot. Obvious things are: Grains, dairy, nuts, seeds, beans and sugar. Your taste will change when your body changes so don’t worry about the foods you used to eat, they will not be so appealing in a year from now. Focus on mostly vegetables (cooked or raw), juices (if you already have a juicer), healthy fat (olive/coconut oil, whatever you can tolerate), meat or fish and maybe some fruits. Be minimalistic and don’t eat too much. You might have too little stomach acid which can make you feel bad after every protein meal so take betaine HCl just to be sure. If you have enough it will feel warm inside your tummy after just one pill. I had red skin and felt bad after eating lots of meat or nut butter, Betaine HCl was a huge help!
Then take care of your gut with probiotics, there is some great information out there on what strains are beneficial. Some increase histamine production, some reduce it. Most strains are untested. This whole microbiome thing is very complex and if you look into the scientific literature it is just a collection of studies showing one specific thing changing in a huge system of other variables. My advice is: Try it yourself. You will buy more than one bottle anyway so just take a different one every time until you find a good one. In the scientific literature you can find proof for anything. The vegan diets is the healthiest? You will find proof. Paleo is best? There are many papers supporting it. Peanuts and honey are healthy? You will find proof for what you want to believe. So, test is for yourself and be open minded. The literature will always change over the next years but your personal testing is timeless. All the best from me and leave your comments below.