Whenever any major natural food is avoided in one’s diet for a period of time, a person can lose the ability to digest and process that food. People on all sorts of restrictive natural diets have had this experience when they try to reintroduce carbohydrates, grains, fats, sugars and natural animal products.
When a natural food is eaten regularly, the body secretes the correct digestive enzymes and hormones to help that food be digested and metabolized. People sometimes believe that having a heavy feeling or any digestive discomfort after eating a food indicates that this food is not good for them; when in fact it is actually a signal that a person’s digestive system has been compromised from restrictive eating. This is similar to what happens to an individual suffering from anorexia or orthorexia. They have lost the ability to digest certain foods, but it can and should be regained for optimum health.
For those who wish to add additional foods in to their diet of grains, beans and vegetables such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products or other animal source foods from naturally raised grass fed animals, I suggest the following:
- Add natural animal products slowly so that your body gets used to them.
- First add more wild fish and naturally raised chicken in your diet. Eat chicken in the form of soup or added to fried rice or stir fries.
- Next, add eggs in the form of poached eggs which are easier to digest.
- Meats such as beef and lamb have incredibly strengthening effects. Add these in a few times per week after adding in the above foods for a month. At first have them in the form of stews.
- Take digestive aides if you feel you need them during this reintroduction process due to compromised digestive function. Digestive enzymes with each meal and Betaine-Hcl half way through the meal for several months can help. Animal products are high in protein. After many months or years of not eating them, the body may lose the ability to produce adequate stomach acid or protease. These supplements help you regain good digestion.
- Increase your frequency of animal foods starting at every other day. Then one time daily increasing to 2-3 times daily. Do this slowly. Depending on how long you have been without animal products, many people feel the need to eat them every meal for a period of time after the body gets accustomed to them.
- If your diet has been low in fats, add fats in slowly. Slowly increase these in your diet. Fats are needed to absorb fat soluble vitamins, D, E, A and K. Vitamin A is necessary for digestive health. The best fats are natural butter, coconut oil, ghee, olive oil, sesame oil, lard, tallow and other fats from naturally raised animals.
- Be sure to still eat grains at each meal and cooked vegetables at least at lunch and dinner. Many people make the mistake of thinking that because they are eating animal foods, they don’t need grains. Grains are essential for a healthy metabolism.
- Salt food to taste and add mild spices and herbs to facilitate digestion. Many macrobiotic diet advocates eat an incredibly low salt diet. Adequate salt is needed to produce stomach acids and digestive enzymes.
- Add a small amount of pungent foods to meals with natural animal products. These include ginger, garlic, black pepper, horseradish, basil or oregano. These seasonings have been used by traditional cultures to facilitate digestion.
- Dairy products from grass fed older varieties of cows such as Guernsey and Jersey make very nutritious and delicious additions to one’s diet. Some people tolerate dairy well. Some don’t. Some people do better with dairy products from goats or sheep. Start with soft dairy products such as yogurt and cream cheese. Raw cheese is easier to digest than cooked cheese because it is rich in enzymes.
As I often mention in my lectures, natural sugars have many valuable functions. The amounts and kinds of sugars are quite variable from individual to individual. Sugars were valued by almost all traditional cultures.
Sugars can be eaten in the form of sweeteners such as rice syrup, barley malt, maple syrup, organic molasses, dried cane juice, cooked, raw and dried fruits, and fruit juice. Sugars are concentrated in calories and cause relaxation; the stronger the sugar, the stronger the relaxation effect. If you don’t need very strong relaxation, use the milder sweets such as local fruit, rice syrup, barley malt and dried fruit.
If sugars have not been a regular part of your diet, introduce them slowly. Focus on the milder sweets listed above.
Fats play a valuable role in your diet. Besides helping to absorb fat soluble vitamins, they aid in the absorption of calcium and magnesium, B vitamins, aid the brain function, are needed for white blood cells production, intestinal function and much more.
When a person’s diet has been very low in fats, they are often not tolerated well when introduced. It is possible that the fat digesting enzyme production has been lowered because the body did not need it due to the low fat consumption. The solution is to introduce fats slowly. Focus on butter, coconut oil and olive oil.
If there is still trouble digesting fats, be sure to take a digestive enzyme. Vegetarian digestive enzymes are milder in their effects than animal derived ones. For several months, some people need the animal derived digestive enzyme called Pancreatin to boost digestion. Bitter foods like burdock, dandelion and bitter greens such as dandelion leaves, watercress, and mustard greens aid the digestion of fats.
Suggestions in this article will help many people recover their ability to eat a wide and varied healthy diet and aid in the recovery from overly restrictive natural eating.
In some cases, I have found that people need specialized advice to improve their digestion and overall health in order to digest natural animal foods, sugars and fats. If this is the case for you, please contact me so that we can set up a long distance or in person consultation to address your individual needs.