There are people who obsess over their health/diet, seeing it as the answer to all their problems.. and there are others who completely neglect the link between what they eat and how they feel/think/perform in the world. I’ve found that the truth is usually smack dab in the middle of these two extremes. Eating kale salads all day is not going to fix your relationships or struggles with money/purpose/etc, it’s just not.. but if you don’t have your diet/lifestyle in order, it is most definitely going to affect every aspect of your life, including all of the shortcomings that most trouble you.
I’m a firm believer in seeing ourselves (and all of life) as a infinitely complex, interdependent harmony of systems that are seemingly separate to our dualistic, ego driven minds.. but in reality, everything is related to everything. In short, everything you choose to put into your body matters. And it’s not so simple/obvious either. I’ve consulted with many people about their diet over the past few years and one thing I’ve noticed is that everyone seems to think that they eat pretty healthy. Or at the very least, they know all the areas where they need to improve and “know they can do better.”
But I’ve found that the meaning and definition of a proper diet can actually be quite complex because there are so many factors to consider. At the same time, it can be quite basic/simple once you take the time to understand the complexity of what we’re up against, as well as the basic principles of what it means to live healthy. In saying this, I will never claim that there is one diet or way of eating/being that is right for everyone. I’ve been there and I know better now than to suggest that everyone stop eating meat and become vegan, for example. However, I am a fan of learning the basic principles and testing/trying what works best for you.
As the title suggests, two ideal places to start experimenting with eliminating from your diet are gluten and dairy. Not only has this been consistently recommended by nutritionists and ND’s, but I personally have had tremendous results doing this, particularly with gluten. I use to have chronic acid reflux for more than a decade and for many years took Tums and Nexium to basically obliterate my stomach acid production, which I now know is a big mistake to do. I actually contracted kidney stones twice as a result of this imbalanced behavior.
It was only until I started experimenting with the elimination of these two notoriously inflammatory foods that I realize that my symptoms were the result of my body mounting an auto-immune response to foods that it simply didn’t agree with. I instantly felt much better, and it wasn’t just my acid reflux that improved.. it affected my entire physiology. I felt better, and these profound improvements led to further changes; each one building upon the other.
So why are gluten and dairy so bad for us? Well, I don’t want to necessarily demonize either one, because there are numerous healthy cultures around the world who thrive on eating these things without thinking twice. But there are specific reasons why gluten and dairy are not necessarily good for us as Westerners, especially in the U.S.
The story with gluten is more than just the next trendy fad that people are blindly following because they see their favorite role models doing it. It’s that too, but there is a very real, very specific reason why gluten has become what it is today. The reason why there are so many people gluten intolerant (or worse) is because gluten (wheat) is not what it use to be. The seed is different, the chemicals used to grow it are present in the end product, and the speed at which we make the bread is far quicker than how we use to make it. The end result is product that has levels of gluten far too high for our body’s to handle. It’s actually far more complex than that, but the bottom line is that our body’s are not able to process modern day gluten the way we use to.
My gluten experiment
As a side note, I’ve actually further experimented with this notion by making my own bread, using only the highest quality flour I could get my hands on (Bob’s Red Mill), and seeing the whole process through from beginning to end so I know exactly what’s in the product. The bread was absolutely delicious making it myself, but sure enough, I had an immediate reaction to the bread and suffered the rest of the day (and the next) with my classic acid reflux symptoms. Only a week after that, I was in Brazil for a wedding, and purposely ate the bread there regularly for 2 weeks to see what would happen. It was very cheaply made at various shops in the local village, nothing special. But surprisingly enough, I didn’t have any symptoms like I did when I ate bread back at home. I was perfectly fine.
As for dairy, well the story is similar. The argument can be made that all dairy products are inherently bad for us and that we were not meant to consume the milk of another animal that’s designed to grow a baby calf into a full grown 1,500lb+ adult in a very short amount of time. Or that many of us do not produce the proper enzymes to properly digest the lactose in milk. But I don’t believe it is all bad for everyone. Let’s get real here: there are cultures all around the world who thrive health wise compared to us, and yet dairy is an integral part of their diet.
But similar to gluten, the devil is in the details. Industrial farming practices have turned what use to be a simple dairy product into a complicated mess. What the cows eat is unnatural, the hormones they produce as a result of how they feel (happiness, stress, etc) affects the milk, the medications/anti-biotics they’re fed affects the milk, the process of pasteurization/homogenization kills off all the live good stuff in the milk that would normally be super nutritious for us and actually help us to digest what’s in it. Again, I could go on as it gets even more complicated than that. But basically, dairy based products in the U.S. have turned into a notoriously inflammatory food that is affecting our health in ways we don’t even realize.
So.. in conclusion, I’m not asking you to necessarily agree with or blindly accept anything I’ve said here. What I am suggesting is to take your health and what you eat seriously, and realize that what you eat is inherently inseparable from all aspects of how you experience reality. It matters, and we should all aspire to better understand diet and honor our bodies. If you haven’t already tried it, this is one place to start. Remove these two foods from your diet for at least a month and see if you feel any different. I promise you won’t be missing out on anything nutrition wise, and it will be a worthwhile sacrifice for many of you wanting to improve the way they feel and experience life.