By Dr Natasha
A 21 year old Helen was brought to my clinic by her worried aunt. Helen was dangerously underweight and getting thinner by the day. She was a tall girl – 185 cm in height (over 6 feet) with a weight of 51 kg (8 stone). She obviously used to be quite beautiful, but now she looked emaciated, pale, her eyes were dull and her voice feeble. Her menstruations have stopped seven months ago.
Helen grew up abroad and came to England to study at a university. Back at home processed foods were not available. So, Helen was brought up on home-cooked wholesome meals made from fresh locally produced ingredients; fresh meat, fresh eggs and fresh whole milk constituted a large percent of her diet. She was always very healthy. When she came to England she soon developed a dislike for the processed junk diets her fellow students lived on and decided to eat a healthy diet. Short research in popular literature lead her to the idea that the ‘healthiest diet’ is a vegetarian one and a low-fat one. So, Helen started cooking her own meals out of whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, lots of vegetables and fruit. She drank only water and fruit juices. The only fat she had was some olive oil and peanut butter. She consumed no animal foods at all and tried to eat everything organic. She became involved with yoga and enjoyed it.
After a few months on this diet Helen’s menstruations have stopped and she started loosing weight. But none of it seemed to worry her and she ‘felt well’. When she went home for a visit her family were horrified by the way she looked and contacted her aunt in England asking for help. By the time of the consultation Helen has been on her ‘healthy diet’ for more than a year.
So, what happened to Helen? Didn’t she follow the healthiest diet in the world and the one we should all strive for? That is what the authorities and all the mainstream media are telling us. And what about all the research showing that following a vegan diet reduces high blood pressure, helps to recover from diabetes and many other chronic diseases? What about Gerson treatment protocol for cancer and other chronic disease, which is purely vegan? What about other cancer-treatment protocols most of which are vegan? These protocols and approaches show a record of success.
Let us try and understand the whole issue.
Helen is an intelligent girl and the first good thing she did was she stopped eating all processed foods. These man-made concoctions wrapped in colourful packaging have no right to be called with the noble name ‘food’. They are at the root of all modern epidemics of degenerative disease. We will not devote any time to processed foods here; I would just sum them up with a great quote from Barry Groves: “Man is the only species clever enough to make his own food and the only one stupid enough to eat it.” To have good health we need to eat foods created by Mother Nature, not man. Mother Nature took billions of years to design our bodies while at the same time designing all the foods suitable for our bodies to use. How arrogant it is for humans to think that they know better than Mother Nature, having tinkered in their laboratories for a few decades!
Mother Nature has provided us with two groups of food: plant foods and animal foods. These two groups work differently in the body and both are important to be consumed. Human beings are omnivores: we have evolved on this planet eating everything we could find in our immediate environment from both plants and animals. That is what researchers like Weston A. Price have confirmed in their extensive study of traditional cultures around the world. Let us have a look at these two groups of natural foods in more detail.
All energy on our beautiful planet gets recycled, while new energy comes from the sun. In order to capture the energy of the sun and convert it into solid matter Mother Nature has designed plants – they have photosynthesis, which converts the sunlight into chlorophyll building the plant matter. The next group of creatures on the planet to consume the energy of the sun in the form of plants are herbivorous animals – animals designed to eat plant matter. In order for herbivorous animals to digest plants and extract nutrients from plants Mother Nature equipped them with very special digestive systems, called rumen. It is very long with several stomachs full of special plant-breaking bacteria. So, it is not the cow (or any other herbivorous animal) that digests the grass but the bacteria in her rumen.
In order to consume the energy of the sun in the form of herbivorous animals Mother Nature has designed the next group of life – predators. Wolves, lions, tigers, foxes, etc. cannot digest plant matter because they are equipped with a very different digestive system. Human digestive system is similar to the gut of predatory animals: we have only one small stomach with virtually no bacteria in it. In fact our human stomach is designed to produce acid and pepsin, which are only able to break down meat, fish, milk and eggs. As the food moves out of our stomachs into the intestines, pancreatic enzymes and bile are added to the mix to break down the food further and absorb it. In short our digestive systems have been designed to best cope with animal foods. People knew this fact for millennia. They knew that the most nourishing foods for them came from animals; they would only eat plants as a supplement to meat or when animal foods were in short supply.
But what about all the research published in popular nutrition books, which shows that plants are full of nourishment? Yes, when we analyse different plant foods in a laboratory, they show good amounts of vitamins, proteins, fats and minerals. This information is then published in common nutritional literature causing confusion. Why? Because, in a laboratory we can use all sorts of methods and chemicals for extracting nutrients from plants: methods, which our human digestive system does not possess. Human gut has a very limited ability to digest plants and to extract useful nutrients from them. People knew that plant foods are hard for humans to digest, that is why all traditional cultures have developed methods of food preparation to extract more nutrition from plants and to make them more digestible, such as fermentation, malting, sprouting and cooking. Unfortunately, in our modern world many of these methods have been forgotten and replaced with recipes which suite the food industry’s commercial agenda.
If we cook and prepare the plant foods properly, can’t we live on them? That is exactly what Helen tried to do: she prepared all her food at home from natural plant ingredients. She cooked rice, oats, quinoa and buckwheat, she made her own bread, she cooked beans and lentils, she snacked on nuts and fruit and consumed lots of vegetables. Why did she get into trouble? Let us see.
Human body (without water) is largely made out of protein and fat (almost half and half), these are the ‘bricks and mortar’ from which your bones, muscles, brain, heart, lungs, liver and all other organs are made. Laboratory analysis of plants and animal foods show that the best protein and fat for human physiology comes from animal foods. The amino acid profile of animal protein is correct for the human body, while amino acid profile of plant-derived proteins is incomplete and unsuitable for human physiology. The same with fat: animal fat has the right fatty acid composition for human body to thrive on, while plant oils are unsuitable. So, when it comes to FEEDING your body and BUILDING your bodily tissues and structures animal foods are the best and the only suitable ones.
Human body has a wonderful process which goes on from the moment of conception till death, called Cell Regeneration. Cells in your body (in all of your organs and tissues) constantly get old, die and get replaced by newly-born cells. This way the body maintains itself, rejuvenates itself and heals any damage. In order for your body to give birth to those baby cells to replace the old ones building materials are needed – proteins and fats. The best building materials to feed your cell regeneration process come from animal foods: meats, fish, eggs and dairy. Growing children need large amounts of building materials for their bodies not only for cell regeneration but for growth, so animal foods must be a very important part of their diet. Apart from feeding, animal products provide the body with energy; in fact the best source of energy for most cells in your body is fat.
One of the hungriest organs in the human body is the brain: it ‘sponges up’ around 25 – 45 % of all nutrition floating in your blood. Your body spends a lot of effort on feeding the brain 24 hours a day, every day. Contrary to popular beliefs there is much more your brain needs than just energy in the form of glucose; it is a physical organ and it requires feeding its own cell regeneration processes with good quality protein and fat. The brain is a very fatty organ, so it requires a lot of good quality fat to be fed properly. On top of that your brain manufactures neurotransmitters, hormones and hundreds of other active molecules, which are largely proteins; the brain needs building materials to make them from. Again the best building materials to feed your brain come from animal foods. In the clinical practice we see the degeneration of the brain function in people on purely vegan diets: first the sense of humour goes, the person becomes ‘black-and-white’ in their thinking and behaviour, the sharpness of the mind goes, memory suffers, depression sets in and other mental problems follow. These are all the signs of a starving brain.
Many people would be surprised to hear that human beings can live exclusively on animal foods. In my clinic I have patients who live entirely on animal food with great results, both children and adults. Patients with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and severe mental illness do very well on a No-Plant GAPS Diet: not a leaf, not a speck of anything from the plant kingdom is consumed. These people live on meats, including organ meats, animal fats, meat stock and bone broth, fish (including shell fish and molluscs), fish stock, fresh eggs and fermented raw diary – kefir, sour cream, ghee, butter, cheese and yoghurt. In some severe cases of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease this is the only diet that allows them to be well, to stop all medication, to reach their normal body weight, to remove all digestive symptoms and to function to their full capacity. In severe cases of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions this diet can be a saviour. Some of these people have lived on this diet for 2 years or longer and have no desire to change their eating habits, because this diet works for them. Some of them tried to add a little vegetable or fruit to their regimen and found that their symptoms started returning, so they had to stop. So, based on my clinical experience I have no doubt that human beings can live very healthily without plant foods at all.
Living entirely on animal foods is not new on our planet. One of the healthiest group of traditional (so-called primitive) people in the world Weston A. Price has found in his research were Masai people in Africa who ate no plant matter at all. They are nomadic people travelling with their cattle and everything they eat is provided by their animals. They eat meat, organ meats, milk and sour milk and they drink the blood of their bulls. When they were asked why they don’t eat fruit found in their habitat, they laughed and answered that fruit was food for their cows. These people had no diseases of our modern ‘civilised’ world whatsoever: no heart disease, no cancer, no degenerative conditions, their childbirth was easy and healthy, their bodies were trim and muscular, their life span was long and they had beautiful healthy teeth. Apart from perfect physical health these people were intelligent, joyful, peaceful, friendly and happy, no psychological problems at all. But when some of them moved to a city and adopted a modern diet, they started getting the same diseases people suffer from in any modern country.
So, the fact is humans can live without plants. However, we cannot live without animal foods!
But what about all the plant-based diets shown to help with chronic disease? Why are cold-pressed good quality plant oils shown to be beneficial for so many degenerative conditions? Supplementing these oils is promoted by both the mainstream and alternative medical community. What about all the antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, bio-flavonoids and other substances in plants which are shown to be beneficial to health? Not a month passes without our science discovering that broccoli has anti-cancer properties, cabbage has substances which heal the digestive system, nuts boost immunity, etc. etc. Here we come to the real purpose of eating plants: they are CLEANSERS. While they are unable to feed our bodies to any serious degree they are wonderful at keeping us clean on the inside. They also provide energy for the body to use in the form of glucose and some co-factors in the form of vitamins and minerals, but their main purpose is to keep your body clean and free of toxins. Indeed plants are equipped with powerful detoxifying substances, which can remove various man-made chemicals, pollution and other toxins we accumulate in our bodies. Plants are particularly powerful cleansers when consumed raw. Their juices absorb in the upper parts of the digestive system contributing a plethora of detoxifying substances and co-factors; juicing of raw greens, vegetables and fruit is a major part of any cleansing protocol.
When the plant matter moves further down in the gut it feeds the gut flora in the bowel. Human bowel is an equivalent of the rumen of the herbivorous animals; it has a rich population of microbes which can convert some plant fibre and starch into useful nutrients for the human body, such as short-chain fatty acids. However, the problem with fibre and starch is that they feed equally the bad and the good microbes. So, how good this plant matter is for you depends on the composition of your bowel flora: if it is healthy the fibre and starch will do you good, if it is unhealthy the plant matter will feed the pathogens in your gut, which will flourish and produce many toxins and do a lot of damage.
When we cook plants we reduce their cleansing ability, but make them more digestible, so they provide some building materials for the body to use. Unfortunately, these materials cannot build the body to any degree: they are largely carbohydrates, which the body can use for producing energy and store surplice of them as fat. When plants are severely processed (grains in particular) they provide the wrong building materials for the body causing disease. Consumption of products made out of flour and sugar (very processed plants) are the major cause of pretty much all degenerative health problems in our modern society: weight gain, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, psychological and neurological problems in children and adults, infertility, polycystic ovaries, immune abnormalities, etc.
A cleaner body always feels better than a toxic one. That is why so many people feel well on the plant-based diet in the first few weeks. One can read some glowing testimonies in vegan and vegetarian books to that effect. But when the body finished cleansing you need to start feeding it with animal foods. If that point is missed the body starts starving and deteriorating. What happened to Helen? With her vegan diet she was cleansing herself, and cleansing herself, and cleansing herself until she literally got ‘washed out’. She has missed the point when her body has finished cleansing and needed to start feeding. That is why she lost so much weight despite eating large amounts of grains, beans, nuts, fruit, vegetables and vegetable oils. This diet, considered to be very ‘healthy’ in our modern society, was not feeding her to any degree. That is why her menstruations stopped: her body was starving and conserving whatever precious resources it had left; it could not afford to waste them on monthly menstruations.
Vegan diets (plant only diets) can be seen as a form of fasting. They do not feed the body properly but provide it with a lot of cleansing. While your digestive system is busy processing plant matter (so you don’t feel hungry), the diet will provide your body with large amounts of cleansing substances. The ultimately toxic people are cancer victims; they require a lot of cleansing. That is why most nutritional cancer – treatment protocols are vegan. Remember that vegan diets are only suitable for a period of cleansing. They must never be chosen as a permanent life-style. When your body has finished cleansing it will need feeding, and that is when you have to introduce animal foods. If that is not done the body starves, starts cannibalising itself and problems start developing. What happened to Helen is a good example of that. When visiting India I have met some Hindu pilgrims travelling to their sacred religious sites. Part of their pilgrimage is a 41-day fast which they described as “very difficult”: they are not allowed to eat any animal foods at all and live entirely on plants – vegetables, fruit, rice, lentils and beans, vegetable oils and bread – precisely the Western vegan diet. So, when talking about purely plant-based diets the word ‘diet’ should not be used, instead such a regiment should be called a Vegan Fast.
Vegetarian diets, which include animal foods, can be adopted as a long-term strategy. It is possible to be a healthy vegetarian as long as you continue eating some animal foods to provide feeding/building substances for your body, such as plenty of eggs and full-fat dairy. Obviously all processed foods should be removed and the diet needs to be natural. Such vegetarian cultures exist in India. People there understand just how valuable animal foods are for them. That is why cow is considered a sacred animal in India – she provides milk, butter, cheese and ghee. Apart from cows people in India keep goats and value their milk very much. Vegetarians in India also keep chickens and ducks and consume plenty of fresh eggs on a daily basis; many consume meat and fish when they can get it.
There are many forms of vegetarianism: some eat fish, some eat eggs and dairy, some allow occasional consumption of meat. People who get into trouble are those who decide to stop eating meat and live largely on processed foods. They get ill very quickly. This group of people is particularly prone to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.
Another group of people who get into trouble are those who follow low-fat vegetarianism. A lot of impetus for removing fats from the diet comes from counting calories as fats produce the highest amount of calories per gram. The idea that you can equate Mother Nature’s food to calories is an indictment to science. Food is not a calorie; it is a million times more complicated and interesting. The human body is not a furnace for burning calories either – it is also a million times more complex. Looking at food in terms of calories is just another example of how lost and inadequate our food science can be. Human beings cannot live without fats. Mother Nature took billions of years to design our foods, everything she put into them is essential, including fat. Every component in a natural food is balanced with all other components, they work as a whole. To remove fat out of a natural food is to make it incomplete and unbalanced; the human body cannot thrive on such ‘food’. Low-fat vegetarianism typically leads to degenerative diseases of the nervous system and immunity.
Let us summarise
There are two groups of natural foods on the planet and each of them has its own role to play in the human physiology.
Animal foods – meat, fish, eggs and dairy – are largely building/feeding foods. They feed the cell regeneration in the body allowing the body to maintain its normal physical structure and chemical composition. In other words they provide the ‘bricks and mortar’ your body is made from. Apart from that your body manufactures a myriad of protein-based chemicals every day – hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters, etc. – essential for your body to function. In fact your body can be seen as a chemical factory of sorts. Well, the raw materials this factory needs are the animal foods. Animal foods are particularly important for growing children, as their bodies need large amounts of building materials on a daily basis.
Plant foods – grains, beans, fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts and seeds – are largely cleansing / detoxifying foods and do not feed the body to any serious degree. They keep the body clean on the inside by helping it to remove toxins and wastes. They provide energy for the body in the form of glucose. They provide some micro-elements for the body to use: minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients and co-factors.
Of course, this division is not black-and-white, there is some overlap: animal products, particularly raw, have a considerable cleansing ability while plants have some feeding ability, particularly when cooked, fermented and sprouted.
So let us enjoy both the animal foods and the plant foods. The important thing is to keep them natural with minimal processing.