Adopting a nutrient-dense approach to daily nutrition has been a daunting task. But with the presence of type 1 diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), adenomyosis, gluten sensitivity, psoriasis and eczema on board in our household (not to mention the looming potential for cancer, type 2 diabetes and other unsavory autoimmune conditions), making substantial changes to the way our family approaches nutrition has been essential.
Some changes have been simple to achieve and wholly welcomed by everyone. Increasing our vegetable intake, for example, was a painless process because veggies were already on our plates every day. Weeding out some fruit wasn’t too difficult, either, simply because most of my family are not big fruit eaters… and those of us who are, obsessively pick and gorge ourselves on berries when they are in season. The switchover to (mostly) organic produce has been a delightful treat for our picky tastebuds. Increasing our healthy saturated fat consumption has been downright delicious. Swapping out white sugar for pure maple syrup and raw honey were easy to accomplish here in New England. And the gradual shift to raw, whole milk and other full-fat pastured dairy products went mostly undetected… until one day, when Madeline promptly pronounced the organic pasteurized whole milk I bought in a pinch as disgusting and unsuitable for consumption. I tried it too, and spit it out: that’s when I knew that raw milk really does taste so much better.
Other changes have been more challenging. Locating, and then learning how to cook, meat from grass-fed and woodland animals has been an ongoing project for over four years now. Luckily for us, high quality farmers’ markets and food cooperatives are plentiful all year long where we live, and they abound with beef and pork suppliers. It’s been much more difficult to find pastured poultry, though.
I saved the drastic reduction of grains–the Godfather of the Standard American Diet–for the most recent phase of our transition to nutrient-dense nutrition. We made all the other changes gradually over the last four years, but still clung to conventional wisdom regarding whole grain consumption. However, when my brother-in-law was diagnosed with esophageal cancer two years ago–followed by cascade of gastroesophageal disease diagnoses for my husband, son, nephew and sister-in-law–whole grain’s cover was quickly blown. I won’t bore you with the science, but it’s safe to say that the research is growing quite robust on the role of grain-based carbohydrate consumption in the development every single modern-era disease out there. That was all I needed to know: I ordered a hit on grains.
But grains are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Reducing, and even eliminating them, from our daily nutrition continues to be an ongoing challenge for my family. I threw myself in the water first, practicing for months with new and modified recipes until I collected a stash large enough to allow me to eliminate grains completely. Of course, being the primary cook in my family, everyone else benefited from my experimentation. Symptoms decreased or disappeared. Blood glucose levels were steady. Skin was clearing, guts were healing, immune systems were strengthening—everyone felt better and noticed that fact. Today, I’m 99% compliant with grain-free eating, while my husband and children are about 80% there. It’s not easy, though, even now. When we are in situations where I did not adequately plan ahead, in a pinch for food on the go, or succomb to our brain’s fleeting desire for addictive carbohydrates, those nasty grains eek their way back in and we all suffer the consequences for hours and even days. At least now, though, we all know why we feel nauseous, get sick, have skin flare ups, get headaches, sleep poorly and feel irritable.
I’m writing about my family’s journey. I am not telling you what to do, passing judgment on your choices, or trying to guilt you into my way of thinking.
If you are interested in some resources, here’s what has helped me: