Starting the journey to better health can be intimidating. There is so much information out there and so many opposing viewpoints it can leave you confused and unsure where to start. I will be writing about and posting on some simple beginning changes that can get you started on the path to better health. I listened to an interesting podcast about “The Kaizen Method” on the topic of successful and lasting change (check out “The Art of Manliness” podcast episode #341). “The Kaizen Method” was developed decades ago and has been used successfully in companies such as Toyota to bring about positive change in small increments. The sum of it is, lasting change is better brought about in small increments rather than drastic measures. Basically, get 1% better every day. Take exercise for example. If a person wants to start exercising after years of being sedentary, he/she will have longer lasting success with small steps, such as aiming for 5-10 minutes of exercise in the beginning, as opposed to joining a gym, going on a diet, hiring a trainer, buying a bunch of supplements, etc. The goal of 5-10 minutes of simple exercise is much more realistic and achievable than going to the gym an hour or more every day, taking expensive supplements and following some strict diet and maintaining that for long term. Over time, those 5-10 minutes will be a new “habit” and will then lead to more forms of exercise or longer duration or whatever. We can take this same approach–“The Kaizen Method”–to anything. From a Primal nutrition perspective, there are certain small steps that can be taken initially that WILL have a positive effect in nearly EVERYONE who tries it. After people embrace these small steps and see the positive effects, these changes now become “habit” and part of everyday life and they will pursue additional positive changes that will lead them to better health—get 1% better every day.
Gluten and High Fructose Corn Syrup–start by eliminating these two toxins
Gluten. The protein found in wheat products that allows it to be ooey and gooey and stick together so it can be rolled, pressed and twisted into various shapes to make the products that too many people enjoy, such as pizza crusts, bread, bagels, pastas, pretzels, breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies, and about a 1,000 or more other things. I’ve written about gluten and wheat before in a previous post, see https://parnhamhealth.com/2017/07/03/whats-with-wheat/. People with celiac disease have an autoimmune reaction to gluten that is problematic and obvious. The problem is many of us are gluten intolerant but don’t necessarily have celiac disease. This is known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity and can cause brain fog, possibly thyroid issues, gut issues such as bloating, constipation, make seasonal allergies worse, cause eczema and skin issues…. the list of possible symptoms is quite long. Are there people out there who can eat gluten products w/ absolutely no adverse effects? Probably, but I would guess this would be a minority of people. Gluten sensitive or not (many people don’t even realize they are gluten sensitive, I was one of those people) I argue that pretty much EVERYONE would benefit from not eating gluten products. This is a small first step on the path to health. This cuts out all these cheaply made grain products mentioned above. Even if you don’t have any hint of gluten sensitivity you will be eliminating foods of zero health value. It’s obvious that cookies and donuts and all that stuff is bad for you but many people don’t realize that bagels and bread really have the same or at least similar effect in the body that the “junk” food does in regards to sugar spikes, inflammation, etc! I hate to break it to you, but whole wheat bread is NOT healthy. Bagels are NOT healthy. If you enjoy belly fat, sore joints, constipation and/or diarrhea, skin issues and brain fog then keep eating wheat. If you are overweight, struggle with joint pain, thyroid disease, skin issues, brain fog, belly fat or gut issues, you will likely derive significant benefit from cutting out wheat and gluten. One disclaimer, do not substitute with gluten free junk food. Gluten free cookies are still cookies. Going gluten and wheat free will force you to “think outside the box” and maybe expand your usual menus and even your palate. Hopefully getting rid of all these will encourage more vegetable and fruit intake.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
HFCS. As much as I dislike gluten it’s quite possible I dislike HFCS even more. What is HFCS? It’s basically a syrup made from processing corn starch and started being used in production in the 1970’s. Unfortunately, it is very cheap to make (since the US grows so much corn) so it is used in a wide variety of products as a sweetener. It’s in everything from soda, to ice cream, to ketchup, to grain products. The average American consumes over 60 lbs of HFCS per year! Of course, the FDA touts it as healthy but we all know there is a money trail behind anything government related and connections to the corn industry and lobbyist influence, etc (I’m not going to delve into all of that). The point is that HFCS is toxic to our bodies. It is not really a natural product. Our bodies don’t really know how to process it. HFCS goes to our liver to be processed and induces a process called lipogenesis which increases production of triglycerides and cholesterol and contributes to fatty liver disease, which is a growing problem, and also is linked to increasing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, strokes, etc. People with high triglycerides, low HDL (“good cholesterol”) and high LDL (“bad cholesterol”) often see improvements in these markers (and others) when they cut down or eliminate HFCS. Following the standard American diet (aka “SAD”) or a low fat, USDA food pyramid lifestyle will fail to improve blood tests and biomarkers. Read Dr. Mark Hyman’s (one of the leading functional medicine MD’s) take on HFCS http://drhyman.com/blog/2011/05/13/5-reasons-high-fructose-corn-syrup-will-kill-you/
So the takeaway…. If you are desiring to improve your health and maybe have a few pounds (or more) to lose, suffer from joint pain, cholesterol or triglyceride issues, autoimmune conditions, skin issues such as eczema, gut issues such as bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, or just want to lean out and feel better and optimize your health, then try at least 30 days of eating a gluten free diet and cutting HFCS out completely (or almost completely) and see how you feel. I have seen so many people (myself included) really turn their health around and improve and sometimes even reverse chronic symptoms simply by doing these 2 things.