Of all the components to the 180 Healthy Eating Guide, none is more important than investigation. And I’m not just saying that because the only books I read as a kid were Encyclopedia Brown. Investigation is by far the biggest gaping hole in Western medicine, as well as many alternative therapies. While you may receive many blood tests and get diagnosed nearly to death, and this can prove to be a useful form of investigation in some cases, you are very unlikely to see investigation beyond this. This is partly due to the fact that doctors simply don’t have the time required to do a thorough investigation of all the potential disease-triggering stressors in your life. Most doctor visits last something like 7 minutes.
Secondly, Western Medicine has only recognized the true root cause of a very small percentage of all ailments. And even with diseases where they have identified a root cause – such as H. Pylori infection and stomach ulcers or Streptococcus mutans bacteria and tooth decay, they fail to note that the presence of these organisms does not explain the development of disease from it. Most people with H. Pylori in their stomachs do not suffer from ulcers. Most teeth of people with Streptococcus mutans in their mouths do not suffer from decay.
So don’t expect a doctor, after diagnosing you with cancer, to ask what emotional traumas you’ve experienced that could have triggered it. Don’t expect, if you enter a doctor’s office with lots of strange and seemingly-unrelated symptoms, to be asked what you’ve been eating lately – or if you have lost weight dieting or overexercising. If you do mention losing weight, you will probably be congratulated by the doctor while simultaneously being interrogated by the nursing staff on how you did it – as a large percentage of nurses fall into the most weight-obsessed category (Caucasian, middle to upper-class females).
In my direct experience, emotional trauma, intentional weight loss, and poor diet – whether from overly restrained and restricted eating (as in vegan or carbohydrate restriction) or a simple lack of real, nutritious food – are the primary triggers of disease. What they all have in common is triggering an increase in glucocorticoid exposure and in turn the reduction in the ability of the mitochondria to produce energy. This (the stress reaction that is) seems to be nearly universal in all ailments.
In short, stress is the cause of disease. It comes in an endless array of shapes and sizes. Poor diet and emotional trauma just seem to be the most frequent causes in the modern world, but the stress reaction can be caused by just about anything. Most people can figure out what caused their health problem better than any doctor, because they live with their bodies and minds 24 hours a day.
The power of investigation goes well beyond diet obviously, but because diet is a great tool to solve health problems – even if they weren’t caused by something diet related (food can be powerful medicine for shutting down the stress reaction of the body, regardless of the cause of that stress reaction), and it is so common for people to create and exacerbate problems with an unsuitable diet, we’ll focus solely on the eating wing of investigation (so pass the hot sauce)…
There are endless ways to try and gauge, based on physical and mental indicators, whether your diet is increasing or decreasing your overall health. Although there can be some strong “head fakes,” where you feel great but are actually doing damage as I’ve discussed a long time ago in CATECHOLAMINE HONEYMOON, there are still many things to focus on.
Some of the things that I have personally found to be directly influenced by diet are mood, stress and anxiety levels and response to stress, appetite and cravings, body odor, color and texture of tongue, breath odor, skin moisture, warmth of hands and feet, body temperature, skin complexion, sex drive and function, energy levels, sleep depth and quality, tooth sensitivity, level of back pain and other aches and pains, shine and hardness of toenails and fingernails, stool moisture and ease of expulsion, mucous levels, clarity of nasal passages, athletic performance and recovery, and more.
While none of these in and of itself is of great concern, looking at all physical and mental function as a whole paints a decent portrait of the overall quality of your health. Paying a lot more attention to these subtle indicators, and fixing small problems before they get blown out of proportion into full-on medical issues requiring medication just to function, makes for a preventative health plan that is more sophisticated than any “check-up” or physical exam one could obtain.
Many of you have no doubt experienced many changes in areas like this, as well as with chronic minor health problems and annoyances that you may have dealt with for many years upon tinkering with your diet. Not everything that you experience with various dietary permutations will yield solely positive benefits in all areas. In fact, usually a bunch of areas improve while a couple of things get worse or appear alongside the improvements when you start toying around with your diet. Health whack-a-mole I call it, like the kid’s game where moles pop their heads up and as soon as you whack one on the head another pops up.
Pay attention to all of these subtle indicators as well as other indicators that you personally experience. They tell a story. Armed with the power of intuition and information, there is a strong possibility that investigation into how your body responds to simple changes in your eating will show you the way to the current nutritional needs of your body – making steady improvements with your health as years pass.
Notice that I didn’t say your “metabolic type” or “the right diet for you.” These are highly flawed concepts, as the nutritional needs of our bodies change depending on the season, our age, our current stress levels, how well we slept the night before, and the type and duration of the exercise we have performed in the short, medium, and long-term. For women, radical changes in nutritional needs occur during various phases of the menstrual cycle as well as during pregnancy and lactation with corresponding changes in appetite and cravings. There is no way of eating that works all of the time. Flexibility, an open mind, and a little self-investigation is always required to truly meet your needs.
Of course, with the honeymoon effect of many diets, investigation can really go wrong too. It’s not a foolproof strategy. Learn how to distinguish a temporary high from a true core improvement in your health. Many things that raise the production of the catecholamines, norepinephrine and epinephrine (loosely referred to as “adrenaline”), can give you a feeling of great elation, focus, energy, blunted appetite, pain relief, effortless fat loss, and more – similar to caffeine or other stimulants. This high is short-lived though, and there’s no question that large exposures to these psychoactive biochemicals accelerates the aging process and leads to an overall lower quality of health long-term.
It seems that low-carbohydrate diets, fasting, extreme exercise, and basic calorie restriction are the most likely to trigger this effect. Early warning signs that you are experiencing a honeymoon and not real, lasting benefit are cold hands and feet, racing pulse, morning hypoglycemia (shakiness and trouble sleeping in the pre-dawn hours), a drop in body temperature, problems sleeping, irritability, anger, aggression, or anxiety, digestive problems, autoimmune disease or allergy, loss of sex drive or sexual function, and feelings of fatigue and foggy-headedness upon eating a large, mixed meal with substantial amounts of carbohydrates.
So yes, when you are pursuing a healthy diet and overall relationship with food, use your intuition, information, and investigation to guide you in the right direction. And keep a very open mind about what you are trying out, as another glorious word beginning with the letters “I-N” – interpretation, is where things either come together or fall apart.
Most of all, always maintain flexibility in your thinking. It’s those who become most rigid in their beliefs about what is and is not healthy that seem to get themselves in the most trouble – probably because the information they have latched onto has become so much a part of their identity and belief system that intuition and investigation are completely overshadowed by it.
Anyway, hopefully this made for a good summary for you guys. I’m doing some backpacking over the next 10 days and will be only making a brief appearance here and there on the blog. Don’t you worry though. I’m overflowing with excitement about some great upcoming posts (like an interview with a 180 follower who has now lost over 120 pounds – and shares what she believes were the secrets to her success) as well as some upcoming writing I’ll be doing about my “investigation” of a naturopathic doctor using nutrition in the most unique and precise way I’ve ever come across. It’s going to be a great, mind-bending summer – one I’m eager to start off in the woods with a stack of books and an entire quart of maple syrup, among other things.
How to RAISE YOUR METABOLISM.