Before I get into the body of this post, I want to disclaim a few things. First of all, I think Weston A. Price was a genius! What we can learn from his studies is profound indeed. I believe that all dentists and doctors alike should have to study his work prior to going into practice. He is a hero in my world and always will be. Additionally, I absolute 100% support the work of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Without WAPF, I would not be where I am today, both in my health, writing this blog and on a path to becoming a Nutritional Therapist. Sally Fallon is definitely one of my mentors and I appreciate her ever so popular book, ‘Nourishing Traditions‘.
That all said, I have to point out that though you may follow a Weston A. Price ‘diet’ or properly prepare your foods as taught in Nourishing Traditions, you still may not experience perfect health. I have noticed this time and time again through various circles, through people writing to me, and my own experience. Often people find that they gain weight and are more tired by following Nourishing Traditions. My experience was similar initially, until I wised up. Let me explain a bit by sharing my own story.
My Experience: A ‘Traditional Diet’ Was Not Enough
In the winter of 2007, a friend told me about the book ‘Nourishing Traditions.’ After balking at the price initially (my copy was $30), I went ahead and bought it. Initially, it was rather overwhelming, but everything in it resonated with me. I had already been sprouting my own flour, soaking my nuts and trying to buy organic, I was all for butter and olive oil, and various other components of the protocol were in place in my life. However, after reading through how to properly prepare and soak for baking purposes, I got a little carried away with baking. I quickly realized it was rather a pain in the neck to always have to soak my baked goods and got fed up. So, I searched out some true sourdough bread and ate it with gusto daily. It definitely was easier on my body than regular bread, but I still wasn’t getting the health results I had hoped for. My gut was always off, somewhat distended and I knew things still weren’t right as rain. Eventually, I came to the point in life that I needed to go gluten free, then I learned that starches were very hard on my already agitated gut, so I cut them out for the most part. I adopted a modified GAPS type diet, with the understanding that consuming starch would not help me heal my leaky gut. I then began to learn how important regulating my blood sugar was, and that made it easier to see that too much starch in my diet was not a good thing period.
Did Traditional People Groups Really Eat So Many Properly Prepared Baked Goods & Starches?
So here’s what I see happening across the board. Folks learn of Weston A. Price, Nourishing Traditions and the whole properly prepared foods realm and begin to implement dietary changes usually starting with the baked goods. Most people are already consuming lots of homemade baked goods, especially families, namely as a budget stretcher. (Traditional people groups did not fill their diets with so many properly soaked muffins, cookies, cakes, breads and on an on…..) Not to mention, we are just sugar/starch/carb happy in this country and it’s just kind of how it goes. So people think, well it’s healthier this way, so surely it’s okay to consume lots of it, or at the very least consume it regularly. Am I onto something here? What ends up happening though is that you are keeping yourself in a state of blood sugar dysregulation. Our bodies really can only handle very little added sugars, and any starch consumed converts to sugar in the blood stream. So, one the one hand you may be avoiding phyto-nutrients, and actually getting nutrients since you have switched from refined foods to whole foods, but you are still essentially eating sugar. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s true.
Now, before you start getting upset with me for sharing this, hopefully this news will become freedom to you instead. I am not here to tell you how much starch or sugar you personally can eat. That’s something that you need to decide for you. Nor am I gonna tell you that you have to give up grains and go gluten free like I did, again that’s your call. BUT, what I will say, is this, if you want to lose weight and maintain your blood sugar you’ll have to majorly reduce your intake of baked goods (sugars, starches, grains, etc) even if they are NT style. You’ll have to cut starches back and not eat them at every meal, maybe just dinner. Why? When you regulate your blood sugar, you can heal so many other health problems, not just your weight. Endocrine issues are directly related to blood sugar dysregulation, as are immune issues. You can’t fix hormonal imbalances without first getting your sugar under control. It’s a simple fact.
Raw Milk: Is It For Everyone?
Also, just because raw milk is amazingly healthful, doesn’t mean everyone can drink it and do well. For an amazing talk by Mark McAfee on raw milk, go see this video; ‘Baby, I like it Raw‘. Again, we have to look at the big picture here. We have come from many years of pasteurized milk, because of this we’ve become sensitive to milk products in general. Why, because pasteurization kills all the live enzymes, and leaves a dead milk product still full of lactose with no enzymes with which to digest it. Commonly today, many people have unhealthy guts. Not all guts can tolerate the lactose in milk even if the enzymes are still present in the milk. Also, not everyone comes from a heritage that consumed dairy products to begin with and therefore it may not be a food that is healthful for their bodies. Something to consider. I say try it, it’s a great source of nutrition, but if you don’t feel excellent consuming milk or dairy you may need to cut it out and do some gut healing first.
Comparing Traditional People to Modern People: What About Metabolic Syndrome?
Another thing I think that trips people up after learning of traditional foods, the cultures and health of traditional people groups, is that we in this modern day can simply replicate what they did and expect similar results. That thinking is quite harmful and blind. We are not in the same starting place today as the traditional people’s Dr. Price studied back in the early 1900’s. They were UNTOUCHED by civilization. We are more like Pottenger’s Cats today coming out of at least the 4th generation of processed foods and industrialism. Not to mention our toxic environment. We are starting at a disadvantage. The majority of us have what’s known as metabolic syndrome, in other words some level of insulin resistance. We’ve been brought up on far too much starch/sugar and bad oils and this in turn has wrecked our chance at having healthy blood sugar regulation. We can learn a lot from those cultures and even apply the dietary principles we’ve learned and see great results. But hear me out here people, we have to back track before we can even get back to base line health, if at all. Most of us have a lot of healing to do before we can expect that a traditional diet is the answer to all our problems. A traditional diet at best will begin to deal with the inflammation in our lives. It removes the processed garbage and actually provides much needed nutrition. But it’s simply NOT enough anymore. We need far more support today than the traditional people groups Weston Price studied did. We don’t have the perfect teeth and wide palates – our mouths are a wreck. Our stature is not what it was in those peoples. We are being born by c-section, not breast fed and given dose after dose of antibiotics. We cannot compare ourselves to traditional peoples by any stretch of the imagination. Please don’t hear these words as a big downer, I’m not trying to be bleak or negative, I’m simply trying to be realistic. If we want to see future generations benefiting even more from a traditional diet than we have to work hard today to adopt one along with doing the hard work of unraveling our health issues. And to do that, we may need to look further than what our ancestors did. We will need to look at what we have done to our food supply/environment, how it has impacted us to date and THEN figure out how to heal with all that in mind. That is not an easy task, nor is it going to solely take a WAPF type of diet to alleviate the burdens of health we now face.
We Can’t Repeat The Past: We Can Only Learn From It
Now I don’t want anyone to feel any sense of guilt over doing what they thought was healthier, I did the same thing for awhile. Nor do I want you to feel overwhelmed that if you don’t use a lot of starches you won’t be able to feed your family on your budget. If I can make it work, as a single mom with a small budget so can you. It’s just a shift in thinking and planning, and it can work. What I tell people is to try and get only 15-20% of your daily intake in starches. Make sure they are properly prepared. Make sure you don’t have a leaky gut, cause if you do, you need to avoid a lot of starches until it heals. In that case I recommend checking out the GAPS protocol or look at adopting a Paleo template combined with a GAPS like diet. Both focus on reducing inflammation by focusing on gut health and blood sugar. The two biggest areas of health to focus on in my opinion. Try to save your starchier foods for the dinner time meal as much as possible. This way you can avoid spiking your blood sugar too much during the day which will lead you to crave more sugar/starch. It will also keep you from getting tired, and if you have it at dinner, getting a little tired is actually okay at that point.
Truly, we can learn a lot from the studies of Dr. Price. His work was profound, a gift to us in this modern day where we have forgone the principles of our ancestors. However, just because he learned of certain preparations doesn’t mean we should necessarily assume that they are good in excess. Namely, the practices of soaking grains and consuming them too much. (I’m pretty sure we are not even soaking our grains/legumes the same way they once did. Not to mention a lot of our food is produced differently to begin with and on and on). Everything in moderation, we often hear quoted. The thing is, we don’t know what moderation really looks like anymore. So hopefully, I have given you at least a small perspective as to why consuming too much of a ‘good thing’ is not necessarily a good thing!
What are your thoughts? Have you cut back on grains/starches and seen major improvement in your overall health? How about sugar? Do you find that you need to eat sweets daily? Or can you manage to eat a lower starch diet with ease? Share your own experiences in the comments.
This post contributed to Monday Mania.
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Lydia Joy Shatney is a certified Nutritional Therapist Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is the chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.
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