If someone is offering a miracle cure, miracle weight loss, or miracle perfect skin, and he isn’t the Son of God Himself, that’s probably a pretty good indication you should run the other way.
(Note: Most late-night infomercial hosts are not the Son of God type. Nor are the marketing teams selling the latest feel-good/look-good/be-good product on pharmacy shelves.)
It’s both empowering and aggravating that seeking good health naturally can take so much work, not only in its implementation at times (like an elimination diet) but also in its discovery – one often has to try multiple pathways to health, remaining cognizant and really getting to the bottom of the issue, before achieving success.
Sometimes, I just want a doctor to tell me what’s wrong, give me the fix and send me on my way. In that sense, natural health can be emotionally exhausting, because the process is all on you.
On the other hand, when it’s the middle of the night and a child is sick, knowing not one but four or five possible ways to help feels empowering.
There are very few (if any) quick fixes when something in the body goes wrong.
We can learn a lot from others, and the more we know, well…the more we know.
I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the Monday Mission kickoff to Natural Health Month here at Kitchen Stewardship, that I’d introduce you to a few more authors from the Extreme Health Library sale (NOW CLOSED), and here they are:
Tracy McCullough of The Love Vitamin
author of Ultimate Secrets to Acne Freedom
- What circumstances led you to your current health and wellness mission?
I had suffered with mild to moderate acne my whole life which never seemed to get better after I left my teenage years. In fact, it got worse, and when I was 23, my skin suddenly exploded into severe acne everywhere across my face. I was devastated, and SO embarrassed. I mean, I was an adult, right? This wasn’t supposed to be happening to me. It was such a painful time in my life.
I decided to heal my acne without the use of harsh chemical drugs and instead decided to support my health with a better diet, lower stress, exercise, natural skin care, and just an all round improvement in my lifestyle. It worked, and I healed my severe acne and now I rarely ever get acne at all anymore.
Believe me, it’s a HUGE relief, and I know that there are so many people out there suffering with the same issue, and I want to help them see that there is an alternative to conventional treatments when it comes to treating acne. So many people feel like they have tried every single product on the shelf, or drug from the dermatologist, and nothing works.
It’s because they need to heal the root cause of the acne, and conventional treatments never do that.
- How does your work address needs that you see in today’s health care system?
Well, when you go to the dermatologist, they STILL say that food doesn’t affect acne, or that your lifestyle has nothing to do with it. It’s a lie, and once people have tried everything possible and it hasn’t worked, what do they do? Well I am filling that gap by letting people know that they have the power to change their skin, and that they CAN heal it naturally and safely.
- What do you wish more people knew about health?
I wish that they realized that disease isn’t an accident. When something goes wrong in our bodies, it’s because there is an imbalance, and with acne in particular, it’s not to do with dirt or how often you wash your face! Our bodies want to be healthy and they are always trying to get to a healthy state… we just need to give it what it needs in the form of nutrients, rest, a state of low stress, and some exercise and disease won’t exist (and neither will acne).
- What has been hardest for you on this path of natural health?
I think being moderate with my lifestyle changes. Sometimes when you have a health problem and you want to get rid of it ASAP, you can get a little bit crazy with trying to change everything and be very strict about it. This can lead to stress, which often has the opposite effect since stress can lead to breakouts. Always remember to be patient and easy on yourself! Nobody is perfect, and that’s okay.
- What are your top three suggestions that individuals could add to their life to improve their skin health:
In terms of skin health, you should:
- Avoid processed food as much as possible, and focus on real, whole foods
- Throw our your commercial face washes and products which are actually irritating and often cause more acne than they solve
- Learn to love yourself, and let life flow a little. Stress can be a major cause of acne, and one of the biggest sources of stress is how hard we are on ourselves! You’re beautiful!
- Where can we learn more about what you do?
My ebook, Ultimate Secrets to Acne Freedom, is a compilation of all my best acne fighting tips rolled into one place.
I also write blog posts and make videos every week about naturally treating acne, and healing the painful emotions that come with it. Check it out: http://www.thelovevitamin.com
I’m drawn to Tracy’s story personally for a few reasons. First, it seems that I know far too many people my age who are dealing with breakouts or acne, when we should be in the happy place between pimples and wrinkles.
I also thought about Tracy’s books when a young cousin, about the age Tracy was when she had her real food/natural health awakening, announced that she was so happy with her skin because she had started taking Accutane a few months prior.
My breath caught in my throat.
Another cousin, other side of the family, took that stuff as a teen, just for a short time, and has such skin sensitivity to sunlight it’s crazy. Between that radical side effect and the havoc it can wreak on people’s psychological health, Accutane scares me.
I wish more young people were as open to holistic healing as Tracy was, and I feel that her story – and the youthful platform from which she delivers it – will change many lives.
Todd Caldecott, Dip. Cl.H., RH(AHG)
author of Holistic Approaches in the Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus
- What three health concerns could individuals avoid to improve their personal health?
Folks should curtail their carbohydrate intake dramatically, especially in the form of empty carbohydrates like sugar, sweeteners, refined cereals, soda, and snack foods. I am not suggesting that all carbohydrates are “bad”, but the modern diet relies almost exclusively on using glucose as a fuel to power our body, when from evolutionary perspective, glucose metabolism is an adaptive pathway.
Up until the last few thousand years, humans had a diet that was naturally low in carbohydrate, and our ancestors optimally burned fatty acids for fuel. Called beta-oxidation, the by-products of this metabolic process generate antioxidants such as beta-hydroxybutyrate that protect us against inflammation and cancer. In contrast, glucose from carbohydrates has oxidizing and toxic effects in the body, forming advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) that damage proteins and activate inflammation.
Although we have the ability to deal with a certain amount of this stress, because we now rely on glucose almost exclusively as a fuel, these toxic effects overwhelm our capacity to deal with it, and hence, excessive carbohydrates in the diet are in large part responsible for chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Another major element paired with this issue is a lack of exercise. Training muscle specifically helps to improve the body’s fuel economy, overcomes insulin resistance, and enhances vitality.
In Ayurveda, it is said that everyone with only a few exceptions (e.g. children, pregnancy, the aged) should exercise every day, to one half your capacity. This is understood as a thin coating of sweat that appears on the brow and in the armpits, and just enough exercise to leave you huffing and puffing for several minutes – something you can achieve in as little as 20 minutes a day. Through regular muscle contraction, we activate the lymphatic system and pump peripheral waste products back to the heart and then the liver and kidneys to be excreted from the body. Compression and relaxation of cartilage in joints enhances repair and regeneration. Regular exercise improves circulation, alleviates pain and congestion, and increases confidence and self-worth.
While it is difficult to stop at only three, the last issue I will mention is creative release. It is estimated that our Paleolithic ancestors spent an average of 3-4 hours a day working: hunting, gathering, and building shelter, with the rest of the time to go on a walk-about, climb trees, make cave paintings, and play.
We would gather at the end of the day around the fire, where an elder might tell some stories, or we might bang drums and dance around the fire, dispelling in this communal act all the fears and stressors of the day. Nowadays, modern humans spend most of their day working, or engaged in work-like activities such as driving, cleaning, coordinating, and study. This is remarkably different from how we evolved, and it is not surprising that so many people struggle with the issue of stress.
Many of us treat our computer hard drives better than our brains: constantly uploading “data”, but never taking the time to “defragment” our minds. To cope with these modern stressors, now more than ever we need to learn how to let it go. Exercise is not enough – every day, or at least on a regular basis, we need to engage our right brain and free it from the dominance of the left hemisphere, where the value of life is reduced to a matter of basic accounting.
We need to re-establish feeling, heart, and connection, and one of the best ways to do this is through creative expression. Poetry, art, dance, singing, doodling, pottery, music, sculpture, and journaling are only a few examples. But I recommend these things not to get “good” – but just to have fun. True creative expression relates to that sense of joyful freedom that many of us experienced as children during play. And just because we’re “grown ups” doesn’t mean we don’t need to play!
- What three natural alternatives could individuals add to their life to improve their personal health?
When I consider all of the recommendations I make to my patients, apart from diet and a healthy lifestyle, there are a number of different things that come to mind, but some I recommend to almost everyone. One recommendation I have already alluded to is massaging the body with fat. In Ayurveda this practice is called abhyanga, and is used generally not just to keep the skin moist and supple, but to protect against infection, lubricate the muscles and joints, calm and balance the nervous system, enhance fertility, and promote a long, healthy life.
I have witnessed some very impressive changes when people practice abhyanga regularly. Women in particular benefit from this practice because it maintains their natural feminine “yin” quality, and is thus important during menopause to prevent aging.
Abhyanga can be practiced with almost any fat or oil, but in Ayurveda we most frequently recommend warm, cured sesame oil. To cure the oil, heat it in a pot at low-medium heat, and sprinkle a few drops of water on top. The oil will hiss and bubble, and when this noise stops and the water has evaporated, let it cool and then pour back into the bottle with a funnel. Other fats that are good for abhyanga include coconut oil, ghee, or some kind of animal fat like tallow, lard, or marrow fat. Even if you don’t do it every day, doing a few times a week will promote notable improvements. Likewise, infants and children benefit from regular abhyanga, to support their developing nervous systems.
I am also a big advocate of live-culture foods, although because I see issues with sugar-based ferments, e.g. wine, beer, kombucha, and tibicos, I usually limit my recommendation to live-culture vegetables, or using fermentation to deactivate antinutrient factors in whole grain cereals and legumes. I have been recommending such foods and methods for awhile now, although when I first started out 20 years ago I routinely recommended encapsulated probiotics. Since then, in part because in-house testing showed me that many of these probiotic products are inert by the time the consumer gets them into their fridge, I stopped recommending them. Thus for several years now have been using foods like brine-pickles and sauerkraut, and getting very good results in a broad variety of health issues.
Another major concern of mine is the issue of vitamin D deficiency that I see specifically in Canada, where it is estimated that upwards of 70% of the population are chronically vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is thus an acute issue in most of the population, and given the association of vitamin D deficiency and the prevalence of chronic disease such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and especially autoimmunity, it is an important issue to address.
Traditionally, people ate foods naturally rich in vitamin D during the winter, such as offal, oily fish, and blood sausage. Very few people eat these foods nowadays, and so part of my approach is to find ways to re-introduce these foods into the diet, such as marrow broth/fat, which is an excellent source of vitamin D. I also recommend vitamin D supplements, both as internal and transdermal medications, but I don’t feel particularly good about my patients ingesting irradiated lanolin, which is what most commercial sources are made from.
I also have concerns about relying on fish liver oil as a vitamin D source exclusively, which is different from traditional whole fish oils such as herring oil and ooligan (smelt) grease that were much more commonly used, and have lower levels of vitamin A, making it safer for regular consumption. For several years, based on research I have read coming out of Scandinavia that contradicts conventional wisdom, I have been recommending artificial tanning. Not to get tanned mind you, which would defeat the purpose, but at doses equal to about 25% of what researchers call the minimum erythema dose, when the skin starts to burn. For most people this is about 5 minutes in a stand-up unit, or 11 minutes lying down.
Sun-tanning has a number of advantages over supplementation, and avoids the limitations of gut absorption and the liver, which for many people with chronic disease can be major issues. Here in Vancouver we stop making vitamin D about mid-September, just when your shadow at mid-day is longer than your height. It has always been interesting for me to observe just how soon after we stop making vitamin D that people start to get sick.
It was a few years back I finally followed my own advice to treat what had become a chronic cough one winter, which despite my extensive knowledge of herbs to treat it, just wasn’t responding. Within three sessions my symptoms had totally diminished, and I noted great improvements in my mood and energy. These days, I make sure to tan once a week, September through April, and since that time, I haven’t had a cold or flu once. Likewise, I recommend tanning to many patients, and get good response in conditions as diverse as depression, psoriasis, and arthritis. Tanning however is often contra-indicated with a history of excessive sun exposure, skin problems such as actinic keratosis and skin cancer, and a sensitivity to EMFs.
Todd Caldecott, Dip. Cl.H., RH(AHG)
Ayurvedic Practitioner, Medical Herbalist
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Author, Food As Medicine: The Theory and Practice of Food
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Editor, Ayurveda in Nepal
The Teachings of Vaidya Mana Bajra Bajracharya
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Author, Ayurveda: The Divine Science of Life
I don’t know if Todd and I would get along in person, but he has a wealth of knowledge and experience. I had a long conversation just today with someone about Vitamin D in the north (we’re in Michigan, so pretty close to Canada) and she was telling me she figured out how to sunbathe – outside – in the winter when she tested very low in D.
Now I’m wondering what’s better – sitting outside freezing my tummy off or paying for tanning visits (in that elusive 25th hour of the day, I’m sure, while my kids nap peacefully in the waiting room…). Or just keep relying on Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil – Todd does say in the eBook that only fermented, non-deodorized fish oil is recommended.
His recommended diet makes a lot of sense to me based on what I know about carbs, fats, and traditional methods of food preparation, so that’s refreshing.
I have one more Q&A post from some of the “food-based” authors coming up later this afternoon, and a great natural health giveaway tomorrow to keep you going on your natural health curiosity!
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Tracy’s ebook from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. Green Pasture is a March sponsor receiving their complementary mention in a post. See my full disclosure statement here.