For the past four months, I’ve been following a health plan that combines the use of pre- and probiotics along with consuming foods that are considered “clean” in order to attempt to improve my overall health. It involves everything from L-Glutamine to chicory, so to say I’ve been getting quite an education is putting it mildly!
For instance, I never knew that in order to thrive, probiotics need to have good stuff in our guts to feed on (which is where prebiotics come into play). Since science has never been my strong suit (I had to excuse myself from the room when we were supposed to dissect a fetal pig), there was much about how the human body works that to me seemed like a lot of hocus pocus.
When I heard that Dr. Alejandro Junger feels that all disease begins in the gut (our second brain) I was intrigued, if for no other reason than my second brain was very large, so I wanted to see if that gave me bragging rights. For anyone else out there with a large second brain, let me tell you right now: nope – not so much!
I make light of this discovery, but I want to tell you that following Dr. Junger’s Clean Program has changed my life. So many of the aches and pains I thought were simply part of growing older have disappeared, and the only thing I can attribute this to is changing my eating habits so that I don’t eat foods that cause inflammation.
I became interested in inflammation and how it negatively affects our body when I began to see it associated with so many diseases (cancer included!). I’d never really given much thought to how the foods I eat could either enhance or diminish this inflammation, but I’m here to tell you, I’m living proof. If I eat bread (which, by the way, I happen to LOVE) I can be sure that my joints and connective tissue will ache.
It seems that gluten, sugar, and dairy are not my body’s friends. Why it couldn’t have been something like Brussels sprouts and anchovies is beyond me! I’m too stubborn to want to be one of those people who jumps on the gluten, sugar and dairy-free bandwagon. You know the type who sit in a restaurant and pick everything apart so the poor wait person is left trying to decipher the copious notes needed just to place an order. I want to enjoy my food, not literally pick it apart.
I’ve been thrilled to discover that there are numerous foods that are gluten-free, and the marketplace also seems to be introducing new products all the time that leave gluten out of the mix. As with any popular trend, however, it’s important to read the labels! Just because something is gluten free does not mean it doesn’t have other ingredients that aren’t that good for you.
Since I’m not a big fan of stevia, getting over my use of sugar was a bit more of a challenge. Luckily, a friend of mine who has been a vegan for several years told me about xylitol. Not only does it taste like sugar, which is a good thing – no – a great thing – it is also good for your teeth and doesn’t make your blood sugar spike. When I get a really strong craving for sweets I mix a bit of it with some raw powdered cacao, unsweetened shredded coconut, chopped walnuts and a bit of almond milk to make my own delicious treat.
On the occasions when I stray from what I know to be “clean” eating, I pay careful attention to how I feel the next day. What I’m noticing is that when I eat the wonderful foods that are on the program, I’m never hungry, I don’t feel deprived, and I know my body is happy with my choices. When we aren’t loading ourselves up on processed foods, our bodies actually thrive on fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins. I’ve even noticed that my sense of taste and smell have improved.
I’ve only been doing this for four months, but here’s the thing I’ve discovered. This is not a diet. It’s a way of life. I finally understand exactly what that means. While I would LOVE to be able to follow a discipline for a few months and then throw caution to the wind, I realize healthy eating means making good choices every day.
What I love about the Clean program is that it makes me feel that in some small way I’m doing what I can to prevent another bout of breast cancer. I realize these are baby steps, and I also realize that the years of poor diet and lack of exercise cannot simply be erased. What I am fully appreciating right now is that what I’m eating and the exercise I’m doing are causing me to look forward to every day because I not only feel empowered, I’m starting to remember what it feels like to be healthy.
I invite anyone who is interested to drop me a note or comment and I’ll be happy to share some of my recipes and insights.
Here’s a brief video talking about clean eating:
You can also find Dr. Junger’s first book at Amazon.com. His latest book, Clean for Life, will be available next year.