Is healing from chronic illness through diet possible? Yes. The food we eat directly influence our ability to heal from any chronic illness and it plays an enormous part in achieving optimal health. So what is the best diet for healing chronic illnesses?
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We all know that there is a link between intestinal ecosystem equilibrium and many diseases, including autoimmune disorders. However when it comes to choosing food, the main aspect that people focus on is the food groups, swinging from one extreme diet (plant based) to another (keto or paleo) and even counting calories.
What is most often overlooked or ignored, is the origin or quality of that food and how well the body tolerates it.
The primary aim should be high-quality real foods not their substitutes. Sometimes certain food that is considered healthy can contain high levels of arsenic, herbicides, pesticides, nitrates /nitrites, sulfites and other man-made chemicals, plus GMO ingredients – that can hijack the healing process and create even more inflammation.
After you switch to a clean, organic, unprocessed source of food only then you can rule out a true inflammatory food.
Identify Misleading Food Claims
Usually people are seeing themselves as eating healthier than they really are, due to the conflicting or inconsistent formation about what eating habits are healthy and what aren’t.
There is also conflicting information between dietitians, researchers and health care professionals, which some people consider most trusted sources for guidance. So it’s really hard to know what an actual healing, natural, whole food, balanced diet really looks like.
Confusion is a good business. Through advertising and marketing, food and beverage companies convince us to buy their products or follow a specific dietary pattern. They also pay for many nutrition studies and the research results are usually favorable to sponsor’s interest.
Their foods are processed in ways specifically designed to get us to buy and eat more by adding more sweetness, fat, salt or flavors. These tastes are difficult to find in nature but cheap and easy for the food scientist to use, with the purpose to induce us to consume much more than is needed.
If you pursue to heal chronic diseases naturally then you should avoid advertised boxed foods. Only the biggest food producers can afford to advertise their products. You will never see a carrot or an apple advertised, only their heavily processed counterparts and this is because healthy food doesn’t need promotion to be sold.
Realistically speaking, better food – in terms of taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond) – costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care.
If you spend more for better food, you’ll probably eat less of it, and treat it with more care. And if that higher-quality food tastes better, you will need less of it to feel satisfied. Choose quality over quantity, food experience over calories.
So What Is The Best Diet For Healing Chronic Illnesses?
It’s really important to have a high nutrition diet that will help you body to stay clean as possible (in term of added chemical burden). This is especially important if you are looking to heal from a chronic disease, to increase vitality and energy, clean your liver, heal your gut, balance hormones or loose weight.
How do I know this? Because that’s how a healed myself from chronic conditions when doctors could’t figure that out. I tried many different forms of dieting over the years – with little and no lasting effect. I started to notice significant improvement when I started to know where my food comes from or how it is prepared.
It’s true we all have different physiologies and lifestyles, but these are only general guidelines focusing on quality factors, which will definitely benefit everyone in the long run. Next time when you go grocery shopping make sure you stock up on foods that will truly help recover your health.
Drink liquids that will truly benefit you, not only for pleasure:
- Pure filtered water (at least two liters a day) for hydration and a smooth elimination of toxins.
- Fermented liquids (water kefir, kombucha, etc.) will replenish your gut flora.
- Herbal teas with medicinal and therapeutic properties (buy organic, choose a non-GMO certified brand of tea, make sure there are no added flavors. Many non-organic tea brands have been found to contain pesticides that are known carcinogens).
Don’t use teabags, because most of them are not made from paper as we may believe. They are actually made from nylon, polypropylene, corn based PLA plastic or a mixture of plastic and paper fibers. Look for loose tea in bulk instead.
Avoid stimulants like coffee drinks, green and black teas, energy drinks, sodas. Caffeine acts as a stimulant which taxes the detox organs (kidneys, liver and the adrenal glands) while the digestion, sleep, reproduction, tissue repair, immunity, and detoxification are put on stand-by.
If your body is already stressed with a chronic infection, a food allergy and toxicity then you might want to stay away from additional stressors.
Vegetables are one of the best allies in healing chronic diseases.
- Make them at least 50% of your overall food. Vegetables may be raw or cooked, fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated. Store bought pre-cooked vegetables may not be a good idea. Besides having additives these have fewer nutrients.
- Desirably 50% of all vegetables consumed to be green vegetables.
- If you are having issues with digesting raw vegetables, then you should cook them by baking, simmering, sautéing or lightly steaming. Fermenting will also make them more digestible.
- Consume a variety of vegetables in rotation because different vegetables provide different types and amounts of nutrients.
- If you get bloated when eating legumes, then soak or sprout the beans, lentils and peas – this will increase their nutritional value and become easier to digest.
- Some people with autoimmune disorders may find that nightshades make their symptoms worse. If you’re not sure you’re sensitive to them, remove all from your diet for at least 30 days. After that reintroduce them one at a time.
Here is a list of vegetables that you can choose from:
Roots vegetables (yams, beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, onions, garlic, celery root, radishes etc.). Because root vegetables grow underground, they absorb a great amount of nutrients from the soil. Buying organically grown vegetables is important if you want a lower pesticide, herbicide and fungicides residue.
Squashes (butternut, acorn, spaghetti, delicata, kabocha, buttercup etc.) – one of the top food sources of beta-carotene, a phytochemical the body changes to vitamin A. You can buy them in the supermarket most of the year.
Green Leafy Vegetables (chard, dandelions, collard greens, kale, lettuces, spinach, water cress, arugula, endive, cilantro, parsley, sprouts and microgreens). Greens have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, increasing oxygen utilization by the body. Their high fiber content provide support for gut microbes to digest and create byproduct that effect various gut activities like PH balance, gut permeability, immune balance, bowel movements and so on.
Beans and peas (kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas and lentils.) These foods are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc.
Cabbages (brussels sprouts, napa, savoy, green cabbage, red cabbage, bok choy) – the insoluble fiber in cabbage increases the movement of waste in your digestive tract. A great way to consume cabbage is in a fermented form such as sauerkraut and kimchi. The enzymes produced in fermentation break down or pre-digests the fiber and make vitamins and minerals easier to absorb. Some people may have trouble digesting cruciferous vegetables and may have digestive discomfort. Eating small portions and cooking the cabbage well may help.
Inflorescent Vegetables (artichoke, broccoli cauliflower, broccoli romanesco) – high in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K as well as dietary fiber, promote estrogen balance, reduce inflammation and have cancer-fighting properties. Some people may experience excess flatulence when eating these vegetables. For this reason, it’s best to incorporate them in your diet slowly, chew thoroughly and consume them cooked until your gut adapts.
Stalk vegetables (fennel, celery, fiddlehead, rhubarb, asparagus) – consume raw, roast, grill or stir-fry them. These quick-cooking, water-less methods will preserve the nutritional content and antioxidant power.
Mushrooms (all their varieties) – mushrooms’ meaty texture and savory flavor make them a great ingredient for a satisfying meatless meal.
Nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, sweet peppers, chili peppers, jalapenos, potatoes) – contain numerous beneficial nutrients, like vitamin C, antioxidants, B vitamins, and minerals.
- Fruits should sum up about 20% of your diet, eaten in it’s whole natural form.
- Consume fruits in moderation (1 fruit/cup per day) when dealing with candida overgrowth.
- Smoothies are OK a long as you know what fruits are tolerated well by your body and which aren’t. Try anti-inflammatory smoothies with low-glycemic fruits and greens.
- No store bought fruit juices (they are loaded with sugar and stripped of their nutrients and fiber during processing).
- Limit or avoid store-bought dried fruits (they are preserved with sulfur dioxide and added sugar – harmful for people who suffer from allergies or sensitivities). Dry your own fruits or look for sugar free, unsulfured versions.
Opinions about grains in general are divided into two camps: vegans, vegetarians – eat a ton of grains and say they are healthy, and the opposing camp: Paleo, Whole30, and Atkins who completely avoid grains because they contribute to low-level inflammation and intestinal damage due to anti-nutrients.
Grain has been at the heart of humankind’s diet for thousands of years, but in the last few generations, wheat is making people sick. Coincidence or not this started with the extensive use of hybridized (or genetically modified) seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. And the final products are higher in gluten than in the time of our grandparents, often bleached and chemically treated during processing.
- In case you have serious gut damage and multiple allergies, then avoid all grains for a while, especially wheat. And whenever you decide to switch to gluten free grains (like amaranth, brown and wild rice, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, sorghum and teff) make sure they are minimally processed.
- Choose whole-kernel grains (such as steel-cut oats instead of quick oats) and organically grown, ideally – sprouted (sprouting is a form of pre-digestion).
- This category should not make up more than 10-15% of your overall diet.
NUTS, SEEDS AND THEIR BUTTERS
Nuts and seeds to choose from: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds etc.
- This group should constitute not more than 5% of you diet, and consumed more like a condiment, to complement a flavor in a dish.
- The best way to consume nuts and seeds is in their shell (more nutrients).
- Soaking will remove the enzyme inhibitors and make them a lot easier to digest. You can also take a step further by sprouting them, reaching a higher concentration and bio-availability of nutrients. If you are interested, this is a great Guide to Sprouting Year Round with pictures and detailed instructions.
- Eating a variety of nuts and seeds in rotation will help you to get a lot more nutrients.
- Choose raw organic. Almost all of the nuts and seeds that are sold in stores these days have been roasted, toasted or pasteurized in order to extend their shelf life. These heating processes usually reduce their nutritional value (minerals, enzymes).
- Avoid nuts packaged or roasted in vegetable oil and with added salt.
- Purchase from a store that sells a lot of nuts and that has a lot of turnover, so you are more likely to get fresh nuts.
- If you’re trying to supplement your diet with omega-3 fats, walnuts are the best. Brazil nuts are a particularly good source of selenium. Almonds-calcium.
- As for the nut and seed butters, when you buy them, look at the ingredients. Make sure that the only ingredient is whichever nut or seed that butter is supposed to be made of. For example tahini should contain only sesame seeds, almond butter-only almonds. If there is also sugar, salt, and other oils then avoid it. Some may contain emulsifiers in order to help with spreadability and separation.
- If you have a high powered blender you can take your soaked nuts and seeds and use them to make plant milks such as almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, etc.
- Raw & sprouted nut butters can be expensive to buy at the store, so try online or make your own.
This category includes added oils in cooking or salads and it should constitute about 1% of your consumed foods. Oils in general should be used in very small quantities when we talk about adding them to the food, because most of them are inferior in terms of nutrients than the food it was extracted from (1 Tbsp of oil per day is enough).
A great example is avocado and avocado oil. The problem is most commercial oils are quickly oxidized, creating rancidity. This affects the human body by forming free radicals and depleting certain B vitamins.
Try to avoid commercial vegetable oils like soybean, corn or canola, most of them are extracted from genetically engineered plants (they are cheaper) with the help of chemicals. When heated these oils produce oxidized cholesterol, creating chronic inflammation. The best oils to consume are olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, and avocado oil.
Tips for choosing oils:
- Healthy oils are unrefined, cold pressed, extra-virgin (minimally processed). They will retain their aroma, nutrients, and flavors. Avoid “pure olive oil,” “light olive oil,” or simple “olive oil” labels.
- Oils are best within a year of pressing (on average) after that point they become more harmful than healthy.
- Avoid all oil sprays, they use a gas propellant (butane, propane and/or nitrogen) to create a fine mist. Emulsifiers, such as soy lecithin, are used to keep the oil mixture in liquid form.
- For sautéing, baking, and stir-frying is best to use oils that can withstand high heat, like grapeseed, avocado or coconut.
- Seed and nut oils shouldn’t be heated, as they will loose their benefits and become toxic, they are best in cold salads.
- Make sure the brand that you are getting is sourced directly from producing countries.
- Beware of highly processed fake fats like: margarine, shortening, I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter, Smart Balance – they are full of genetically modified ingredients, artificial flavors and preservatives.
MEAT, EGGS, FISH AND DAIRY PRODUCTS
Animal food in general is difficult to digest and acid forming and if you have a weak gastrointestinal tract, low stomach acid, bad flora, a weak pancreas and liver than you may want to consume less of it, somewhere around 3% of your overall diet. Avoiding them entirely will speed up the healing process.
- Consume low mercury wild fish, smaller fish (like sardines, or mackerel). Choose wild over farmed fish (raised with chemicals and fed with drugs in order to control parasitic infestations). More information about this you can read here.
- If you are more susceptible to getting ill from parasites, cut off fish/meat for a while, or cook it at a higher temperature.
- Choose grass fed, pasture raised, organic meat and eggs over conventional.
- Opt for fermented dairy products (like yogurt and kefir, ideally homemade without added sugar and flavors) if you are consuming any. These have beneﬁcial enzymes, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics.
Today’s milk is a processed food, pasteurization destroys beneficial bacteria (along with the bad ones), enzymes – essential for nutrient absorption. This is probably the reason why so many cannot tolerate and digest dairy anymore. The immune system cannot recognize it and is attacking undigested protein by provoking a defense at worst (allergy) and a sewage sludge at best (mucous).
HERBS, SPICES AND OTHER CONDIMENT FOOD
Do not buy pre-made mixes and seasoning packages, bullion cubes and powders, ketchup and mayonnaise – they are usually highly processed made with additives, fillers, flavors and artificial and allergenic ingredients.
A large number of seasoning blends on the market today contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), various chemical additives or byproducts of processing that may cause inflammation and cell damage.
Create your own healthy spice blends at home, purchase organic, dried herbs and spices in bulk in mix them as you like.
Buy whole garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, herbs. Use them fresh or simply dehydrate the onions, garlic cloves, chili peppers crush them yourself to a desired consistency, and store in glass seasoning jars.
If you are going to consume any processed or prepackaged foods at all, good options are things like organic canned beans or tomatoes (BPA free) that contain only water and sea salt nothing else or with very minimal ingredients in general.
When buying foods like olives, vinegar, nut butters, apple sauce, honey, maple syrup, choose glass over plastic, you can keep your jars and reuse them to store leftovers. Why? Because most plastic products can release chemicals that act like the hormone estrogen causing serious hormonal imbalances.
Stay Away From
All processed foods and frozen dinners, pre-made mixtures and packaged foods (including gluten-free labels), like:
- Chips, crackers, granola, cookies, pastries, cake mixes, breakfast cereals, powdered milk, ice cream and other frozen desserts.
- Pizza, vegan margarine and butters, puffed rice, bagged popcorn and other snacks.
- Deli meat, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, burgers, sausage, pepperoni etc.
- Salad dressing, pre-made condiments, canned soups, canned fruit, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, etc.
- Muffins, bagels, bread sticks, pita bread, croutons, pasta, noodles, pie crust mixes & fillings.
- White table salt, baking powder, gelatins, white sugar, corn syrup, rice syrup, agave syrup, pudding, pasteurized honey, marshmallows.
- Low-fat, low-carb products, they are ususaly more proccesed than regular ones.
If food is canned, jarred, bagged, or boxed with a long list of ingredients on the label, including many you can’t even pronounce, don’t even consider buying it.
Our greatest health problems relate to overeating low-quality foods. These lead to chronic illnesses like cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease and they don’t appear overnight, they develop over a lifetime. Adding an occasional salad to your diet is not going to fix it. It involves looking holistically to our diet and lifestyle behaviors.
If you are interested in learning more, this book is an extra guidance that could help you figure out how to eat real food again and avoid processed, chemical-based garbage that makes everyone overweight and sick.
Read More: 14 Habits For A Strong Immune System