Monday, May 24, 2010

Food and Wellness

Several times last week I felt the undeniable urge to bang my head against the wall in frustration. Each time it had to do with the simple idea that food impacts health and wellness. Yes, food. Such common knowledge, one might think. Don't we all know that sugar makes our kids hyper, caffeine can give us the jitters, and junk food can result in a stomach ache? Didn't the film Super Size Me (and many others) teach us that what we eat will directly impact our health? Then why are we not getting it? Are lifestyle changes really too hard to tackle?

My first head-banging came when a fellow mom lamented her kids' ADHD. We were casually chatting on the phone about an upcoming school event and she had called because of my children's food allergies. "Oh, I tried to go gluten free for like a week" she told me. "And it didn't do a thing." In her next breath, she screamed off in the background to her kids "I didn't say you could have another Oreo. Put that back!" Bang, bang goes the head. Since the 1960s, the Dr. Feingold of the Feingold Association has been providing research and dietary advice showing how the consumption of food additives and artificial ingredients have been affecting learning and behavior. Just last week a new article in Time Magazine linked ADHD with the consumption of pesticides, further clarifying the link between diet and behavior.

The following day, a dad was talking to me about his son's asthma and the need for ongoing steroids to help his breathing. We chatted about triggers while his son guzzled a chocolate milk and picked on cheese cubes. Had he tried going dairy free? "No, that would be way too difficult!" Another bang. At what point has swallowing, injecting, or inhaling laboratory-concocted pharmaceuticals become decidedly "easier" and more acceptable than feeding our children differently and healthfully? Yes, there is controversy over whether or not diet can help all kids with asthma or ADHD, for that matter, but what about giving it a try? (Note: There is also research indicting that raw, unpasturized dairy actually reduces the likelihood of asthma, but that's for another discussion.)

The final draw came in a brief conversation with another parent who was exhausted by her child's hyperactivity. His medication did not kick in until after breakfast and that time frame was the most challenging. We talked about a variety of parenting tools. She and her husband chose a reward system. The reward? Candy. Bang.

As humans we are creatures of habit. We like our routines and we love our food. But diet should be a first and basic lifestyle change for anyone looking to improve wellness. Whether you are dealing with ADHD or asthma, eczema or autism, learning disabilities or cancer, diet is a fundamental place to start. I personally was raised in a traditional Italian-American family with a grandmother who cooked everything from scratch but as I grew up, convenience foods became all the rage and things like Hamburger Helper™ and Twinkies™ found their way into my diet. I have been a health food nut and a vegetarian, have gone both gluten-free and grain-free, and have eaten a traditional, paleolithic diet as well as having dabbled in juicing and raw foods. Each change brought with it some challenges and new tastes and also produced dramatic results for me and my family with regard to health and behavior. Like many forms of true healing, you cannot change for a day or even a week. Nutritional change is slow and modification takes time. No one is perfect but changing how you eat - how we all eat - is nothing short of revolutionary when it comes to wellness. How we have strayed so far from the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates', famous mantra "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food" boggles the mind. Health begins with what we put in our bodies and food is the obvious first place to start.


  1. I agree with you, sometimes I feel the same. My son was having an upset stomach and we cut dairy, sugar and junk and he got better inmediatly. I'm changing my families eating habits, they're not too happy about not having junk but since I'm the one doing the food shoping they'll have no choice to eat healthy food if they're hungry.

  2. I have totally seen when my kids act there worst there are three factors involved.

    Food, they aren't eating well or on a schedule.

    Outside play, their energy has no where to go but into "crazy" mode.

    Schedule. My house without our rhythm is a insane place to be.

    If I can keep these three things in check, we are so much better!

  3. I feel exactly as you do! But I truly (perhaps naively) believe that people just don't know that what they are eating could be the biggest culprit in the symptoms they experience. But both you and I have transformed our health through diet-and did a lot of research in the process. That's why I'm studying to be a health counselor/coach! People need help deciphering the latest fad, etc. and need someone trustworthy and knowledgeable to help guide them in their journey...we are all busy and feel we don't have the time to make a homemade meal with whole foods...but its easier than people make it seem, wouldn't you agree?
    Great post...again, it was as if my hands typed it themselves!

  4. I cannot wait to share this article with everyone on Facebook and beyond! I, too, am studying to become a Holistic Moms Health Coach so I can spread the knowledge and possibly inspire other moms to make the necessary changes to their family's diet. My family is currently gluten-free, dairy-free and corn-free and we're loving life!!! No processed foods/sugar, all Organic foods and 3 homemade meals every day!! My two-year-old son is very healthy, even after being born with digestive and yeast issues. My son has been my driving force through it all! I plan to tap into other mothers unconditional love to get them to see what changes can be made. Don't all moms want healthy children and a better world them? We can make it happen! Thanks for this amazing article! I'm forever grateful to HMN for opening my eyes!!!

  5. I agree with everything that was said. My son is a happy, healthy and exceedingly bright nearly toddler. Everyone is amazed at how happy he is and how well behaved and focused and how "ahead" he is with his developmental milestones. We eat a full range of organic fruits and veggies and properly prepared grains (not too many mind you and they all need to be sprouted before they're cooked), limit our gluten and eat pastured only meat and raw dairy. I've had more energy since changing the way we've eaten and my husband is being healed from a herniated disk with the diet as well as rolphing. I also helped a few friends help their kids with breathing issues and chronic constipation. Their kids aren't completely healed because they don't go to "all out" the way I do with my family (bang head against wall please!).

  6. I love the Feingold diet! I have had my entire family on this diet for about a year now and I can see the difference! They are all much healthier and happier! BioVeda Health and Wellness is a great website that has many articles related to holistic medicine! The most recent blog that I like was how to relieve allergies through holistic medicine.


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