Q: I have a very busy life and need some basic health guidelines in the following areas:
* Foods that should not be skipped
* What to take or avoid for ulcers, period pains, headaches and constipation
* What key vitamin supplements are needed by most people
* Any suggestions for weight loss and great skin, hair and nails
A: Foods that should not be skipped: The World Health Organisation recommends between five and 11 portions of fruit and vegetables daily to avoid heart disease, cancer and diabetes. To achieve this I would follow the three steps listed here every day and never miss them:
* Try to eat at least one meal a day that consists entirely of fruit
* Try to snack only on fresh fruit and vegetables between meals
* Try to start all cooked meals with any raw vegetables (salad or avocado, for instance)
Including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your daily diet is the most important thing to do. This way you get to cover all the bases nutritionally without having to think about it.
To prevent ulcers you need to avoid all foods and drinks containing caffeine, such as colas, coffee, tea and chocolates. Interestingly enough, vitamin C taken in supplement form can, and often does, cause ulcers, but the vitamin C found in fruit and vegetables does not have the same effect. The best approach for ulcers is to follow a low protein diet. Do not have animal protein more than once a day, and preferably not more than three times a week. The best would be to follow a vegetarian diet where you rely on raw nuts as your source of protein. It is also important to exercise daily and try to learn to take life a little less seriously.
If you suffer from period pain, reduce or cut out dairy products and animal protein. Eating cooked protein and heated fats frequently leads to menstrual discomfort, and it appears that the hormones found in animal products also contribute to the problem. Many women find that within three months of changing to a vegetarian diet, they experience shorter, pain-free periods (often reduced from seven or eight days to three or four). I would suggest that you include between one and three tablespoons of cold-pressed flaxseed oil in your diet on a daily basis (taken either in juice or on a salad). This oil provides concentrated essential fatty acids that help the body to regulate the entire menstrual cycle, thereby controlling pain and heavy bleeding. Other sources of these essential fatty acids are avocado, raw nuts or seeds, other cold-pressed vegetable oils, olives and corn on the cob.
If you suffer from headaches regularly, make sure you are drinking enough water and eating enough fruit every day. Some common causes of headaches are dehydration and low blood sugar levels. Fresh fruit will help counteract both problems. Caffeine (found in tea, coffee, colas and chocolates) is a contributing factor as are dairy products, especially cheese, and in some people soy and wheat products are to blame. Avoid refined sugar and alcohol as they play havoc with blood sugar levels.
To avoid constipation, make sure that you follow the three steps above so that you are taking in enough roughage in a water-soluble form. Taking flaxseed oil and a good source of iodine (such as the kelp found in BarleyLife) helps the thyroid gland to work more efficiently. This gland regulates bowel movement and if it is under-active from lack of the right nutrients, constipation often results. If you find that you still have stubborn constipation, removing all foods containing gluten (such as the grains from wheat, rye, oats and barley), will help.
As far as I am concerned, vitamin supplementation is entirely unnecessary. These products strain the digestive tract, kidneys and bladder. The safest vitamin to take in supplement form is vitamin C, and that can result in kidney stones, ulcers, gout, arthritis, osteoporosis and heart disease! Furthermore, it has been shown that supplements have a very poor absorption rate – only four to ten per cent. So in my opinion, urinating 90 per cent of your hard earned money into the sewerage system while straining your body, can in no way be beneficial.
On the other hand, the vitamins and minerals found in plant foods are 100 percent usable. If you feel the need for a nutrient boost, rather invest in a good juice extractor and drink at least one glass of fresh fruit or vegetable juice a day and eat plenty of dark green leafy vegetables. I prefer taking BarleyLife as it is a concentrated food made from organically grown, sprouted barley. The leaves are juiced and then dehydrated into powder form by a unique spray-drying method so that all the nutrients remain intact in a one hundred percent usable form. I can also recommend two other organically grown dried juices, namely Just Carrots and Redibeets, both of which have many health benefits.
For healthy skin, hair, nails and successful weight management, I would once again recommend a diet consisting largely of fresh fruit and vegetables, with the addition of BarleyLife and cold-pressed flaxseed oil on a daily basis. Wheat has been shown to aggravate and even cause dry skin, eczema and acne, and alcohol, sugar, caffeine and artificial sweeteners all upset the hormonal system (the system that controls the function of all of these). So cut these foods out of your diet if you have problems in these areas.
Remember that daily exercise, such as brisk walking, helps at least 16 hormones work more efficiently, and the hormonal system is the system that affects every aspect of the body and is thus entirely responsible for our levels of health. Without exercise your health and weight will never be what it should.
Q: My family had quite a few health niggles so I recently switched over to your eating plan. My husband and I were tired constantly - we felt that we could easily sleep our lives away. Well, three weeks into the Natural Way lifestyle, and the results have been amazing – we experienced almost instant energy, we feel very well, my husband has lost about five kilos, my eczema has disappeared (touch wood!) and we’re all really enjoying fruit which I we hardly ever ate in the past. We are still having some meat, chicken and fish, but we don’t feel like it as much as we used to.
Just some questions: I battle to keep my weight at a normal level - I have always been slightly underweight and tend to lose weight exceptionally easily. Is there anything specific I can do (or eat) to maintain my weight? How do I know that we are getting sufficient calcium, with so little dairy in our diets now? This worries me a lot. I have always had fairly poor skin, and after three weeks on the Natural Way programme there has been no improvement. If anything, my skin is possibly worse. Is this normal?
A: I am always delighted when the body responds so well and so quickly to the Natural Way lifestyle! You may need to be more patient in some areas though. Remember it has taken your body your lifetime to get where it is, and it can take up to two years to undo all the damage. Your skin breaking out is a sign that your liver is cleaning house and this process does take time.
Remember that your skin is also an organ of elimination so the body will use it during its cleaning out process. As you continue with the Natural Way eating plan, your body will start its rebuilding and repair phase, and you will see an improvement in your skin. As far as your weight goes, your body will only rebuild healthy tissue and muscle once it has done all the repair work that is necessary. This takes time, but in the meanwhile enjoy your improved health - it will only get better. Once good levels of health have been established, you will find that your weight is more stable.
As far as your calcium requirements are concerned, contrary to popular belief, dairy products do not prevent loss of bone density. In fact, the countries that have the highest incidence of osteoporosis and dental decay also record the highest intake of dairy products. There are many factors that affect calcium balance in the body, but suffice it to say that an alkaline-forming diet low in animal products (such as that promoted by the Natural Way lifestyle) is your best bet.
Raw nuts and seeds are a good source of calcium, in fact almonds contain up to three times as much calcium as cow’s milk. Ensure that you include BarleyLife and cold-pressed flaxseed oil in your diet on a daily basis as both these foods work towards assisting the body in maintaining healthy mineral balance.
Q: I was taking a birth control pill for about a year, and during this time I gained a lot of weight and suffered from severe acne. Basically, I just didn’t feel well; I was tired constantly and I had a permanent ‘fuzzy’ head. I modified my diet totally to the point where all I was eating was fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I was eating all of this in moderation and couldn’t figure out why I was not losing weight.
Since then, I have come off the pill completely and I can tell that my body is feeling better. For a start, I have more energy and the acne is definitely improving. However, the weight just isn’t coming off fast enough and the excess seems to have concentrated in a little round ball of flab. I exercise constantly (I am always doing abdominal workouts of some kind) and I feel like I am hardly eating anything right now, yet the weight is not coming off. I eat very well, I exercise daily and I am only 25 years old. Surely it should not be this hard?
A: Weight is controlled by the endocrine (or hormonal) system and it is this system that the birth control pill upsets. It can take anything from six months to six years to correct a hormonal imbalance caused by the Pill, depending on how long you have been taking it and the extend of the damage it has caused. (For more on the side effects of the Pill and suggestions for safer alternatives, see my book Healthy Kids The Natural Way.) Be patient, it will be worth it. The extra weight around your waist is indicating that the pituitary gland (master control gland of the hormonal system) has been upset.
I suggest that you implement all the suggestions I offer on ensuring endocrine health. This will get you back on the road to better health and stable weight. I would definitely cut out all gluten from your diet and ensure that you take BarleyLife and cold-pressed flaxseed oil daily. Continue to exercise regularly and make sure that you get a daily dose of sunlight as this will help to correct the metabolism fairly quickly. Fasting may help, but I suggest that you first put all the other Natural Way dietary and lifestyle principles into place before you attempt this.
Many thanks to all those who have sent their emails and letters over the years - obviously I could not publish them all. I publish letters in my regular email newsletter, so keep sending your good reports through to me. They are of great encouragement to all those who are taking their first steps towards better health and perfect weight.
Mary-Ann Shearer, author of best selling Natural Way series, has been a nutritional counsellor since 1987 and does regular radio and television appearances as well as many talks and seminars both in South Africa and abroad.
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