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TITLE: Vegetarian or Omnivore?
One of the most controversial aspects of the BTD from the point of view of a 'healthy diet' is the fact that eating meat is recommended for some blood groups, and just about compulsory for blood group O. This emotive subject has already been discussed in depth on www.dadamo.com , but still remains an issue for many people.
Although it is possible to eat only raw vegetable foods and remain perfectly healthy, the fallacy that naturopathy is based on an exclusively vegetarian or vegan diet is put forward by those looking to ban meat eating completely. Many naturopathic pioneers commented that indigenous people remained vigorously healthy on their local diets, whether it consisted mainly of meats, fish or vegetables, and some would starve without meat (1).
An acupuncturist colleague commented: "Of the patients I see in my clinic the most difficult to help are O group former vegetarians". She sees that their vitality has been worn down by what is considered an organ deficiency in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and may take a long time to build up again. One could add that current O vegetarians are sometimes even harder to help - those who know they should be eating meat, but refuse to do so. It has certainly been the case that amongst those seen in my practice who have had the greatest benefit from dietary changes alone are the blood group O vegetarians who have started eating meat and stopped eating large amounts of starch.
Can an O follow the BTD and remain healthy without eating meat, just concentrating on vegetable proteins, nuts and seeds? It has been suggested that there are some supplements and herbs that can help, but these may not always be a complete substitute for eating animal flesh. Some O vegetarians appear to remain perfectly healthy, and that's fine. We are all born with a certain level of vitality depending on how fit and well nourished our family was, and our exposure to food and environmental factors in childhood will further determine how well we cope with the stresses of life. But some just don't do well without eating meat.
The real key to this seems to be why that person is vegetarian. It seems obvious enough to say that if it is for health reasons and they are blood group O for example, then they are simply mistaken that eating meat is unhealthy for them, there is plenty of evidence to support this. If it is because they do not like the taste, then it is just a case of gradually getting used to it. But if it is for reasons of compassion for the animal, this often needs to be explored in greater depth on an individual level.
A decision to include or exclude meat from the diet should take blood group, Rhesus factor and secretor status into account as well as health. Practitioners need to be supportive of the inevitable moral and ethical issues faced by people who may be under pressure of their genetic inheritance to change their habits of a lifetime.
My favourite observation on this subject is by Daverick Leggett, a highly respected Qi Gong, nutrition and TCM teacher (and ex-smallholder) in the UK. Daverick comments that from the oriental point of view, which is based on thousands of years of observation, meat and dairy are both highly respected as powerful nutritious foods, and are therefore generally eaten in small quantities. Excess meat can result in the accumulation of dampness, and often heat (characteristics found in the body that are used in oriental diagnosis).
"For many people, opening their awareness to receive the pain of the animal reared for meat is unbearable and they turn to vegetarianism. Others continue to eat meat in the spirit of reverence and thanks. Many rarely give it a thought and yet remain relatively healthy. My own view is that meat eaten with awareness, from a place of informed choice, is a perfectly healthy practice and for some people a very necessary one...
"For those who choose vegetarianism as their dietary path I would like to add one or two words of advice: without the quick fix of meat it is important to give more attention to balancing the diet and including good quality vegetable protein. The system will also be more clean on a good vegetarian diet. This means that imbalance will be registered more easily. Vegetarians are therefore advised to be especially careful with sugar and caffeine which meat eaters will tolerate more easily. In fact, there is often a tendency to binge on sugar and starch to compensate for the lack of animal fats and protein...
"Lastly, vegetarianism is best supported by spiritual belief, a trust that all necessary nourishment is available through our relationship with the divine. When we investigate our beliefs as vegetarians, we often find places of denial, places in the psyche that crave meat, that repress meat-eating as part of a more deep suppression of the life force. I encourage the exploration of these places so that ultimately one might embrace a more full and life-affirming vegetarian practice. It is my experience that those whose vegetarianism is supported by positive life-affirming beliefs rather than guilt and denial, or even the retreat from pain, generally maintain full vitality. When vegetarianism is ensnared in righteous anger or suppression of instinct, it is rarely supportive of full vitality. A healthy vegetarianism is rooted in the practice of listening to the body and mediating with the realities of today's world" (2). After many years of vegetarianism, Daverick eventually came round to the idea that he needed to eat some meat.
On the spiritual issue mentioned by Daverick, many find it helpful to pray over their food. This can be simply saying Grace, but a more specific prayer is to say: "thank you for giving your body", and after eating: "now my body is fit to help others". There is scientific evidence that prayer has a perceptible effect on the subject (3).
The scientist Rudolf Steiner, founder of the Biodynamic movement in agriculture, said that when the human being eats animal protein, "the 'cosmic images' revealed to him in this process are quite different to him when he eats plants. The information carried in the plant has been absorbed by the animal. We are confronted with information about the building up of a body suitable for the manifestation of the animal soul, as expressed in behaviour and instincts. Is this information of use to us in building up our own human bodies? In so far as out bodies are the instruments of instincts and inherited behaviour, yes, it can be, but if we wish to fine-tune this instrument to become sensitive for soul/spiritual work, requiring the most subtle configuration of nervous tissue, it may be a burden. So there is a question of how flesh-eating may affect the consciousness of the human being as well as his metabolism" (4). Steiner was himself a vegetarian (although suffered from health problems), but commented that "Not everyone can become a vegetarian in one lifetime".
Irrespective of blood group, if one decides to eat meat for whatever reason it is essential to get the best quality available. The way that this food is produced on an industrial scale to provide large amounts of protein at extremely low prices involves cruelty and exploitation on a massive scale, as well as practices potentially dangerous to humans. For example, the US Government Accountability Office examined scientific evidence on the transference of antibiotic resistance from animals to humans and extent of potential harm to human health.
"Scientific evidence has shown that certain bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics are transferred from animals to humans through the consumption or handling of meat that contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, researchers disagree about the extent of harm to human health from this transference" (5).
The United States and Canada allow antibiotics important in human medicine to be used for growth promotion of meat stocks, but the European Union (EU) and New Zealand (NZ) do not. This means that these antibiotics are not routinely used in food production in the EU and NZ, although they may often be used specifically to treat animal infection (found extensively in factory farming). Inevitably this leads to human infection with superbugs resistant to all known antibiotics (MRSA).
The issue of animal cruelty was never so clear to me as during my visit to Arizona in 2003 when I passed a feedlot. The conditions under which those cows were kept in a compound feeding on fermenting silage are so different to the situation of the beef cattle I can see from my window grazing on a field of grass. Although it is not entirely natural to keep cows in an open field on a monoculture of one type of grass (they prefer a mixture of different types of grasses and herbs and need shelter from the weather), it is by far preferable to the situation of their relatives in the feedlot. Compassion has been replaced by greed in the search for cheap food, and the real cost of producing meat is hidden by farming subsidies. This article cannot fully explore the global environmental benefits of eating less meat: that issue has been covered extensively elsewhere (6).
The decision to be a vegetarian or omnivore today requires being faced with many choices, not least of which involve considering how one's genetic inheritance fits within the greater scheme of the interaction between humans and animals.
1. Greenfield, T. Blood grouping in naturopathic practice. BNJ, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2003, pp.12-16.
2. Daverick Leggett, 'Recipes for Self-Healing', Meridan Press, 1999. ISBN 0952464020. pp. 279-80.
3. The Power of Prayer Made Visible http://www.spiritofmaat.com/archive/aug1/consciouswater.html
4. Wendy E. Cook, 'Foodwise', Clairview Books, 2003. ISBN 1902636392. p. 137.
5. Antibiotic Use in Animals
6. Compassion in World Farming report
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