Journal of an Herbalist: The Perfect Diet
By Karima Burns, MH, ND
Cauliflower although touted as healthy is not good for everyone.
Kimberly came to me complaining that she felt weak most of the time and often had mood swings. Recently, in fact, she has been having violent outbursts of anger, which were not characteristic of her personality. She had also been experiencing arthritic type symptoms in her hands and some joints and had some light bouts with eczema.
Since Kimberly's complaints were new, I asked her if she had had any major life changes lately. She thought for a while and answered that she had not changed anything in her life at all. In, fact, she said, life was the same as it was every day for the past three years. She would take her 3rd and 5th grader to school, come home and clean and run errands, visit with some friends, perhaps do a craft or read and then meet her husband when he came home in the evening from work. She had family in the area so she often spent time visiting her sisters or mother.
I was not satisfied with Kimberly's answer. As her problem was so new and uncharacteristic of her past health record, I felt there had to be some catalyst that prompted this change. However, we explored other avenues of change in her life and came up with nothing as well. She had not changed her sleeping habits, she had not changed he exercise habits and she had not had any unusual incidents happen to her. When I asked Kimberly about her diet, however, she admitted she had made some changes.
"They are not very significant, though. " she said, "We have just been eating in a healthier way. I should feel better not worse!" I asked Kimberly what she meant by “healthy”. Kimberly told me about a diet that her and her family had been following. The diet was quite famous and advocated using no cooking oils, no salt, no meat and no milk products. The diet, however, was heavy in starches and vegetables. The doctor who had developed the diet related many stories in his book about heart disease patients and obese people he had cured with his diet. By all modern definitions of health his diet also seemed sound. It did not contain any animal fats, it was low in salt and it contained many vegetables. Kimberly's husband, Omar, felt wonderful on the diet and encouraged her to follow it with him. Omar's sister and mother were also following the diet and they had all managed to lower their cholesterol, gain more energy and even eliminate a case of cystitis.
I suspected, however, that Kimberly's body was not as receptive to the diet as the rest of the family. It is impossible to create a diet to fit all people in all areas of the world, and following the same way of eating usually does not work for people unless they were born and raised in the same area of the world for generations. However, even then, each person has unique dietary needs based on their inherited genetic traits, blood type, constitution, allergies and other factors.
Eczema and arthritic like symptoms in a normally healthy person can often come from not enough fat in the diet. Lack of energy can often come from too little protein in a person who needs protein in their diet, and mood swings can be a result of hypoglycemia induced by an inadequate diet or as a result of consuming food one is allergic to.
We explored all these possibilities with Kimberly. Kimberly's blood type was type B. In the book Eat Right 4 Your Type it recommends that people with type B blood eat meat and avoid wheat. It also lists olive oil as beneficial oil to their body type. Kimberly confirmed this by performing an allergy test for wheat and found out she was allergic to wheat. This allergy had most likely contributed to her skin breakouts and mood swings. Since she had started the diet her intake of wheat had gone up. Without any protein to fill her up she found herself eating more bread to fill herself up.
Red hibiscus is good for the blood and circulation.
I recommended that Kimberly continue on the diet but add a little salt and olive oil to each of her dishes along with a little chicken breast, beef, or fish. Yogurt was also a good source of protein for her. I also recommended she add some flax seed oil to her diet to provide more beneficial oils to her body and to eat more brown rice and millet or other grains instead of wheat. Within a week Kimberly had more energy and her mood swings had disappeared. Within three weeks her arthritis and eczema disappeared. Although she was not following the blood type diet exactly, we had used it as a guide to indicate what general food categories she was most likely to benefit from.
I further suggested that she have her husband and mother and sister-in-law all get tested for food allergies and personal nutritional needs so they could modify the diet to be more beneficial in the long-term. Her husband had already started to see the initial results taper off and was not feeling as well on the diet as he had initially. He found out later that he was not eating enough protein and chose to add more beans and lentils to his diet. Kimberly could not serve beans, however, to her older son as he had a blood condition, thalassemia, that was worsened when he consumed beans. His mother discovered that the hot-sauce she used to flavor the bland vegetable dishes was making her irritable. As she already had a hot constitution the heat of the herb was irritating her system. Her daughter discovered she was allergic to carrots and felt much better when she did not eat them. Kimberly's children needed more oil in their diet, as natural oils found in eggs, olive oil and fish are beneficial for brain development.
Note: I recommend that anyone wishing to change their diet or embark on a healthier eating plan to consult with a nutritionist first about their unique dietary needs, their allergies, unique body structure and constitution, and genetic tendencies.