Time to boost your immune system, replenish your mineral and vitamin stores, and triple charge your healing capability
Just need a little extra nutrition to do it!
As we continue on the path of healing, the next step during and after healing leaky gut is loading up with all the nutrients your body needs to thrive.
How is a Nutrient Dense Diet different than a "healthy diet", exactly?
Nutrient density refers to the concentration of micronutrients per calorie of food. Foods with high nutrient density supply a wide range of vitamins and minerals (or alternatively, high levels of a specific, important vitamin or mineral) relative to the calories they contain.
A diet that focuses on nutrient density is one that replaces nutrient poor foods with other tasty options. Think of replacing fillers such as breads, rice, pasta, white potatoes, etc with something like squash, sautéed veggies, a local meat burger patty, or even a glass of raw milk. Side by side, replacing 1 cup of rice for 1 cup of squash would fill you up the same (even stay full longer) and increase your nutrient intake 10 fold.
It's important here to understand that even a generalized "healthy diet" can be terribly poor in nutrients. If you follow the USDA recommended low-fat, high grain diet you would be filling up on 6-10 servings of grains a day (mostly, if not all, in processed forms), meaning you're missing 6-10 servings of nutrient dense options that could be filling up your stores. Low fat also goes hand in hand with high sugar, meaning cravings, increased hunger, and inflammation. Even the governments RDA for vitamins and minerals in based on the lowest amount needed before acute deficiency symptoms occur! So if you're just barely meeting your quota for vitamins and minerals, you could still be dangerously close to depletion. Indeed, micronutrient deficiency is increasingly showing up as a major underlying problem with chronic disease.
Just how nutrient poor is our population? According to the USDA, pretty poor. According to one analysis using NHANES data on the American population:
- 70% are deficient in vitamin D,
- 60% deficient in vitamin E,
- 45% deficient in magnesium,
- 38% deficient in calcium,
- 34% deficient in vitamin A,
- 25% deficient in vitamin C,
- 8% deficient in vitamin B6,
- 8% deficient in folate,
- 8% deficient in zinc,
- and a smaller percentage (less than 6%) didn’t consume enough thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, iron, copper, and selenium.
And those amounts came from people still eating fortified cereals and grains and any multi-vitamins they may be taking. With 63% of calories coming from processed foods, that's a large gap that could be filled with nutrient dense foods.
Ancestral Nutrition: eat like your ancestors
If you haven't heard of the Ancestral Nutrition movement yet, you're in for a treat. This diet is based on real human nutrition, no fad diets, extremism, or supplements here. It's all about whole, nourishing, healing foods that have been the cornerstone of human diets for, well, until about 100 years ago really.
The best way I found to follow this program is through Weston A Price's (WAPF) model of Nourishing Traditions. In the early 1930s, a Cleveland dentist named Weston A. Price (1870-1948) traveled to around the world studying the health of indigenous populations not yet touched by western civilization. His goal was initially to better understand the root of good dental health, although his research ended up going above and beyond to truly understand the full potential of human health and nutrition.
What he learned is that cavities and crowded, crooked teeth (actually the result of deformed dental arches) are caused by nutritional deficiencies rather than genetic defects. And wherever he went, Dr. Price found that beautiful straight teeth went hand in hand with strong, well-formed bodies, resistance to disease, and high fertility.
Dr. Price was fascinated with why these people were thriving while his own "tribe" back home was degenerating. When Dr. Price analyzed the foods used by isolated peoples he found that, in comparison to the American diet of his day, they provided at least four times the water-soluble vitamins, calcium and other minerals, and at least TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins, from animal foods such as butter, fish eggs, shellfish, organ meats, eggs and animal fats—the very cholesterol-rich foods now shunned by the American public as unhealthful (And this was 85 years ago ... imagine how many less nutrients we're getting today with our depleted soils).
The groups Price studied eating their traditional diets didn't battle with degenerative diseases like the less-robust (if not flat-out-sick) modernized people back home living on white flour, pasteurized milk, low-fat foods, vegetable oils and convenience items filled with extenders and additives.
These healthy peoples instinctively ate what the body needed — including 10x the amount of fat-soluble vitamins, vitamins A and D, vital to health because they are necessary for mineral absorption. Without them, we cannot absorb minerals, no matter how abundant they may be in our food. Dr. Price discovered an additional fat-soluble nutrient, which he labeled Activator X (now thought to be vitamin K2), that is present in fish livers and shellfish, and organ meats and butter from pastured cows. All of these indigenous groups had a source of K2 in their diets.
What's even more nutrient dense than the normal Weston Price model is the Weston Price fertility diet protocol for pre-conception, pregnant, and nursing mothers, and is the perfect foundation for a superbly nutrient dense diet. It's chock-full of every nutrient your body needs to regulate hormones, strengthen health, increase fertility, and even make a baby. It's precisely what our immune-ravanged and nutrient depleted bodies need to overcome endometriosis. If humans evolved and thrived on this type of diet without autoimmune, obesity, degenerative and cardiovascular diseases, I think it's safe to say that eating as mother-nature intended is truly healthy.
So What do I eat?
To start infusing your body with everything it needs to heal, eat as much as you want of the following food choices. This diet, however, should only be undertaken in its entirety after you've addressed your leaky gut issue. That's because if you've battled with gut permeability for a long time and have adverse reactions to, say, egg whites, eating a lot of nutrient dense eggs will do your body more harm than good. If you need to take a step back to Leaky Gut Priority #1 click here.
This is the general diet recommended for maintaining a healthy and vibrant body. Based on whole, nourishing foods, it will give you body what it needs on a daily basis for strong immunity. Eat as much as your body needs of the the following:
Protein: Fresh, pasture raised meat of all varieties; organ meats from pastured animals; fresh eggs from pastured poultry. seafood from deep sea waters; fresh shellfish; fish eggs.
Fats: Fresh butter and cream from pasture fed cows, preferable raw and cultured; lard and fats from pastured animals; extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
Dairy: Raw, whole milk and cultured dairy products, such as yogurt, kefir, and raw cheese, from pasture fed cows and goats.
Carbohydrates: fresh fruit and vegetables, fermented vegetables, organic whole grains property prepared to remove phytates (such as sourdough and sprouted grain bread or sprouted cereal grains), soaked and fermented legumes, sprouted or soaked nuts and seeds.
Beverages: Filtered and/or mineral water, lacto-fermented drinks, teas, meat and veggie broths
If you're not yet ready to make the plunge into a full-blown endo-eviction (maybe you're periods are painful but not so debilitating that you're ready for a diet overhaul, or maybe this is all so overwhelming) , you could try the simple approach below and see if cutting out the processed inflammatories will help the healing process. Remember, many girls on the "endo diet" eat a ton of processed foods which don't help them feel any better (even if the gluten, soy, and dairy is gone).
- Cut out processed foods, including processed dairy, grains, meats, snack, etc.
- Replace with whole foods, including grass-fed meat, eggs, raw dairy, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc.
- See, you feel amazingly better already!
The Rx Diet
If you have adopted a similar diet (maybe paleo?) and arestill in serious pain, it's very very possible you're still not getting enough nutrients. Why? Because when you're severely nutrient depleted you need an arsenal of help, and even if you're eating 'Healthy" you may simply not be eating enough to meet your minimum quota.
That's why this is what I consider to be the endometriosis-healing-prescription diet, a combination of the WAPF Fertility Diet combined with the Wahls Protocol for autoimmune health. Look like too much food? Or maybe a bit overwhelming? Just do what you can to start to meet the recommended quota by introducing new things at a time, and please don't be afraid to eat the fat! This diet is more about making sure you're giving your body the HUGE influx of nutrients that it needs. Worry about the rest later after you've begun to heal ;)
- Vegetables, raw or cooked, 9 cups measured when fresh - wow that seems like a lot! But when you break it down it's not that bad, especially if you eat leafy greens either steamed down or blend into a smoothie and see 4 cups all of a sudden become 1 cup.
- 4 cups whole, raw milk daily - preferably from pasture-fed cows- and made into as much fermented into yogurt or kefir and you desire. If you react poorly to processed milk (as I did), understand that you may not react to raw milk the same way. They're quite different. In fact, raw milk has been regarded throughout the centuries for its medicinal qualities. If you can't get raw, pastured milk consider forgoing this step.
- 3-4 tablespoons butter daily, from pasture-fed cows
- 1 tablespoon grass-fed tallow/lard daily, for vitamin D (find delicious grass-fed options here)
- 2 or more eggs daily, preferably from pastured chickens
- Additional egg yolks daily, added to smoothies, salad dressings, scrambled eggs, etc.
- 3-4 ounces fresh liver, once or twice per week (it's easy to buy grass-fed, humanely raised liver here)
- Fresh seafood, 2-4 times per week, specifically oily fish (like mackeral, sardines, anchovies, etc), wild salmon, shellfish, or fish eggs.
- Fresh beef or lamb daily, always consumed with the fat (this is a lot for me, I only do 2-3x week)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil daily, used in cooking or smoothies, etc.
- Lacto-fermented condiments and beverages: 1/2 cup each raw sourkraut, kombucha, and yogurt or kefir. Find your own fermentation lid here for easy veggie fermenting, and don't forget to read The Art of Fermentation!
- Bone broths used in soups, stews and sauces. 1/2-1 cup daily
- Soaked whole grains - no amount necessary, only if you want grains you can eat them, just make sure to prepare them properly by soaking them beforehand
- take 2 tsp high vitamin, fermented Cod Liver Oil to supply 20,000 IU vitamin A and 2000 IU vitamin D per day (I use this brand).
If you're still worried about the fat content of this diet growing your midsection, you may be surprised that the above food list actually only averages around 2000 calories, depending on the type of veggies you eat. This includes 7 tbsp fats/oils, 3 oz beef, 4 cups whole milk, 2 eggs, and 9 cups veggies. By cutting out the processed junk and replacing it with healthy fats you may even expect to lean out while you watch your skin clear, your hair become glossy, your moods lighten, your pain diminish, and your energy soar!
General Rules to Eat By
If you're new to this approach to eating, here are the general rules of thumb when making nutrition decisions.
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods. Buy and prepare as many local, organic, seasonal veggies as you can.
- Eat beef, lamb, game, organ meats, poultry and eggs from pasture-fed animals.
- Eat wild fish (not farm-raised), fish eggs and shellfish from unpolluted waters.
- Eat full-fat milk products from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and/or fermented, such as raw milk, whole yogurt, kefir, cultured butter, full-fat raw cheeses and fresh and sour cream.
- Use animal fats, such as lard, tallow, egg yolks, cream and butter liberally.
- Use only traditional vegetable oils—extra virgin olive oil, expeller-expressed sesame oil, small amounts of expeller-expressed flax oil, and the tropical oils—coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.
- Take cod liver oil regularly to provide at least 10,000 IU vitamin A and 1,000 IU vitamin D per day (this is the one I recommend)
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic. Use vegetables in salads and soups, or lightly steamed with butter.
- Only eat whole grains, legumes and nuts that have been properly prepared by soaking, sprouting or sour leavening to neutralize phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors and other anti-nutrients.
- Include enzyme-rich lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages and condiments in your diet on a regular basis.
- Prepare homemade stocks from the bones of chicken, beef, lamb and fish and use liberally in soups, stews, gravies and sauces.
- Use filtered water for cooking and drinking.
- Use unrefined salt and a variety of herbs and spices for food interest and appetite stimulation.
- Use traditional sweeteners in moderation, such as raw honey, maple syrup, maple sugar, date sugar, dehydrated cane sugar juice (sold as Rapadura) and stevia powder.
- Cook in stainless steel, cast iron, glass or good quality enamel.
- Use only natural, food-based supplements.
- Get plenty of sleep, exercise and natural light.
- Think positive thoughts and practice forgiveness.
Not that you have room for any of this with all the healthy foods you're eating, but in case you were wondering, here's a list of the not-in-this-temple type foods ;)
- Commercially processed foods such as cookies, cakes, crackers, TV dinners, soft drinks, packaged sauce mixes, etc. Read labels!
- Refined sweeteners such as sugar, dextrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup and fruit juices.
- White flour, white flour products and white rice.
- Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats and oils.
- Industrial polyunsaturated vegetable oils made from soy, corn, safflower, canola or cottonseed.
- Avoid lean meat, skinless poultry, reduced-fat milk and egg whites without the yolks. Consumption of protein without the cofactors occurring in animal fats can lead to deficiencies, especially of vitamin A.
- Avoid processed, pasteurized milk; do not consume ultrapasteurized milk products, lowfat milk, skim milk, powdered milk or imitation milk products.
- Factory-farmed eggs, meats and fish.
- Highly processed lunch meats and sausage.
- Avoid improperly prepared seeds, nuts and grains found in granolas, quick rise breads and extruded breakfast cereals, as they block mineral absorption and cause intestinal distress.
- Avoid canned, sprayed, waxed and irradiated fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid genetically modified foods (found in most soy, canola and corn products).
- Avoid artificial food additives, especially MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein and aspartame, which are neurotoxins. Most soups, sauce and broth mixes and most commercial condiments contain MSG, even if not indicated on the label.
- Minimize caffeine and related substances in coffee, tea and chocolate.
- Avoid aluminum-containing foods such as commercial salt, baking powder and antacids. Do not use aluminum cookware or deodorants containing aluminum.
- Do not drink fluoridated water.
- Avoid synthetic vitamins and foods containing them.
- Avoid distilled liquors.
- Do not use a microwave oven.
Confused About Fats?
The following nutrient-rich traditional fats have nourished healthy population groups for thousands of years:
For Cooking: These fats stand up to high heat
- Tallow and suet from beef and lamb
- Lard from pastured animals
- Chicken, goose and duck fat
- Coconut oil
For Salads: these fats don't do well with cooking at high temperatures
- Extra virgin olive oil (also okay for cooking at lower temperatures)
- Expeller-expressed sesame oils
- Expeller-expressed flax oil (in small amounts)
For Fat-Soluble Vitamins
- Fish liver oils such as cod liver oil (preferable to fish oils, which do not provide fat-soluble vitamins, can cause an overdose of unsaturated fatty acids and usually come from farmed fish.)
The following industrial fats may significantly increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, immune system dysfunction, sterility, learning disabilities, growth problems and osteoporosis:
- All hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
- Industrially processed liquid oils such as soy, corn, safflower, cottonseed and canola
- Fats and oils (especially polyunsaturated vegetable oils) heated to very high temperatures in processing and frying.