Before you go saying, “Why would I ever listen to my good-for-nothing son?” let me start by clarifying that this title and the article to follow only apply to food and health. News and discoveries on the food/health connection are progressing so profoundly that even medicine is starting to consider the cause and effect. Yes, “you are what you eat” is now backed by science, and those of us who have kept up just may know a thing or two about getting rid of the aches and pains that we – and our maturing parents- are experiencing.
Think about the way food in America has changed over the past 100 years. There was a time when many ate from the family farm, or fresh ingredients from the market were a daily occurrence. Many of you probably remember that well.
Then industry began to boom, work was abundant for both men and women, and convenience became the golden ticket. Canned and packaged foods flourished and manufactured ingredients to preserve and enrich found their way onto our plates. It wasn’t long before disease statistics increased, confusion set in, and the government was telling us what to eat.
Needless to say, the results have not been pretty. Obesity rates rose, heart attacks became the number one killer, new autoimmune diseases appeared, and the health of Americans deteriorated.
Fortunately, today’s generation has started questioning those guidelines, additives and preservatives – so has science with the Human Microbiome Project – and society is slowly returning to backyard gardens and more natural, wholesome foods.
Unfortunately, many of us are paying the price for going along with the status quo for all these years and share the epidemic suffering of heart disease, arthritic conditions, obesity, diabetes and cancer. We adult children still in good health are driven to make more informed choices because of the suffering we see our parents going through. Your once active dad may suddenly be sidelined by overwhelming joint pain, or your vibrant mom may suffer a stroke, and you vow to avoid the same fate.
This is what happened to me recently. My forever young father, who at 77 is working part-time as the engineer and still an avid golfer with a single-digit handicap, started waking up with overwhelming joint pain in his hips, hands and legs. The initial diagnosis was polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), which we learned is the most common inflammatory rheumatic disease in elderly white people.1 There is no test to confirm the diagnosis, no cure, and the condition can last 6 months to two years – even longer for some. Not good for someone my father’s age, and the worst part is that the medical treatment protocol is prednisone, which comes with a long list of troubling side effects.
So, this is where tradition, habits and the parent-child relationship meet food as medicine and ‘It’s really important that you listen to me.’ Quite the conundrum.
It’s an uphill battle for several reasons. My father listened to his doctors, took the prednisone and starting feeling amazingly better. He didn’t see why he had to change anything else until his doctor took him off the prednisone and his symptoms immediately returned. Fortunately, his doctors are adamant about the need to get him off the drug as soon as possible, which reinforces the recommendation that we try to see if diet can alleviate symptoms.
Many leading docs today like Andrew Weil, M.D., and Wheat Belly’s William Davis, M.D., share the science and impressive results of an anti-inflammatory diet. Weil even created the Anti-inflammatory Food Pyramid which is available online. Most of today’s health crusaders agree that gluten (wheat), dairy, sugar and corn are primary factors for inflammation. Try telling my Italian father to give up his pasta and ice cream for quinoa and coconut milk! His parents ate these things and lived into their 90s, so why can’t he? These are not the same products your mother served you! What we’ve been living on are genetically modified dwarf wheat, perfectly plumped cows (from hormones and antibiotics) and high fructose corn syrup cookies!
I sent my father’s blood work to my naturopathic doctor and was surprised to hear her say, “Ironically, my mom was diagnosed with PMR as well, and she wouldn’t listen to me either.” She was happy to provide her recommendation for diet and supplementation that included Inflammatone, an effective supplement with digestive enzymes, healing herbs and antioxidant properties. The enzymes help break down problem-causing proteins and damaged tissue, the natural herbs turmeric, boswellia (Indian Frankincense), ginger and rosemary provide anti-inflammatory properties, and flavonoids quercetin and rutin (found in fruits and vegetables) provide additional antioxidant properties. Sounds a lot better to me than prednisone.
In one of Dr. Steven Gundry’s lectures, he told the captivated audience the story about his mother who was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She wouldn’t listen to her internationally-acclaimed son until the oncology surgeons sewed her back up and said they could no longer help her. She finally reached out to him and his nutritional treatment protocol got rid of her cancer.
I am happy to report that my dad is starting to listen. With support and leg work from his informed and health conscious wife, he has switched to coconut milk (she changed the contents of the carafe and he didn’t even notice) and is starting to warm up to quinoa pasta. He is eating a lot more medicinal herbs on his food (again, thanks to her!), and is settling for wheat-free seed bread. He recently got out to play 9 holes and was able to finish 18 – shooting below his age (a 76)! This is big. His doctors are working to get him off the prednisone which will hopefully be an easier transition now that he has changed the food that is fueling his body.
I’m sure that parents not listening to their adult children is as old as time. In writing this article, I reached out to our graphic design student daughter to create the beautiful title graphic. I told her ‘in 20 years, remind me of this article’ because chances are, we may not be listening to her either.
Editorial by Lauren Del Sarto, publisher Desert Health®.
References: 1) National Institutes of Health