Russell Mariani is a Health Educator and Digestive Wellness expert who has been in private practice since 1980. He is the co-founder with his wife Megan Moore of The Center for Functional Nutrition in South Hadley, Massachusetts. He is the author of the book, Principle Eating, The No Diet Way to Complete Health and several other health-related books and ebooks. He can be reached at 413-536-0275 and via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have invested most of my time during the past 40 years of my life to be able to answer the following questions calmly and confidently when someone contacts me because they are suffering through a personal health crisis:
And with the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) these same questions are now front and center in the hearts and minds of most human beings on planet earth.
Many people are scared. Very few people are truly prepared.
The opportunity we all have before us today is to make sure we learn the lessons that this crisis is inviting us to learn. Let’s start with the most obvious lesson: We need to be and become the healthiest version of ourselves and we need to invite everyone we know and everyone we don’t know, to be and become the healthiest version of themselves too. There is an owner’s manual for how to do this.
That owner’s manual is unique to each person and yet the basic principles and practices that inform that owner’s manual are universal.
To the best of my ability I have created an owner’s manual that will work for most people under most circumstances now and well into the foreseeable future. That manual is my new Ebook: Principle Eating: The No Diet Way to Complete Health. (Digestive Wellness Edition)
There has never been a better time in human history to make a commitment to your own personal health and healing journey, than right now.
The Roots of Health
This is an explanation of the seven root cause areas of health which also happens to be a good explanation of the seven root cause areas of all chronic degenerative disease including all digestive system disorders.
Remember that 80% of the antibody producing cells of our immune system come from specialized glands located in our small intestines. These glands are protected and supported by a healthy intestinal microbiome. This means that if your digestive system is healthy; your immune system is healthy. This is very important to know at any time but particularly important to remember during a time of crisis. Antibody producing cells are the type of immune system cells that kill viruses and other invader organisms.
Physical health is the foundation upon which we build the rest of our lives. The quality of our physical health depends upon the quality of the life of our cells. If our cells are healthy, then we are healthy. It’s as simple as that.
We live and die at the cellular level. The body is constantly healing itself. Nothing is neutral.
Everything we do, especially everything we eat, drink, take for supplements and take for medicine, or anything else we put into our body: is either complementary and helpful to the way the cells of our body have been designed to function or it is (or they are) insulting and actively harmful.
Nothing is neutral.
Nothing we do to or with our body has a neutral or “no” impact on our health and well-being. Everything we do has an impact. That impact is either helpful or harmful; health-promoting or health-destroying.
All of these impacts are either complementary or insulting to the way the cells of our body have been designed to function. And every cell has been designed to function normally, in spite of many nasty rumors to the contrary.
Whether the cells in our body function normally or abnormally is mostly up to us and the choices and decisions we make every day of our lives. If our cells function normally, we are healthy. If are cells are not functioning normally, then we are not healthy. Please remember this. The sum-total or synergistic effect of all these various impacts determines the quality of our health and the quantity of years that we are able to enjoy our health; or not enjoy our health.
Over the years, I have identified seven (7) distinct and inter-related root cause areas where these various complementary or insulting impacts or habits are to be found. I will use the word habits to cover ALL impacts, behaviors and influences in our diet and lifestyle that affect our health and well-being.
The most effective way to address and in most cases to permanently resolve any health challenge whatsoever from the most minor to the most serious is to identify the habits in our diet and lifestyle that are insulting and then to make a commitment to transform them into complementary habits and then PRACTICE the complementary habits correctly and consistently to the best of our ability.
When we practice complementary habits consistently, our body will do the rest. The cells in our body will do the rest. If our cells are healthy, then we are healthy.
The cells in our body contain amazing intelligence, resourcefulness, ingenuity and creativity. At the first indication that we have seriously amended and trans- formed our ways of eating and living and being, the cells in our body will initiate a comprehensive cellular regeneration and repair process: in ALL of our organs and tissues and systems and cells.
We should be very grateful that our cells retain this ability to repair and heal themselves no matter how badly we have treated them in the past. No matter how badly we have insulted the cells in our body, no matter how damaged they have become, they still love us; unconditionally: and they are happy to prove this to us!
All we have to do is to transform our insulting habits into complementary habits.
And, most importantly; as long as we continue to implement and practice the complementary habits consistently and minimize, avoid or completely eliminate the insulting habits; our body will continue this process of cellular regeneration, renewal and repair until our whole-body health and total well-being has been fully and completely restored.
This is how our body heals itself and keeps itself healthy. Our bodies are amazing.
Our bodies heal themselves from the inside out, at the cellular level.
“Our bodies; and every organ, tissue and system within our bodies, build themselves from single cells and renew themselves through the constant interchange of food, water and air. The cells of the human body seem to remember their original unity, even when they have organized and become the elements of an innumerable multitude. Each cell understands spontaneously and intuitively the functions required of them inside the organized whole. This innate knowledge of the part they must play in the manifestation of a healthy, wholesome body, is a consciousness or mode of being inside each and every cell.”
from the book, Man the Unknown, by Alexis Carrel
In order for the cells in our body to heal themselves, they simply require our conscious attention and consistent cooperation, assistance and support.
When we find and do consistently the things that nourish the cells in our body best, all will be well today and in all the days ahead.
This is the area of Personal Integrity and Being Proactive. This is the area of Personal Responsibility. This is the area of basic Common Sense.
Each person, before they get any new information or advice from any Healthcare Practitioner (including me) from any discipline of Health and Healing, Nutrition and Medicine, Traditional or Alternative, Integrative or Holistic; whatever the school of thought, wherever and from whomever the source of new information and advice; already possesses a lot of information and relevant experience.
Each person should evaluate and value all this information and experience first.
What do you already know to be true about your own body and what it needs and what it doesn’t need? What it wants and doesn’t want?
What do you already know or think you know about what works and what doesn’t work to bring your body back into balance and harmony, vitality and health?
What are your current beliefs and your current practices or habits in each of the following areas?
Mindfulness, in its simplest and most powerful expression is the moment to moment awareness that causes us to make decisions that nourish ourselves best and complement our bodies best and support the miraculous abilities of our cells.
This is what I mean when I say: When we find and do consistently the things that nourish our cells best, all will be well; today and in all the days ahead.
So, practically speaking, stop what you are doing right now and make a list of all your well-known most insulting habits and another list of your most complementary habits.
Stop, minimize, avoid or completely eliminate your insulting habits.
Start, optimize, increase and practice consistently your complementary habits.
Bring your level of mindfulness to the next level and watch the positive changes that take place. Amaze yourself! And if you are not sure about where or how to begin this process, keep reading!
Everyone knows that proper daily hydration is a complementary and essential health habit. There is absolutely no doubt about this. However, not everyone understands or practices consistently the most effective way to regain and then maintain proper hydration levels throughout the entire body on a daily and ongoing basis.
Every cell in our body contains water. Every cell in our body contains a salt-water solution called cytosol. The quality of the cytosol affects the functioning of all the complex microscopic bio-chemical machinery inside our cells (like mitochondrial function and DNA expression).
55-75% of the physical structure of every cell is made up of water (cytosol). If there is persistent drought at any level the cell becomes incapable of functioning normally and we begin to suffer from a variety of symptoms and conditions.
When cells become de-hydrated they freak out and set off a variety of alarms. These alarms indicate that a condition of dis-ease is setting up inside our cells and inside our tissues, organs, systems; our whole body is eventually affected.
So many symptoms and conditions of chronic degenerative dis-ease can be fixed and then permanently prevented from ever happening again through the consistent daily practice of proper hydration. Proper daily hydration is transformational.
For specific instructions on the safest and most effective way to properly hydrate your body, turn to chapter 4 in this ebook: The Watercure Recipe
I first discovered the watercure recipe in March,1997 and it changed my life and the status of my health in many important ways. I have been teaching and practicing the watercure recipe every day since.
“Chronic cellular dehydration painfully and prematurely kills. It’s initial outward manifestations have until now been labeled as diseases of unknown origin.”
F. Batmanghelidj, MD author of the book: Your Body’s Many Cries for Water
(subtitled: You are not sick, you are thirsty! Don’t treat thirst with medications.)
Micronutrients are the microscopic nutrients inside our foods that we cannot see. Vitamins, minerals, trace-minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, pigments like chlorophyll, anti-oxidants like Beta Carotene, etc.
At least 80 different micronutrients have been identified so far and MOST of them play significant roles in the health and normal functioning of the cells in our body.
Therefore, if we become deficient in any one or several of these vitally important micronutrients our cells simply cannot function normally and we can begin to suffer from a variety of symptoms and conditions. When these micronutrient deficiencies become chronic and ongoing, our body begins to experience various states of dys- function, degeneration and eventually dis-ease.
As in (potentially) chronic degenerative disease.
We need to restore normal functioning to our entire digestive system in order to be able to digest, absorb and assimilate the micronutrients that are present in the foods that we eat. To accomplish this we use superfood supplements, digestive enzymes and probiotics among other complementary habits.
Macronutrient Imbalances refers to the correct balance between the various groups of whole foods in our wonderful whole foods cornucopia: grains, beans, root vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, vine vegetables, green leafy vegetables, raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, canned vegetables, pickled vegetables, seeds, nuts, seed butters, nut butters, seasonal fruits, tropical fruits, temperate zone fruits, fruit juice, dried fruits, naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tofu, tempeh; eggs, milk, cheese, meat, fish, fowl, wild game, etc.
What is the best balance between protein, carbohydrates and fat? What is the critical distinction (grossly overlooked these days) between complex carbohydrates and processed and refined carbohydrates? What is the best balance between cooked and raw? Why are fiber-rich foods so important? What are we supposed to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks? And Why?
How can anyone know for sure what we are supposed to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks when there are so many diets and so many conflicting opinions from so many so-called diet experts?
Well, for the past forty-plus years I have consumed myself and advocated for others a very simple approach to organic quality (mostly cooked) whole foods based upon a variety of ethnic, cultural and ancestral traditions and a lot of plain old common sense.
If we could put ourselves into a time machine and go back in time, 500 or 1,000 or 2,000 years ago and visit the places where our ancestors lived and worked and played we would find that their basic dietary habits were centered around the foods listed above in the first paragraph of this section and had been very consistent for generation after generation; consuming local and regional organic quality and mostly cooked whole foods; until the Industrial Revolution (around 1850) brought us the disaster of mass production and heavily processed and refined, denatured and lifeless foods and fake foods and junk foods. Not to mention pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, artificial and synthetic fertilizers, non-sustainable farming practices, etc.
And today we have the challenge of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) as well!
The recipes in my book and on our website are a great way to begin the process of changing over your macronutrient diet from many insulting habits and influences to many new and complementary habits and influences. We post new recipes to our website on an ongoing and continuing basis. www.healingdigestiveillness.com
Intestinal Dysbiosis is the opposite of Intestinal Symbiosis. Intestinal Dysbiosis means that there is an overgrowth of opportunistic and pathological bacteria and other pathological and opportunistic organisms living in your digestive system.
It’s challenging to understand and imagine the number of organisms we are talking about here and the profound positive or negative influences they exert and produce, but let’s try.
We know that the human body is composed of at least 100 trillion cells. And that’s a pretty big number. But the number of bacterial (and other) organisms (from now on referred to as “bacteria”) that live inside the human digestive system (in the mouth, throat, stomach, small intestines and large intestines) are in the neighborhood of at least one thousand times a hundred trillion.
Now, that’s a REALLY big number!
This means that what we normally think of as the human body is only 10% of what we are actually composed of. If we simply determine our composition by the number of cells that we are composed of. We will save that interesting conversation for another time.
Simply understand that each and every one of these bacterial organisms that live inside our digestive system; consume our food, digest our food and eliminate waste products. (Yes, just like us!)
There are over 500 different species of healthy bacteria discovered so far. These are called the “good bacteria” or probiotics.
There are lots of unhealthy bacteria that exist and that can find their way into our digestive systems. These are called the “bad bacteria” or dysbiotics.
The waste products generated by the good bacteria are good for us in general and really good for the normal functioning of our digestive system.
For example, the waste products of the good bacteria regulate the pH environment throughout our entire digestive system. When the pH environment is properly balanced and regulated we don’t experience any smelly or painful gas, bloating, cramping, distention or discomfort.
The waste products of the good bacteria include the production of our own endogenous and very powerful antibiotics. One of the most powerful antibiotics that exists is something called: acidophilin which is produced by one of our most prolific and important probiotics called acidophilus.
The waste products of the good bacteria include all of our B-vitamins and B-vitamins are critical components of the cells that make up our immune system.
Oh, and you have already heard or read that 80% of the antibody producing cells of our immune system are manufactured in glands that live in the lining of our small intestine (known as Peyer’s Patches) and these glands or patches are nourished by and protected by the waste products of the good bacteria in our gut.
And on and on and on.
The waste products of our good bacteria produce the environment that allows our digestive system to function normally.
We are supposed to have a “balance” in the microbiome or eco-system of our gut that is 80% good bacteria and 20% (or less) bad bacteria. This balance is critical not only to the normal functioning of our digestive and immune systems but for all the organs, and systems and cells throughout the whole body.
As goes the health of our intestinal microbiome, so goes our health.
So, no doubt you are already starting to imagine the hellish intestinal scenarios that start to play out when the “balance” of good bacteria to bad bacteria changes from the ideal 80-20 rule (80% good to 20% or less bad bacteria) to something else entirely.
Any other proportion, other than the ideal 80-20 is called Intestinal Dysbiosis. And if you think of the bad bacteria as “weeds” then when you have intestinal dysbiosis you basically have a condition where the weeds have taken over the garden within.
When the bad bacteria dominate the intestinal microbiome there are many problems.
The problems are caused by the waste products eliminated or released into the intestinal eco-system by these bad bacterial organisms.
The bad bacteria eat your food, digest your food and eliminate waste products. It is the waste products of the bad bacteria that are toxic to our digestive system and cause all the various intestinal symptoms, conditions and problems.
So, when you have intestinal dysbiosis, you have an overgrowth of bad bacteria and it is the waste products of these bad bacteria that cause all the symptoms of digestive distress, digestive disorder and digestive dis-ease.
The waste products of the bad bacteria are toxic and very insulting to the health and normal functioning of our intestinal microbiome which then adversely affects all of the normal processes and procedures of our digestive system.
When we have intestinal dysbiosis the symptoms are many and seemingly endless: gas, bloating, cramping, distention, discomfort, abdominal pain, acid reflux,
constipation, diarrhea, headaches, joint pain, mood disorders, insomnia, skin disorders, irritability, food cravings, binge eating or drinking, mental confusion, memory loss, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety…and many other debilitating symptoms and conditions.
Intestinal Dysbiosis can cause a condition called: Intestinal Permeability or Leaky Gut. Leaky Gut Syndrome is a pervasive problem and can be the root cause of many conditions that do not get properly diagnosed and connected to the core gut issues.
When we have intestinal dysbiosis we do not digest and break down our food effectively; we don’t absorb and assimilate our nutrients effectively (resulting in weight loss or weight gain and many micronutrient deficiency disorders) and we certainly don’t eliminate effectively resulting in constipation and colonic inertia on the one hand and loose urgent, frequent and sometimes incontinent bowel movements on the other. (and sometimes with blood and mucous)
The reason to eat a healthy diet is so that you are consciously and purposefully feeding and nourishing the growing populations of good bacteria in your gut. This is also the reason we consume probiotic supplements containing various strains of good bacteria. “Prebiotics” are foods and supplements that are conducive to the growth and health of the probiotics. Prebiotics are not Probiotics.
Sometimes the condition of intestinal dysbiosis becomes so persistent, pervasive and stubborn that it does not respond to a change in diet or the introduction of probiotics, other supplements, or any other positive or complementary changes we make!
And this is where my book is extremely helpful as I describe a step by step process where we learn how to methodically displace and eliminate the populations of bad bacteria in the intestines and replace it with a healthy eco-system of good bacteria.
That explanation is beyond the scope of this ebook.
This is a very important reason why people choose to work with me directly one on one. It is not easy to effectively address a condition of intestinal dysbiosis on your own especially if you have never attempted it before.
So, if you suspect that this is your biggest health and/or intestinal problem and for almost everyone with serious persistent symptoms, it is; please contact me directly and let’s discuss your individual situation.
There is a solution.
Basically, the solution involves a comprehensive cleansing and reconditioning of the intestinal microbiome. To do this we use specialized therapeutic herbs alongside other complementary improvements in the other six root cause areas. This reconditioning process takes four to six weeks, typically. Most people report relief and improvement within the first seven to ten days.
There is good stress and bad stress. Positive Stress and Negative Stress. What I have described as complementary habits, behaviors and influences can be considered sources of good stress or positive stress and are essential in the process of regaining, maintaining or optimizing our health. Insulting habits, behaviors and influences are sources of bad or negative stress and actively undermine our body’s ability to regain, maintain or optimize our health and well-being.
And then there is Oxidative Stress.
I once heard a physician describe it this way: 90% of all adult conditions are degenerative in nature and 100% of all degenerative conditions are caused by Oxidative Stress.
So, what is Oxidative Stress?
At the microscopic cellular level everything is in order or it’s not. Everything is functioning normally or it’s not. When imbalances occur as a result of making insulting choices in one or more of these seven root cause areas some very bad molecular actors get created.
These bad molecular actors are called free radicals or free radical molecules. Free radicals attack, tear apart and damage the normal structures of our cells.
Free radicals are like cellular gangsters on a rampage of chaos and destruction in a neighborhood of your city or town. That metaphorical city or town might be your knee or shoulder, kidney or heart.
The damage created by free radicals results in inflammation and inflammation is at the root of all chronic degenerative conditions.
Free radicals are sometimes called oxidants.
The remedy for reversing the damage caused by free radicals is called; antioxidants.
Antioxidants are substances in our foods and nutritional supplements that have the effect of counter-balancing the destructive behavior of the free radicals. And when our body is healthy and properly hydrated and nourished our body produces its own endogenous (made from inside the cells) antioxidants with names like glutathione and super-oxide-dismutase (SOD).
When the free radicals are held in check, the cells can repair and heal themselves.
Learning what foods, snacks, beverages and supplements increase our antioxidant protection mechanisms and decrease free radical activity anywhere in our body is one of the most important things we can learn and do in order to regain, maintain or optimize our health and well-being.
Root Cause Area #7: Redox Molecules Deficiencies & Imbalances
Redox Molecules are called Redox Signaling Molecules. They are manufactured in the mitochondria inside every cell in our body.
Some cells in our body contain as few as 5-10 mitochondria. Some cells contain as many as 5,000 mitochondria. The mitochondria are microscopic factories constantly producing substances that make all cellular activity possible. One of these substances is ATP (Adenosine-Tri-Phosphate).
ATP in our cells is like gasoline for a car engine. It makes things go!
When the mitochondria don’t produce enough ATP we will feel tired. Deficiencies of ATP is the root cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
And the root cause of ATP deficiencies is deficiencies of Redox Signaling Molecules.
When our cells are healthy they produce adequate amounts of Redox Signaling Molecules and everything functions normally.
When our cells don’t produce enough of these Redox Signaling Molecules the cells become unhealthy. All unhealthy cells are damaged cells.
When our cells don’t produce enough of these vital Redox Signaling Molecules things will go downhill and stay downhill until we can restore the balance of Redox Signaling Molecules in our cells back to normal levels.
Here’s a simple explanation of what happens:
When cells become damaged and they don’t know that they are damaged they can’t repair themselves. If they can’t repair themselves they will reproduce damaged cells which in turn produce more damaged cells.
This is not normal.
This is one mechanism in which the body starts going down the wrong path. The path of physical degeneration, dysfunction and dis-ease.
This is the basic mechanism of an uncomfortable aging process. This is the basic mechanism resulting in poor athletic performance. This is the basic mechanism for chronic unresolved aches and pains in the body. This is the basic mechanism why so many people get sick and tired and can’t get better.
And the question is: How does this happen?
This happens because the cell never got the signal that it was injured or damaged and in need of repair. This is not just happening in a single cell. It’s happening to millions and billions of cells throughout the whole body.
Now, why didn’t the cell get the signal that it was damaged?
The cell never got the signal that it was damaged because the cells were deficient in these Redox Signaling Molecules.
Here’s a simple analogy:
A group of friends are out hiking in the woods. One of them slips and falls and breaks their leg. There’s not enough time to carry the friend out. They need a helicopter rescue. They need to call 911. So, they all take out their cell phones to make the emergency call. No one has the signal strength on their phone to send the message that they need help.
Now they are all in trouble because they want to help their friend but they can’t. They all want to take immediate action to repair the damage to their friend, but they can’t. They are all blocked and prevented from helping.
This is exactly what happens to individual cells in our body and it happens to groups of cells in our body. The signaling molecules responsible for informing the cell that there is a problem are not getting through. And…
The signaling molecules responsible for activating the precise instructions about how to fix and repair the problem are also not getting through.
This situation presents a real challenge to our health and well-being.
This situation is the single biggest and most important root cause of all human sickness, illness, dysfunction, degeneration and dis-ease…at the cellular level.
Fortunately for all of us, there’s been a bio-medical breakthrough in this area.
For the first time in history we can restore to normal levels the Redox Signaling Molecules in our cells.
For the first time in history we can bio-replenish our cells with bioactive Redox Signaling Molecules in supplement form. The availability of a Redox-Based, cell signaling supplement is a real breakthrough for humanity. Everyone deserves to learn about this breakthrough. For more information about this breakthrough, contact the person who sent you this ebook.
This concludes my brief overview of The Seven Root Cause Areas of Health; known simply as; The Roots of Health.
Physical health is the foundation upon which we build the rest of our lives. The quality of our physical health is determined by the quality of the life of our cells. Cells are amazing! Cells live amazing lives! The cells inside our own body perform countless miracles every second of every day. Please read on to discover how and why this is so.
I am committed to the vision of more people understanding just how critically important it is to take better care of their cells, not just for their own health and well-being, but for the health and well-being of others as well. The care of the cells in our body is rapidly becoming a new way of understanding the meaning and purpose of our lives.
The care of the cells in our body is becoming a practical path and roadmap to the experiences of greater harmony and peace, cooperation and community, imagination and abundance. The care of the cells in our body has always been and will always be one of the very best ways to realize our fullest human potentials. Inspiring others to do the same has always been and will always be one of the greatest gifts we can give and one of the greatest sources of satisfaction and fulfillment that we can experience in this life.
As we find and do the things that nourish us best, including and especially what nourishes our cells best and share these discoveries with others, all will be well; today; and in all the days ahead. What follows are some interesting cell quotes and comments.
“In order for a cell to be healthy, it needs proper nutrients and oxygen. If our cells are healthy, then we are healthy. It is as simple as that. In order to maintain our health, we must learn to provide our body with the nutrients that our cells need to survive and thrive. All cellular functions are determined by the environment in which cells live. All cells take their nutrients and oxygen from the surrounding blood and lymph in which they are floating. Cells then, become what they eat.
When cells become damaged, for whatever reason, we must be able to give the body the raw materials it needs to heal itself, replacing the damaged cells, with healthy new ones. If we do this, then the body can do the rest. The root of the word “health” is “heal.” The body is constantly healing itself. The body’s ability to heal itself is one of the most fundamental and essential principles of life.”
The Science of Healing Revealed, by Gary Samuelson, Ph.D.
Note from RM: The blueprints for these miraculous abilities described by Gary Samuel- son and others are encoded in the DNA molecules in every cell in our body. The relation- ship between nutrition and the health of our cells is not casual, it’s causal. Nutrition determines genetic expression!
“Human beings originate from a single cell. This cell divides into two other cells, which in turn divide themselves and this division continues on indefinitely. In the course of this process of structural elaboration and construction, the embryo retains the functional simplicity of the original single-celled egg. The cells of the human body seem to remember their original unity, even when they have organized and become the elements of an innumerable multitude. Each cell understands spontaneously and intuitively the functions required of them inside the organized whole. This innate knowledge of the part they must play in the manifestation of a healthy, wholesome body, is a consciousness or mode of being inside each and every cell.”
Man the Unknown, Alexis Carrel (1935)
“I believe that cells not only teach us about the mechanisms of life, but also teach us how to live rich, full lives. Biology is and will be to the twenty-first century what physics was to the twentieth century.”
The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton, Ph.D.
“If you look at your body, you will find that you have trillions of living beings who depend on you for their health. Every cell in your body is a living being who depends on you for their health. You are responsible for all those beings. For all those living beings that are the cells of your body; you are in charge. You are the mother and father of all those cells. In this way you can be loving, kind and generous to them all; or you can be mean, dismissive and negligent.
The cells in your body are completely loyal to you. They work in harmony together with all the other cells in your body; for you. Your cells love you unconditionally! But what is your relationship to them? What is your relationship to your cells? What kind of a steward or gardener or caretaker are you?
The relationship between you and your body; between you and all those living cells is perfect in the cell’s half of the relationship, just like a compassionate and all- loving God is perfect. But, the other half of this relationship is your mind. The cells of your body always take care of their half of the relationship but your mind is the one that always gets in the way and abuses and disrupts the exquisite health and harmony that is possible.
Mindfulness is the key to your health and happiness in this life! Now, what are you going to do with this knowledge?”
Don Miguel Ruiz, from his book: The Mastery of Love (paraphrased)
When it comes to the fundamentals of nutrition and health, it doesn’t get any more fundamental than oxygen. Although I have not emphasized this at all through the text, I should have. Oxygen is a vital nutrient, perhaps the most vital of all. We can go without food and water for days at a time. We can go without oxygen, in the form of normal breathing, for only a few minutes. The air we breathe is a most precious and vital nutrient. Most people do not breathe correctly and therefore are unintentionally insulting the normal oxygenation of blood, lymph, organs, and cells on a continual basis. The foundation of every traditional medical and meditation tradition is proper breathing. Proper breathing is one of the first complementary habits I learned in the earliest days of my healing journey. Proper breathing is one of the most important habits we can teach ourselves and share with the people we care about the most. Here is a simple and basic explanation.
Tension anywhere in the body will reduce circulation and make it difficult for normal functioning to take place. Tension in the abdomen can be partly or entirely responsible for many uncomfortable digestive system problems. We must all learn to relax. The key to relaxation is proper breathing.
This is a simple explanation of yogic breathing or abdominal breathing. Practicing this breathing exercise for only ten full breaths, two or three times a day, can be very effective in alleviating many symptoms of imbalance and disharmony. Some of these symptoms include: anger, depression, anxiety, worry, fatigue and indigestion. There are many others.
Proper breathing will increase oxygen flow throughout the body, help you relax, and help you manage your stress.
Sit in a comfortable chair, or lie on the floor on your back. If you lie on the floor, make sure you have a pad or blanket to lie on. You need to be comfortable for this to work. Close your eyes or keep them open slightly and gently focused on a point on the floor or ceiling. Focus on a point on the floor if you are sitting in a chair.
Focus on a point on the ceiling if you are lying down on the floor. Notice how you are breathing normally. Notice how much time it takes for a normal breath to come in and go out.
Are you breathing through your nose or through your mouth? How deep does the breath get into your body? Can you feel the breath down to the bottom of each lung? Or does it feel like your breath gets stuck somewhere half-way down your throat? Most of us, without conscious effort and attention to the contrary, are shallow breathers. Shallow breathing on a regular and continual basis can lead to tension, nervousness, anxiety and deprive our cells of the complete oxygen supply they need to function normally.
Let’s begin the conscious breathing exercise. Go slowly. Take your time. Relax.
Let all the air out of your lungs through your mouth, and when it is all out, exaggerate your out-breath by blowing outwards a few more seconds. When you do this, you should notice a slight contraction in your upper abdomen, just below your rib cage. If you have never tried this before, you have just succeeded in your first conscious abdominal breath! The muscle just below your rib cage that acts like a bellows when we exercise it properly is called the diaphragm. Diaphragmatic or abdominal (or yogic) breathing is the most effective way to oxygenate our blood without more elaborate exercise programs. It can be done almost anywhere. As long as you don’t mind other people staring at you.
Try breathing in through both nostrils this time, and as you draw in this new breath, do it as slowly and methodically as possible. Exaggerate the slowness and luxuriate in the simple act of taking in a larger than normal volume of air into your lungs. Remember to go slowly. No rush, no hurry. It will take a while to get the hang of this. Imagine the air descending to the bottom of each lung, and diffusing out of the lungs and into the rest of your body. Visualize the oxygen diffusing into your blood and from there outwards into every cell in your entire body.
Imagine the oxygen attracting and gathering a variety of gaseous toxins into itself and then, at the point when you can no longer comfortably keep breathing in; pause for a few seconds; then simply become aware that you have completely filled every square inch of space inside your lungs. At the point of your fullest lung capacity, yet still remaining completely relaxed and comfortable and no tension anywhere, begin to very slowly exhale through your mouth, as if you were letting the air out of a very large balloon a little bit at a time. Visualize the release of all that carbon dioxide and all those other toxins attached to it. Visualize the millions of little air sacs (alveoli), cleansed of all their impurities. Visualize that every cell in your entire body just received a better supply of oxygen and got rid of many unwanted and dangerous toxins. When your exhalation is complete, force out just a little more air, but stay comfortable.
Pause a quiet second or two before you begin a new inhalation. With the new inhalation, see if you can taste and feel the quality of the air you are breathing in as it streams in through your nostrils, some into your mouth and around your tongue, down your throat, and into your lungs. Exaggerate the inhalation and consciously pull the air into the center of your belly and fill up your entire abdomen as if it were a giant bellows or hot air balloon. Once filled, repeat the exercise as described above. Repeat this exercise a minimum of ten times and with each inhalation and exhalation, see if you notice any changes in how your body-mind responds. Do this slowly in a gentle series of ten complete breaths. Do it three times a day for a week and see if you notice any changes in your overall energy, vitality, sense of alertness and sense of calmness.
Of course, if you would like to do this longer than ten breaths, feel free. Most people who use this exercise or some variant as part of their regular habit of meditation usually suggest a time frame between twenty and forty minutes, twice daily for optimum results.
Please do not underestimate the importance of being consistent with the correct amount of water you need to drink each day. Water and salt in combination promote and restore proper hydration levels within the cells and systems of the body. Proper daily hydration is the most significant biomodulating and homeostatic influence inside the human body. When the body is properly and consistently hydrated, everything else functions better. If you exercise and sweat, consume any diuretic beverages (alcohol, coffee, tea, soda, caffeine), then you will need to consume more water to make up. Your body loses 32 ounces of water each day just from breathing and sleeping and sitting around! If you exert yourself vigorously and sweat profusely, you will need to be very careful to restore proper hydration levels and then maintain proper hydration levels. Half your body weight in ounces of water is therefore, the absolute minimum of water you need each day. But don’t over-hydrate yourself either. Find the balance. Find the right amount of water for you given your unique circumstances and conditions and all will be well.
It’s not just what we eat, but how, when, where, and why we eat that makes all the difference in the world! Imagine that.
Complementary or Insulting?
What are the habits I should practice and which ones should I avoid?
Understanding the difference between the complementary and insulting habits in your diet and lifestyle makes all the difference in your self-healing journey. If you fail to identify your most insulting habits (and then actively minimize or avoid them completely) you may not experience the success you desire and deserve. If you fail to avoid your most insulting habits during the Phase One recovery period, you may not recover your normal digestive system functions and/or your overall health.
However, if you take this step seriously and consistently practice the complementary habits while avoiding and/or minimizing the insulting ones, you will be astonished at how rapidly your intestinal (and whole body) regeneration will proceed. This step, this understanding, in my opinion, is what makes my program different and more effective than any other. This step customizes and personalizes your program making it unique and special.
Other books and programs and practitioners give lip service to some of these habits but generally overlook their primary significance. These habits aren’t just important, they are transformational. The many habits listed below provide the keys to your self-healing journey. Separate the complementary habits from the insulting ones; practice the complementary habits and minimize or avoid completely the insulting ones and you will dramatically increase your recovery time. Please read this next section very carefully. Please read this next section as if your life and health in general and your digestive system health in particular depended on it.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
Practice These Complementary Habits Consistently!
Avoid These Insulting Habits as Much as Possible!
There is substantial and reliable documentation to support each of the habits outlined above (see the bibliography section in my new book: Principle Eating). However, nothing is more important and ultimately nothing is more convincing than the actual experiments you conduct yourself on yourself to determine the relevance of any of these habits. If you are not willing to carry out experiments with your diet and your habits, as explained below, you will only see limited improvement or none at all.
You must conduct reliable experiments to prove to yourself conclusively which habits in your diet and lifestyle are complementary and which ones are insulting. Your health depends on these experiments. Please use the following suggestions on the next page to guide your personal experiments.
Seven days is the absolute minimum period of time to conduct a meaningful experiment. Remember that determining the difference between the complementary and insulting habits in your diet and lifestyle is not just helpful, it’s transformational.
Making the transition to a healthier diet and lifestyle can most effectively be achieved by understanding and then consistently practicing the most important health and nutrition fundamentals. I have attempted to explain most of them throughout the course of this book. Here is a simple checklist to help you remember the difference between the complementary habits and the insulting ones. I suggest you check this list twice daily, at the beginning and at the end of each day. If you minimize and/or completely avoid the insulting habits while practicing and optimizing the complementary habits you will succeed in gradually yet dramatically improving the quality of your health and life!
This short essay was written by one of my clients, Bob Dufresne, Ph.D. I’ve included it here because it captures the essence of one of the most important habits for anyone attempting to be more proactive in their own self-care, self-reflection. RM
In my attempts to improve my health through better nutrition, I have become aware of certain deficiencies in my lifestyle that go well beyond physical nutrients. The starting point for this awareness comes from the dynamic principle at the heart of functional nutrition: that nothing is neutral. Everything, as it turns out, is either complementary or insulting to the way our body has been designed to function.
Complementary habits allow and encourage the body to do what it was made to do thereby leading to a healthy state. Insulting habits interrupt, impair and interfere with the natural mechanisms of the body, thereby leaving the body in a vulnerable state; a state more likely to invite dis-ease. When faced with this simple principle whose merits one can easily prove to oneself, a troubling question arises: Why would anyone choose insulting habits over complementary habits? Even when we are given the appropriate information and hold the very best of intentions, we often fail to do what is complementary to our own bodies. For me part of the answer lies in the word, habit. Complementary habits are habits only when you have incorporated them into your life in such a way that other parts of your life reinforce your consistent practice of those habits. But how does this come about? This is truly the most difficult part. We cannot merely go through our lives following our old habits. We must engage in a serious conversation with our selves. We must engage in what I like to call Reflective Practice. Reflective Practice means we must raise our actions to a level of awareness where we can exert control over those actions. We must become fully conscious about how the complementary actions we choose will improve our lives. We must see how the complementary actions we take are also complementary with other aspects of our life. In order to see these things we must stop the wheels of perpetual motion and busyness in our lives and reflect deeply upon the simplest things, including what we eat and how we eat. We must come to certain conclusions about how our decisions in this most basic area of life have enormous repercussions in all the other areas of our life.
Everything else we do in life, we can do better when we have our physical health as our foundation. In coming to this realization I have become aware that my own lifestyle leaves very little time for Reflective Practice. I would like to observe that this seems to be a common ailment among many who live in this modern world of ours. I have come to the conclusion that to live “a healthy life” in all aspects of life, we must work towards the goal of making this most central complementary habit, Reflective Practice, the most important complementary habit of all.
Bob Dufresne, Ph.D.
The University of Massachusetts Physics Education Research Group
When I look back over the forty plus years that have passed since I first started learning about the connections between nutrition and health, two qualities come to mind; persistence and belief. Early in my quest I developed the strong belief that health and disease were not accidents of nature but the direct result of a more or less cooperative relationship with nature. I had a strong belief that the biological/ ecological principles in evidence in the world around us could have and would have a direct bearing on the ebb and flow of life and health and well-being, within us. Persistence in these beliefs forced me to prove to myself their validity and usefulness. How useful these beliefs are will be determined by the readers of this book.
The key to making these connections more apparent and accessible to people everywhere is a better system of health education and a much longer list of passionate and committed health educators. I am one of these health educators as change-agents in the culture at large today. I invite you to take up the vocation if it resonates with you. My persistence in this belief about the pivotal role that health practitioners and health educators play in creating a better health-care system for all is what motivated me to complete the writing of this book.
I have a clear vision of what lies ahead of us. What lies ahead is a paradigm shift of epic proportion and significance. No longer can our society afford to persist in its belief in a magic pharmaceutical bullet, or surgical procedure for all the many ills that plague us. At last we are at a point where the medical and economic imperatives point directly at each one of us to be and become more proactive in our own self-care. The current disease-care system is not sustainable. The current disease-care system is broken beyond the hope of effective repair. We need a new approach.
The principles and practices that I have described in this book are representative of the kinds of things that will prove to be foundational in the health-care system of the future. To establish this new healthcare system will require a new set of beliefs and enormous patience and persistence. As a result we will prevent the suffering of millions and lay the groundwork for global cooperation, economic justice and peace. In this not too distant future time, defined by new principles, priorities and practices, we will re-discover our passion for the stewardship of the earth and each other and move forward in our endless quest for the realization of our full human potential.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The Cherokee Chief and His Grandson
An old Cherokee Chief is teaching his grandson about life: “A fight is going on inside me.” He said to the boy. “It’s a terrible fight and it’s between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, pride, superiority, self-doubt and ego. The other is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you; and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Let’s be and become the healthiest version of ourselves and invite everyone we know and everyone we don’t know to be and become the healthiest versions of themselves too. And let’s do this together, today and in all the days ahead.