The Raw Diet for Intestinal Flora Health
I've been learning more about how intestinal flora works. What flora is bad, what flora is good, what flora we should have, and what can disrupt the balance.
From what I've learned, there is little chance that I have good balanced flora. I've taken antibiotics over and over in my life time, somewhere between six and fourteen times (it's hard to say since I didn't go to the doctor every time I was sick, I didn't always finish my course of antibiotics, and much of my childhood is shrouded in vague hard-to-decipher memories). I've asked my mom how many times I've taken them, and she doesn't recall clearly either, go figure.
In any event, more than three times in a lifetime can be enough to require drastic measures to remedy.
How do you know if your digestive tract has imbalanced flora? Well, consider your antibiotic intake in your lifetime and cross-reference that with these symptoms (and do some research):
- Frequent stomach pains and digestion problems
- Skin problems (skin infections, eczema, psoriasis, acne)
- Foggy brain / Trouble concentrating
Constant tiredness and exhaustion
- Mood swings / Irritability
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Anger outbursts
- Intense cravings for sugars, sweets, and breads
- Itchy skin
I used to have all of these very badly before I became a raw vegan (September 2010).
What bugs me is that I still get some of these symptoms mildly on occasion. This is not something I find many other raw foodists going through after the first three to six months. (I've been raw vegan for a year now.)
There are other possible causes for the symptoms I do still have, but considering that the raw diet only starves bad bacteria and doesn't provide enough good bacteria, I think it's safe to say I could use some re-balancing in the digestive tract.
Here are the symptoms I still experience:
- Around twice a week I get a strong craving for something starchy/bready or sweet, or fatty.
- About twice a month I get "in a mood" where I'm near apathetic for a couple hours.
- Stomach pains around three times a month, generally following a huge meal full of bad food combinations (fats and fruits generally)
- Mild skin breakouts (description follows)
I've been experiencing mild breakouts since April, which I had not experienced at all in the previous six months being a raw vegan. It's true that in April I broke my raw diet a lot and ate much cooked food as I was stressed out and emotionally a mess from all the trials of moving across the country (California to Buffalo, New York in a budget-truck).
However, since April I've eaten much better than I actually did during April, and my stress has been reduced significantly, and yet the mild breakouts still continue. I'm not getting large painful pimples as I used to get frequently when my health was at its very worst. Rather, I'm getting small patches of tiny little pimples that are hardly visible unless very close to the mirror. I find this bizarre, and have often wondered if they are a detox symptom since I've been drinking fresh home-juiced wheatgrass shots for a couple months now.
So why doesn't a raw vegan diet provide good bacteria?
[Some raw vegan diets do, but most don't. In order for it to provide healthy bacteria, you'd need to be a climate where your food could partially spoil in a beneficial way regularly, or you'd need to be able to ferment your food successfully regularly in a beneficial way. I've met numerous raw vegans from the latter category (successful fermentation), and one raw vegan from the former category (eats somewhat spoiled food a lot, and has a very robust digestion).]
Most people no longer eat the dirt on the vegetables or consume raw sauerkraut regularly. There isn't much of a food source of healthy flora available on grocery shelves. Even if I drank a bottle of kombucha a week, and ate two servings of sauerkraut a week, ate fermented nut cheese twice a week, and made coconut kefir twice a month, I would never overcome an unbalanced intestinal tract.
[This is actually beginning to change. Products like Inner Eco can make a big difference while battling with flora problems. However, I know from personal experience and experience with my clients that Inner Eco alone generally will not resolve imbalanced flora.]
What if I take probiotic supplements? Well, in theory, I could just take ten a day and eventually it'd balance out. Problem is that it might not, and it'd be expensive in the process.
[Looking back, that probably isn't a bad idea if your flora is definitely already a mess. You're most likely to only make the condition better. But still not a very well rounded solution.]
What is the solution?
A combination plan to tackle the bad bacteria full force, and then send in a flood of healthy bacteria.
The diet I'm about to describe is an off-shoot of the raw vegan diet specifically for people fighting a disease or bodily imbalance. This diet "off-shoot" is used in curing cancer, remedying Candidiasis, curing diabetes rapidly, etc.
This diet has three phases: Starve, Kill, Replenish
The starve and kill phases are talking about starving and killing bad bacteria, and the replenish phase is for filling the body with good bacteria. No point in throwing your money away at probiotics if you have so much bad bacteria in your gut that it can't survive more than an hour or so. That's why we're starving and killing that bad bacteria first.
[Despite the sound logic I used in the above paragraph, there actually is some point to taking probiotics even if you don't do anything to attack the bad bacteria. However, there isn't much point in throwing in lots of expensive probiotics for a short time, thinking that "you're all better" and then stopping the probiotics. That generally achieves very little. If you want to try the slow uphill battle of probiotics without ever using any means to kill off bacteria, then being consistent about consuming them is vital.]
Phase 1: Starve (the bad bacteria)
A raw vegan diet already does a good job of starving and killing enough bad bacteria to relieve most problems. The big issues come from pasta, flour, bread, white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, corn syrup, trans fats, aspartame, canola oil, msg, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and hydrogenated oils. None of those are included in the raw diet.
Minor issues can be caused from too much cooked white potato, especially if you're eating it with butter or sour cream, and also especially if you're baking or frying the potato. [I didn't know it at the time, but the most major problem with frying a potato is that rancid fat is particularly harmful to healthful endocrine and liver function.] A large consumption of conventional meats, dairy and eggs can be a serious problem as well.
Raw vegetables offer nothing for bad bacteria, and the vast amount of fiber helps clear bad bacteria out.
Raw fruits offer little for bad bacteria. The natural sugars in raw fruits provides enough for an imbalance to remain, but not enough to cause a tremendous sporing of bad bacteria.
People who include agave in their raw diet may still experience severe imbalance if they consume it often enough. Remember that agave is High Fructose Agave Syrup.
The cure-all and balance-flora diet takes sweet fruits out of the equation. The only fruits still on the table are thus: tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers and bell peppers. (And other non-sweet fruits, if you can come up others.) Fruits such as bananas, pineapples, and apples are strictly off-limits to make sure those bad bacteria are really starving.
[Do be wary of removing sweet fruits from your diet and replacing them with non-fresh fats, such as nuts sold outside of the fridge, oils sold outside of the fridge and other dry-goods high in fat sold outside of the fridge. These non-fresh fats can cause matters to become worse. I've already made this very, very serious mistake in the past which resulted in several painful breast lumps that took me a lot of cleansing and jumping (on a trampoline) to alleviate.]
The starve phase as described above continues for the full time period of the diet, which is six weeks, two weeks for each phase.
Phase 2: Kill (the bad bacteria)
After two weeks of starving the bad bacteria, we move on to killing off any bad bacteria that is left. Garlic, onion and hot peppers are food sources that drive away bacteria. I will also be employing some supplements to assist. Various potent herbs and supplements help, such as grapefruit seed extract.
[Note that garlic, onion and hot peppers should be avoided for people with stomach ulcers. I also learned this the hard way. With stomach ulcers, you first need to tackle healing those. One of the best things you can do for those is drink lots of fresh celery juice.]
Phase 3: Replenish (the good bacteria)
[It is unfortunate that at the time I wrote this I did not yet know about a fermented superfood blend based on the foods eaten by the most long-lived cultures in the world. This special blend is now something I use daily, as do my clients. I've found it to be much more effective to use two scoops of this delicious revitalizing powder daily than it has been to take gobs of acidophilus daily. It's called Akea.]
During this six week time period, I'll be eating:
During the last two weeks I'll add:
- vegan kefir
- nut/seed cheese
[Looking back in retrospect to how well that month went, and having learned from further self-experimentation first hand (and plenty from clients second-hand), I have recommendations for how you can do better than the above:
Eating Recommendations during a Flora Cleanse or "Flora Cleanse Diet"
[Too bad the above wasn't my plan back in September 2011. However, the above is just about that I am doing now in October 2013, and what I'm leading my clients through. It's a very marvelously freeing, balancing and cleansing diet.]
[Returning to 2011:] Today is day one. I ate my last tiny apple from the farmer's market early this morning, and that was the last sweet fruit I'm going to see for quite some time. I'm anxious about whether or not I can make it six weeks... I'm used to eating three to six bananas a day, often with berries, plums, apples, etc.
After the six weeks I should be able to go back to a regular raw vegan diet and maintain healthy flora for the rest of my life (so long as I never take antibiotics again). My husband is embarking on this six week journey with me.
Speaking of the "six weeks" part of this diet plan. I am considering making each phase 10 days instead of fourteen, to cut it down from 42 days to 30, making it actually four weeks and some change. Because I'm already starting from a raw vegan diet, and because I'm going to be employing a lot of powerful supplements, it may very well be possible to do this just as effectively in 10 day phases instead of 14 day phases.
By the end of a month, I may be content to go longer without sweet fruit anyway... This is the game plan for the time being, in any event. Encouragement and love is much appreciated.
Thanks for reading. ~ Raederle