Diet has been extremely important to me because I am professional clarinetist with a national career. I play with the Orion Ensemble which tours throughout North America, am playing principal clarinet with the Lake Forest Symphony, and frequently perform with the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Grant Park Symphony, and the Ravinia Festival Orchestra. In addition, I have taught for over 30 years and have served on the faculties of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, Northern Illinois University, Indiana University, and Bradley University. For me, being a professional musician is like being in the Olympics because it requires a very high level of health.
However, in the fall of 2001, at age 45, I became chronically ill for 2 years, suffering first from a severe inflammatory condition in my spine, causing debilitating pain in my arms, shoulders, hands, and fingers, which made it difficult to play. I then developed chronic diarrhea and my embouchure (the facial muscles I use to play my instrument) also began to shake uncontrollably. This was ultimately diagnosed as a long-term digestive problem, intestinal damage, and malabsorption because I had celiac disease—an intolerance to gluten grains.
It is important to note that I had experienced ongoing musculoskeletal inflammation, often of a severe nature, since my 20s. I relieved it through physical therapy-type approaches common to the field of music—you name it, I became an expert at it! I was constantly “chasing” pain and stiffness from practicing and performing. When I solved the discomfort in one area, another area became irritated. During that time, I was very conscious of eating a healthy diet and closely followed popular guidelines for high fiber/low fat: lots of salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, a little meat, eggs and dairy, very little sugar and no butter—only vegetable oils.
Along with these inflammatory conditions, I had digestive illness symptoms that started in my childhood. I had flatulence, a sign of poor digestion and intestinal bacterial flora imbalances. At 42, I began experiencing acid reflux disease, a very distracting problem for a wind player because felt a constant pressure in my throat and the sensation of wanting to burp. When I burped, acid was released into my esophagus. Frightened, I sought answers. My solution was to stop eating wheat, which was quite helpful at the time. Unfortunately, several years later, I developed the spinal inflammation followed by a severe digestive disorder—life-threatening chronic diarrhea and malabsorption. Obviously, cutting out wheat was not the full answer to acid reflux.
Upon discovering my gluten intolerance, I followed a gluten-free diet. In fact, after my diagnosis, I ate only meat, eggs, vegetables and salad, fruit and olive oil—no sugar or grains. My pain disappeared within a month, but 6 months later, my illness worsened as I suffered from chronic diarrhea. I thought I would not survive.
In order to not only save my career, but also my life, I needed accurate information. I solved this puzzle by radically changing my diet, followed the advice of Dr. Weston Price, and reversed my acid reflux and intestinal damage. I also provided my body with the nutritional elements necessary for building health. I am now recovered and vibrantly healthy! For the first time in 25 years, even with a full performing, practicing, and teaching schedule, I have had no pain or inflammation in my body for over 7 years. My embouchure is completely strong, and I have excellent stamina and muscle strength.
Dr. Price, a dentist in the 1930s, was baffled by the large percentage of degenerative illnesses in his patients—chronic ailments ranging from arthritis and inflammatory conditions to digestive complaints and fertility problems, and behavior and learning problems in children. He traveled worldwide looking for cultures free of these conditions. He found 14 vibrantly healthy isolated cultures that had no signs of degenerative illness and had eaten the same foods for centuries. These included people in the Swiss Alps, Gallic people, Eskimos, some isolated American Indian tribes, Aborigines, the African Masai, the Maori people from New Zealand and those from the South Sea Islands. Although their diets were completely different, he found common characteristics that determined their diet’s ability to promote optimal health and genetic potential in humans. He cured chronic illness in his own patients through his findings and wrote Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. The Weston A. Price Foundation, (www.westonaprice.org) provides answers to healing chronic conditions and serious illness through traditional foods.
Similarities between my GI situation and that of children with autism who have apparent or undiagnosed GI issues
From reading the important book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, I saw that my problems with digestion were also the same as those of children with autism. I had terrible problems with gut dysbiosis, leaky gut, flatulence, and inflammation for many years. But I also had issues with mental health as I suffered from depression and an eating disorder. I was addicted to gluten grains as well, which made it difficult for me to give up certain foods. I have concluded that a large percentage of our population suffers from various levels of dysfunction and illness as a result of gut problems and malnourishment.
Principles of the Weston A. Price Foundation
In his comparative analysis of the different diets of healthy populations worldwide, Dr. Price discovered these principles for optimal human health. The surprising traditional practices involve high-fat nutrition and nutrient-dense products from pastured animals and wild-caught fish and seafood including:
- Nutrient-dense, high-vitamin A and D foods, such as cod liver oil, liver and organ meats, and egg yolks—essential for nutrient absorption, gut health and brain function, immune function, calcium absorption, proper development of children and the perfect expression of the genetic code. Price found that healthy populations had 10 times the amount of vitamins A and D from natural sources in their diets. Without adequate vitamin A and D, people will not absorb the nutrients in the foods, no matter how good the diet. The best cod liver oil is made the old-fashioned way—fermented—not available in the store (see www.greenpasture.org. Store-bought cod liver oil has natural vitamins A and D taken out of it.)
- High quality traditional fats such as raw butter, coconut oil, palm oil, and lard are critical for digestion and nutrient absorption, brain function, hormone regulation, immune function, cell integrity, and calcium absorption.
- Bone-broth soups made from chicken, beef, or fish, simmered up to 36 hours because they heal the intestinal tract and provide essential nutrients in an easy-to-assimilate form, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other amino acids. Secondly, they provide important bone- and tendon-healing components.
- Easy-to-digest, high-enzyme, traditionally cultured foods to help develop a healthy intestinal flora, such as homemade sauerkraut, pickled beets, and raw milk kefir and yogurt from grass-fed cows.
- High quality proteins—meats, raw dairy, poultry, eggs, fish, and seafood—from animals eating their natural diets.
By focusing on eating nutrient-dense, traditional foods that support good digestion, the body and mind will have the nutritional elements to heal the digestive tract, correct malnourishment, and improve both physical and mental health.
Does all disease begin in the gut?
Yes-this is a principle of Hippocrates. If your gut health is poor, you will not be able to absorb the nutrients from your food and detoxify toxins properly, and you will eventually suffer from malnourishment that leads to illness and disease. Dr. Price also said, “All disease comes from malnourishment.”
Children today are often born with poor gut health and flora often because they do not inherit this flora from their mother at birth because many mothers lack good gut flora and, therefore, cannot able to pass it on to the child. If the child nurses and the mother is in poor health, the child may still not develop good flora. If the child is formula-fed, there is little chance for proper gut flora development. All of these issues, besides the child’s diet, can negatively affect the long-term physical and mental health of the child.
Ailments that are linked to malnutrition or gut problems
According to Drs. Price and Campbell-McBride, the exponential rise in so many diseases comes in part from our depleted food supply. As a result of the toxic burden of mercury from vaccines, amalgams, and our environment plus other heavy metals along with chemical toxins, our population is experiencing an increasing risk of disease. Here are some of the most common illnesses that that may be linked to issues of poor digestion, malnourishment, and environmental toxins:
- acid reflux
- irritable bowel
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- ear infections
- bipolar disorder
- arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis
- heart disease
- skin problems
- poor dental health
- OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
- developmental delay
What modern food trends have adversely impacted children’s health?
- Factory farming—has produced low quality and nutrient-poor food. Profit is the only important guiding principle of this system.
- Substituting vegetable fats for traditional fats/low cholesterol diets—causes problems in nutrient-absorption, digestion, hormonal balances, cell-membrane integrity, and brain function
- Increased soy consumption—soy is difficult to digest and causes severe problems with hormone balances and digestion. It has been promoted by the soy industry.
- Vegetarian diets—vegetarian diets are missing vital components necessary to human health—namely adequate vitamin A and D—only available from nutrient-dense animal foods. Vegetarian foods are much lower in nutrients than the nutrient-dense foods.
- Pasteurization—we pasteurize foods that historically helped to support good digestion and health. Without these probiotic foods—cultured dairy, lacto-fermented vegetables and drinks—our digestive tract lacks the probiotic bacterial flora necessary for digestive health.
- Over-processing of foods—takes out the nutrients and makes them difficult to digest.
- Refrigeration—before refrigeration, we preserved foods through lacto-fermentation. We cultured vegetables like cabbage into sauerkraut and beets into pickled beets or milk into yogurt or kefir. These foods provided our intestinal tract with the proper flora necessary for good digestion.
What is a nutrient-dense diet?
- A nutrient-dense diet consists of foods containing the maximum nutrients per mass serving along with all the elements necessary for good digestion and optimal health.
- High vitamin A and D foods—cod liver oil, egg yolks, liver
- High quality traditional fats—butter, coconut oil, lard
- Bone-broth soups made from chicken, beef, or fish and vegetables
- Traditionally cultured foods such as kefir, yogurt and homemade sauerkraut and pickled beets.
- High quality proteins—meats, raw dairy, poultry, eggs, and fish—from animals eating their natural diets.
What about raw milk, organic meats, vitamins A and D-3, and good fats?
- Raw milk—A high quality source of raw milk from pastured cows can become a partner in building health. Dr. Campbell-McBride talks about avoiding casein-containing foods like milk in the treatment of autism. However, once the gut has healed, she recommends that very gradually adding cultured raw milk can help increase the nutrients in a child’s diet as well as help to improve digestion.
Historically milk was pasteurized as a result of bad farming practices. In the 1800s, whiskey distilleries began to house cows and feed them an unnatural diet of waste from the distilleries and sell this tainted milk to people living in large cities on the East Coast. Pasteurization was developed in response to this poor quality milk that was making people sick. However, today, raw milk is emerging again as a healthful food in its intended form—carefully handled from grass-fed cows that are not confined.
- Organic meats—Organic meats are not all created equal. Organic meats from corn-fed animals pale in nutrients compared to those from grass-fed animals. Good physical and mental health cannot be built on poor quality nutrients and foods.
- Vitamins A and D-3—are essential to nutrient absorption and cannot be obtained in a usable form from a vitamin supplement. The best way to ensure adequate vitamin A and D is through foods like high-quality cod liver oil (www.greenpasture.org.), pastured organ meats and egg yolks and to make sure the diet has ample traditional fats.
- Good fats—Traditional fats like butter, coconut oil, palm oil, and lard are essential to digestive health, brain function, nutrient absorption, and hormone regulation.
Vitamin A, its importance, and where we can get it.
Vitamin A, like vitamin D-3, is a hormone that is necessary for the proper expression of the genetic code. Dr. Price found that without adequate vitamin A and D the genetic structure would be changed. He saw this first displayed in the symptom of crooked and crowded teeth and the narrowing of the skull. These changes affect a child’s physical and mental development.
What is vitamin K-2?
With vitamins A and D as the bricks, vitamin K-2 acts as the mortar in the body to put calcium in the right places—like the bones and teeth and not the arteries. Vitamin K-2 comes from the fats of animals on pasture. Because of factory farming, most people suffer from a vitamin K-2 deficiency and have problems with calcium absorption.
Why are fermented foods important in
Fermented foods help to ensure good digestion. They provide the probiotics and enzymes necessary to break down our foods properly and help build a strong immune system.
What is the role of nutrient dense soups and their restorative effect?
Nutrient-dense, bone broth soups can help heal the gut and provide a wide variety of easy-to-assimilate vitamins and minerals. They say “Good broth raises the dead!” Bone broth soup was instrumental in my healing journey.
The importance of enzymes naturally present in foods
A diet high in enzymes from cultured and fermented foods will aid in digestion and healing because the pancreatic enzymes that repair and maintain the body will be spared.
How do parents deliver this diet to children who need to be on the
gluten-free, casein-free or Specific Carbohydrate Diet?
A nutrient-dense diet is easily gluten-free and follows guidelines of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. As I explained before, casein from cultured milk should only be added after the gut is healed, and it needs to be added extremely slowly. The focus at first should be on bone broth soups, then gradually add other nutrient-dense and cultured foods. Coconut kefir and then raw milk kefir are good beginnings for cultured food. Kefir has a beneficial yeast that eats Candida, which is a problem with most digestive issues.
(Culturing information is available in my book, Performance without Pain, www.performancewithoutpain.com
and also www.bodyecology.com.)