Every new year and Spring we enter a new cycle. Many people feel that this is the best time to clean up and clear out the accumulated trash and excess baggage of yesteryear. Just as new shoots emerge in spring, spring is a symbol for renewal, rebirth, rejuvenation and lightness.
In this first of a three part series on ways of spring cleaning, I share with you the how and why to clean up your gut based on the Body Ecology Diet, a book I perused recently.
Summary of the Body Ecology Diet
The purpose of the Body Ecology Diet (B.E.D) is to strengthen the immune and digestive system, starve yeast, cleanse the body, and restore a balanced inner microbiome that is a basis for a lifetime of health. This framework was put forth by Donna Gates in her book, “The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity,” first published in 1996. Target users of the B.E.D. include those with candida, frequent digestive problems, immune deficiencies, chronic fatigue, history of antibiotic or birth control pill use.
Seven Principles of the Body Ecology Diet
#1 The Principle of Expansion and Contraction
This principle is a variant of the Chinese concept of Yin/Yang. In nature there are opposing forces always seeking a balance. When it comes to food, some foods such as salt cause the body to contract. When we eat them, we feel more uptight or closed. Eating too much contracting foods can cause constipation. On the other hand, some foods such as sugar cause the body to expand, open up and relax. When consumed in excess, we feel spaced out and unfocused. As a healthy body always strives toward balance, too much expanding sugary food creates a craving for contracting salty food and vice versa. Eating this way puts the body on an undesirable see-saw. The B.E.D. recommends eating neutral foods that are neither too expanding or contracting for an ideal inner ecology. This group includes raw vegetables, greens, sea vegetables, soaked almonds, root vegetables and B.E.D approved gluten-free grains – quinoa, millet and amaranth.
#2 The Principle of Acid vs Alkaline-Forming Foods
The optimal pH of bodily fluids is slightly alkaline at 7.4. Acidosis is the main cause of most illness and disease such as cancer, chronic fatigue, arthritis, allergies, and promotes malignant cells to thrive. When you eat acid-forming foods in excess, the body compensates by depleting stored reserves of alkaline minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, creating a mineral deficiency that becomes severe over time. The B.E.D. is based on alkaline foods that do not feed yeasts or parasites, but do rebuild the immune system. Ten categories of alkaline-forming foods are – most land vegetables; sea vegetables; B.E.D. approved gluten-free grains; quality sea salt; organic herbs; mineral water; seeds (except sesame); raw apple cider vinegar; cultured vegetables and probiotic liquids; soaked and sprouted almonds; lemons, limes and berries. Although fruits are alkaline-forming, it is not on the B.E.D. because the sugars feed yeast and parasites.
#3 The Principle of Uniqueness
Every body is different and we have different individual needs. This can change depending on where we live, the season, the type of food available and the current condition of our bodies. Thus there is no one size fits all diet. B.E.D. principles and foods assimilates the best practices of popular diets such as Atkins (high-protein, low-carb), Raw Foods, Macrobiotic and Vegans/Vegetarians, yet go even further to help you heal. Ultimately, the B.E.D. acknowledges that you are the creator of your own body so always listen to how your body feels.
#4 The Principle of Cleansing
The aphorism “Out with the old, in with the new” applies dearly to our digestive system as well. Cleansing is the body’s natural way to get rid of unwanted toxins from the bod and the B.E.D. advocates cleanses periodically. As the body cleanse, you may experience ill symptoms such as sore throat, aches, fatigue, and emotional disturbances such as depression or edginess. This is a normal and is known as the Herxheimer die-off reaction. The length of cleanse may take a few weeks to a few years, depending on your self-discipline and how much toxins there were in your body. Cleanses may involve the use of detoxifying herbs, colon hydrotherapy or enemas.
#5 The Principle of Proper Food Combining
Food combining refers to what to eat with what in a meal. Eating compatible foods help to reduce gas, bloating and excess weight, establish a clean and efficient internal environment, and gives you lots of energy as food you consume is assimilated better. On the other hand, eating foods of incompatible nature causes poor digestion, lead to fermentation and promote yeast growth. The three rules put forth by the B.E.D. are to (1) eat approved fruits alone and on an empty stomach, (2) eat protein with non-starchy and/or sea vegetables (not applicable to vegetarian/vegan diets), and (3) eat pseudo-grains and starchy vegetables with non-starchy and/or sea vegetables. Unrefined oils, protein fats (such as avocados, soaked seeds and nuts) are best combined with non-starchy vegetables and greens, sea vegetables and acid fruits. No sugar is allowed on the B.E.D., and suggested alternatives to satisfy the sweet tooth (if necessary) is lakanto and stevia.
#6 The Principle of 80/20
This principle applies twice:
(1) Eat until you are 80 percent full, and allow 20 percent for digestion.
(2) Have 80 percent of your plate be land or sea vegetables, and the remaining 20 percent can be a protein, pseudo-grain or starchy vegetables.
#7 The Principle of Step by Step
Understand that the body will take time to heal. Just as how the body accumulated toxins and became ill, it will take small increments for the body to cleanse and be restored. Be patient and give the diet the time it needs to heal the body.
#8 Introduce Fermented Foods
Try to have fermented foods at every meal, such as cultured vegetables, coconut kefir pudding and coconut kefir water, as these aid greatly with the assimilation process.
Below is a visual graphic summarising the seven tenets of the B.E.D.
Taking it all in: What does it mean for me?
In summary, the B.E.D. illustrates the idea of our microbiome as a garden. Gardens thrive on water, clean nutrients, and certain good types of living organisms, but not junk. Junk is anything that is artificial, factory-processed or tampered with. Furthermore, according to the Ayurvedic wisdom, Spring season is the most important time of year to cleanse toxic build up (known as Ama) and reset the system and create lasting health through Summer.
For the most part, I have been eating a plant-based vegan diet, but paid little attention to the ratio of acid-alkaline foods and expanding-contracting foods. Also, fruits, which are a large part of my diet especially for breakfast are a no-go in the B.E.D. If I were to start the B.E.D., these are the changes I would have to make:
- Cut out all forms of sugar, including fresh fruit (except lemons and limes), dried fruits, sweeteners, coconut water, and pretty much all the yummy things that raw foodists love. It also means limited grains (no oats because it is acid-forming). To starve bacteria/yeast/parasites, you’ll want as little sugar as possible.
- Create an alkaline diet – plenty of non-starchy and sea vegetables, but not high sugar vegetables like beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams and nightshade vegetables as they often irritate the nervous system.
- Include lots of cultured foods. I am not really a fan of cultured vegetables as most tend to be salty like sauerkraut and kimchi, and I have a salt aversion. However, I can try making low salt alternatives.
In one of my future posts, I will put together a sample three-day vegan Body Ecology meal plan. I will also note any physical or psychological changes.4