You’ve seen the reports, you’ve watched the news, you probably know someone, it may even be you, who is dealing with one, two, three or even all five of these issues. Fatigue at one time catches nearly everyone these days. Truly joyful people are becoming a rarity. Constipation, heartburn, gas, bloating, or diarrhea plague more and more people. Hot flashes, mood swings, sleep problems and weight gain are so common they’ve become Broadway musical material.
Dr. Daniel Kalish realized writing prescriptions and chasing symptoms wasn’t helping his patients. Now he has developed a new system, and written a book telling us about it, designed to get to the root causes of poor health to help you get truly healthy. His book is The Kalish Method: Healing the Body, Mapping the Mind. In his book Dr. Kalish explains how three important body systems control much of our health, and if just one of these systems breaks down it can cause a cascade of trouble throughout our bodies. When we just focus on symptoms (weight gain is a symptom not a disease by itself) rather than the underlying root causes (poor liver detox ability is a root cause) we won’t find lasting solutions. When we throw drugs at symptoms we can even end up with more problems then we started with. Through years of experience Dr. Kalish came to realize that “while the patients and their symptoms and their individual expressions of the problems varied, the underlying problems with the various body systems remained the same.” So he stopped pursuing symptoms and focused on fixing body systems.
What were those body systems? The digestive system, the detoxification system and the adrenals and how they interact with the brain are what Dr. Kalish looks at first. The digestive system is like the mother. It feeds everything. “You quite literally are what you eat, and if your body isn’t able to properly absorb your food, you will suffer a myriad of symptoms.” Sometimes the symptoms that clue us in to the fact that we have digestive issues can be tricky to decipher. However if you have one of the issues listed above, or the “Big 5” as Dr. Kalish calls them, you probably have digestive troubles. Whether from your outside environment, as a result of poor nutrition, or because of your digestive troubles, too many toxins building up in your body can spell trouble too. In fact one of our body’s common responses to toxins is to wrap them in fat so they’re less dangerous. So when we take in more toxins than our livers can handle we get fat, toxic fat that is even harder to lose.
Dr. Kalish explains that the adrenals, two glands sitting one on top of each kidney, play a powerful role in our everyday health. Adrenals effect our blood sugar regulation, cells, muscles, bones, connective tissue, memory, learning, sleep, mood, immune system, detox capacity, weight, metabolism, thyroid, sex hormones and more. When our adrenals get overstressed then any one of these other functions can get broken AND messed up adrenals can mess up digestion which starts ANOTHER cascade of problems. Nutrients don’t get absorbed, more toxins slip through, we get food allergies, our antioxidants get used up, and we get fat, tired and depressed. On top of that our brains don’t work because there aren’t enough neurotransmitters being made. Oh boy!
You may not know much about neurotransmitters, but they are very important! Neurotransmitters are special chemicals (made from the amino acids we eat) in the brain that allow nerve cells (also called neurons) to communicate with each other all throughout the body. Our body makes neurotransmitters in well-regulated cycles just like it also makes hormones (why else do they call it your monthly cycle 🙂 ). Two key neurotransmitters that frequently get off balance are dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is energizing, it motivates you and improves your focus, concentration and memory. Serotonin is calming, helps you sleep, and relieves anxiety. Serotonin, or the lack of it, has gotten a lot of media attention in its role in depression. Very few people realize, however, that 95% of the serotonin made in our body goes straight to the digestive tract where it controls digestive function! So not only does low serotonin make us feel depressed, it also causes us to have digestive trouble which, as we know, can cause that cascade of additional problems.
So how do we get deficient in these neurotransmitters? Dr. Kalish says we might be deficient due to our lifestyle because we eat all the wrong things, we are constantly under stress and we don’t get enough sleep; or we might be deficient due to some kind of damage or trauma such as a concussion from a car wreck or exposure to dangerous chemicals; or we might be deficient due to a genetic defect that doesn’t allow us to make enough neurotransmitters. Some people have more than one reason for being deficient.
Dr. Kalish explains in detail how our three systems, digestive/adrenal/detox, work and how breakdowns in any or all can lead to the “Big 5”. He spends time writing about healing the body and the mind and how to find the causes underlying many of our main health concerns. What surprised me was how often he listed stress as the main trigger for the breakdown of our health. Stress burns out our adrenals, it causes our digestive tract to fall apart and it allows toxins to build up. Stress is bad stuff!
Throughout the book Dr. Kalish talks about diagnostic medical tests you can get from functional medical practitioners that help you discover which body system needs help. These tests were developed by Dr. Marty Hinz who has researched and published many papers on how he unraveled the biochemistry of the brain, and has helped his patients to lose weight, improve blood pressure, and stabilize diabetes using nutrition instead of medication. Dr. Kalish also talks about the importance of managing stress. In fact when he first begins treating his patients he always asks them “when did your health problems first start?” and then “what was going on in your life?” He has discovered that 95% of the time a person’s health problems started within 1-2 years of a period of great emotional stress such as grief, loss, financial, work or even something happy like a wedding.
Dr. Kalish lists our three main sources of stress as coming from something emotional such as a divorce, or dietary such as low calorie dieting, or inflammatory such as undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. In fact, he has discovered that so many people don’t realize they are sensitive to gluten that he puts a gluten questionnaire right in the book. I scored an 8 which put me in the “suspected” category. (I had already suspected this myself and have been mostly off gluten for 8 months.)
So what can we do to improve our three systems, give our brain what it needs, and get rid of the “Big 5”? Dr. Kalish advises we find a functional medicine practitioner who can order the diagnostic tests for us. He also recommends a program of stress management, regular plentiful sleep (go to bed by 10pm), exercise at least 30 min. per day 5 days a week, and eat a healthy diet. What is his idea of a healthy diet? He says to eat enough high quality protein to re-stock our brain chemistry. This comes from grassfed beef, pork, lamb, pastured poultry and eggs, wild caught fish, raw or soaked nuts, raw cheeses or goat cheese and yogurts. Eat only unrefined carbohydrates including plenty of fresh vegetables (especially green ones), fruits, beans and gluten-free grains. But most of all include unrefined fats at each and every meal. “If protein is the framework to a brain-healthy diet, then fats are the nails and the bolts. The brain is 80% fat, so it is crucial to have unrefined fat sources at each meal.” He recommends a variety of healthy fats including extra-virgin cold pressed olive oil, sesame oil, cod liver oil, virgin unrefined coconut oil, and real butter or ghee. He especially likes raw butter for its healing qualities. He specifically says to avoid all margarines and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils as well as canola and other vegetable oils. As for beverages – water is best. Additional cautions are given to avoid soy and any genetically modified food, artificial sweeteners and MSG.
Several questionnaires in the appendix allow you to asses your stress levels. You can also learn more by visiting the Wellness Center on his website.
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