The Body Ecology Diet for Recovering Immunity and Health
As with many good things in life, I stumbled upon The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates while looking for something else. I ordered the book for myself, and have since bought copies for two other people. The book shows signs of being “well loved”. It has many passages underlined, and has pencil notes in the margins. It has sticky notes and tabs. I know some of you are nodding, and know just what I’m trying to communicate about this book.
On the cover of The Body Ecology Diet is this statement: “A must-read for anyone who wants to be healthy or who is exhausted, overweight or has digestive problems, candida, viral infections, cancer or neurological disorders such as ADD, Autism, Alzheimer’s, and Multiple Sclerosis.”
Now in its 10th edition!
The Body Ecology Diet is very different from most diets out there. Donna notes that it is not a diet, but a way of life, with food, the right food, being the foundation for wellness. Donna suggests reading through the book to get an overall understanding of the program before trying to start. For me, Donna communicates more information than I could take in with a single reading. Pooh’s statement comes to mind, “I’m a bear with a very small brain”!
I would say that I started reading the book, and started implementing a few concepts right away. Let me warn you, the plan is a huge lifestyle change for most of us. It is very different from any diet I have ever known. One thing that really sets the diet apart, is that the emphasis is on improved digestion, improved immunity, improved health, and slowed aging. Weight loss and a more favorable fat to lean body ratio is a pleasant side effect so to speak, of the more robust health that we will hopefully achieve with the diet.
The Body Ecology Diet, or BED, is based on the principles of Western Medicine, and alternative medicines such as traditional Chinese Medicine and Naturopathy. Donna discusses and compares the BED to other diets and eating plans, including the work of the D’Adamo’s in Eat Right for Your Type, or what some call “the blood type diet”.
7 Principles of The Body Ecology Diet
In the following video, Donna outlines her 7 Principles for The Body Ecology Diet. I know I’m not always in the mood for a video, especially once they get longer than 2 minutes, so I’ll do a brief overview. The order of the principles are different than the book. I’m using a few points from the book to supplement the video summaries.
Principle #1: Uniqueness. We are all different, and no single diet will ever work for everyone. The Body Ecology Diet (BED) book discusses modifications to common diets, such as low carb, vegetarian, and raw foods.
Principle #2: Step by Step. Part 1 is to create energy, correct digestion, conquer infections, and cleanse out toxins. Part 2 is one step at a time. You can’t do it all at once.
Principle #3: Cleansing. The body will always attempt to cleanse itself. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, in Western Medicine, we tend to look on this as sickness. Then we medicate, driving the toxins deeper into our system. Embrace and support your body’s cleansing!
Principle #4: Balance. In traditional Chinese Medicine, this is Yin and Yang. Donna likes to use the terms expansion and contraction. If we are too expansive, we may be scattered or hyperactive. If we are too contractive, there is tightness, like being under stress.
Principle #5: Acid and Alkaline. Our body internal environment should be slightly alkaline. When we are acidic, our body is susceptible to fungal and viral infections, aging, and cancer. We combat this by eating mineral rich foods.
Principle #6: Food Combining. Don’t eat protein foods with starchy grains or starchy vegetables. Proteins and starches do not digest well together. Fermentation and toxins result, causing gas and bloating.
Principle #7: 80/20 principle. Part 1 is don’t eat until you are full. Eat until 80% full, leaving adequate room in your stomach for digestion, and not impede digestive enzymes. Part 2 is 80% vegetables, and 20% protein or 20% starch.
Principles of The Body Ecology Diet
More on the Diet
Balancing Expansive and Contractive Foods
Recall, expansion may make us scattered or hyperactive. At the extreme end of the continuum, is alcohol, drugs and sugar. Also included are coffee, most fruits, and dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese and yogurt. These should all be avoided. On the expansive end, but acceptable if balanced with contractive foods, are some vegetable juices, spices, teas, kefir, raw butter and oils, and lemons, limes, cranberries, and black currant juice.
Contraction is associated with tightness, such as when stressed. Foods include hard cheese, grains and seeds (other than the BED grains), nuts, and beans. These are to be avoided. Acceptable contracting foods, to be balanced with expansive foods, include fish and shellfish, poultry, beef, eggs and sea salt.
Foods balanced in expansion and contraction qualities include salads, raw vegetables, green vegetables, almonds that have been soaked and sprouted, red potatoes, ocean vegetables, root vegetables, winter squash, and BED grains. These are great foods to eat, but within the other rules of the program such as 80/20 and food combining. More on vegetables and grains in a bit.
The 80/20 Rule and Food Combining
Please refer to Principles 6 and 7 above. To me, this is the foundation of your meals and nutrition plan. Also for me, and I suspect most of us, this is quite a departure from our typical eating habits. Since vegetables make up 80% of recommended food consumption, it’s very important to be clear on what vegetables are.
What Constitutes Vegetables?
What vegetables are may seem like a no brainer to most people. Unfortunately, growing up a Southern girl, most of what we called vegetables, I later learned are “breads” or “starches” in the nutrition world. Potatoes, corn, butter beans, pinto beans, and blackeyed peas are sadly not vegetables.
Vegetables are things like salad greens, cucumbers, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, leeks, onions, red radishes, okra, yellow squash, and zucchini squash. The book has a more thorough list of vegetables.
There are only 4 grains recommended by The Body Ecology Diet. They are buckwheat, amaranth, millet, and quinoa. Some of these are technically seeds. Donna recommends soaking any of these for 12 to 24 hours before cooking. They have a “covering” that makes them more difficult to digest, and soaking them removes this cover.
There is a lot more information on these grains in the book of course, along with a few recipes. My sister combed the net and searched out more. I researched BED grain recipes and included many links in my hub on BED grains.
One of the key “weapons in the arsenal” in terms of establishing a more alkali internal environment, discouraging disease and illness, are fermented foods. The primary ones emphasized are cultured vegetables and kefir. These fermented foods are loaded with healthy bacteria. Although they are uncommon in the American diet, they are relatively common in other cultures. Germans eat sauerkraut and Koreans eat Kimchi. Many Middle Eastern cultures drink fermented drinks like kefir.
I searched out and tried several commercially prepared cultured vegetables, but did not like the texture- too soft. And they are incredibly expensive. The best I found are from Immunitrition. Ultimately, my sister and I made our own. I have shared our “lessons learned” and favorite recipes in another hub on fermented foods.
Kefir is typically made from milk, but Donna does not recommend milk products early in your program. She endorses kefir made from young coconut water. My sister and I made kefir with coconut water and with almond milk.
Hopefully I have given you enough information on The Body Ecology Diet for you to decide if it is something you want to try. Pick up a copy of the book, and do your homework, including talking to your doctor.