There is a lot of talk about what has been done to the body resultant from the -isms and -archies we’re all too familiar with. Terms like “disembodiment”, “assault on black and brown bodies”, and “bodily harm” are easily found in a vast array of multidisciplinary discourses describing abuse done to the body. Less frequent, and less numerous, are the discourses that center healing the body as a first step towards integrated healing of any condition be it mental/emotional, spiritual, or physical.
Healing practitioners such as Ty Shaw, Esoteric Sexologist, and Katie Spataro, certified doula and sexological bodyworker, teach us - scientifically and spiritually - about the ways trauma roots itself in the body, and thus must be identified, uprooted and healed, in order for any other healing to be sustainably efficacious. Practitioners like Shaw and Spataro utilize contemporary sex education and sexological body work techniques coupled with holistic earth-based spiritual practices to support individuals in regaining their bodily autonomy, free themselves from crippling trauma, and establish a sustainable personal embodiment practice. If you find yourself either in Atlanta or Seattle, I suggest you look them up.
Today, however, I want to focus on an area that we take for granted because it is so commonplace, but enormously impacts the body and embodiment: food. Let’s face it, humans’ connection to nature is more distant than ever before. We do not touch trees, smell flowers, nor till soil. Maybe if we’re at the beach we sink our feet in the sand and water. If we’ve a green thumb and enough light in our apartments, maybe we’ll touch the soil in our potted plants.
We are certainly not growing our own food. That means we generally don’t see who grows our produce and where it’s grown, who sources our fish, and who raised the cow and subsequently butchered our meat. We assume that what our grocery stores provision is reliable. If you are working class or poor - yes socio-economic class has major impacts on one’s diet and nutrition - these assumptions matter not because grocery stores are likely one of a precious few options for purchasing food.
All of the aforementioned contribute to a disconnection from the food and by extension our bodies. Our food arrives to us, from where we don’t know, hopefully in good condition (though we can’t be sure) and with the presumption that it will be healthy. The intentionally low cost of carbohydrates, sugary snacks, and preservative rich products versus the higher cost of fresh produce, fresh fish and seafood, and farm raised meat and poultry all unfairly influence the diet of many people, particularly in the US. Add to this the existing capitalist consumerist culture, which promotes instant gratification, then you have a recipe for all of our contemporary human ailments.
How do we reconnect?
For me, my first inclination was research. During the most intense period of anxiety I ever had in my adult life, I ended up researching natural remedies because I refused and rebuked even the notion of pharmaceutical treatment. This led me down a deep rabbit hole where I eventually uncovered a sobering truth: inflammation factors in and exacerbates all chronic illness. Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD of ThePaleoMom.com sums it up succinctly, within the context of autoimmune conditions,
“In some cases, an immune system that isn’t regulating itself properly direct causes illness; in other, inflammation is merely an element of illness or a contributor to how the illness came about - but it is always a player and a problem. What this means is that reducing inflammation and giving the immune system the resources it needs, as well as the opportunity to regulate itself, can help in every single chronic illness. This is important because inflammation is strongly influenced by what we eat, how well we sleep, and how active we are. And this is why chronic illness can respond so positively to changes in diet and lifestyle.”
All that said, I knew that an improvement in or eradication of my anxiety was contingent on a significantly improved diet that was intentionally combated inflammation and a new lifestyle that was anti-stress. For me that has meant a significant reduction in what I can put in my body. While poultry, meat, seafood, and fish were encouraged, legumes, nightshade foods, grains, nuts, cooking oils (except for olive and coconut), dairy, alcohol, and coffee were off limits. Additionally, I needed to up my protein intake, healthy fat, water and sleep quotas.
Ancestral eating habits
As people have become more conscious of and cautious about their nutrition, the term ancestral eating has popularized. To quote ancestral-nutrition.com, “Ancestral eating is simply eating unrefined, unprocessed, whole foods that have been around for thousands and thousands of years.” In practice what that does that mean? It means examining where you’re from in generations past, as far as you can go back, and adding the foods your ancestors ate into your diet. It also means sourcing those foods locally and sustainably.
Ancestral eating promotes a protein heavy, fat intense diet, suited for building strong muscle and bone, sustaining healthy gastrointestinal function, and very importantly it is anti-inflammatory. It includes meat derived from grass fed cows, sheep, and goats; full fats such as raw dairy; traditional animal and vegetable fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, beef tallow, lard and butter; wild fish and seafood; and organic fruits and vegetables. It also means eating whole grains still containing the germ and the bran, which provide the bulk of grains’ fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. I would also add that it means learning and applying healthy methods of preparing and combining the aforementioned kinds of foods.
For those of us with auto-immune conditions, I also offer this list from ThePaleoMom.com. It is restrictive but, in my experience, it is best used as guide for healthy eating that can minimize the adverse symptoms of many auto-immune conditions. It has personally helped me to eat for reduced inflammation.
A last note specific to ancestral eating, many of us do not live in the places from which our ancestors originated. Many of us are mixed ancestry. If you know your family’s ethnic and regional origins, use that as a starting point for your research. If you don’t know, trial and error is the way to go until you find your version of ancestral eating that energizes, nourished, and heals any existing conditions.
In addition to the aforementioned, supplementing with vitamins and minerals has helped my bodily healing process, especially where anxiety and depression are concerned, immensely. Below is my anti-anxiety and anti-depression regimen:
L-Theanine (derives from green tea, calms the mind) + CBD (cannabidiol derived from marijuana, an adaptogen promoting normal stress response in body)
GABA (amino acid focus, take as needed)
Turmeric (anti-inflammatory) + Astralagus (immune system booster)
L-Glutamine (an amino acid that heals scepsis caused by a leaky gut, which is a major cause of inflammation)
Probiotic (to promote healthy gut bacteria and regular bowel movements)
Magnesiun (to minimize heart palpitations)
So I imagine you’re wondering how all these work together. *ahem* Long term anxiety and depression results in excessive, unregulated quantities of cortisol in the body. Excess cortisol causes inflammation and inflammation exacerbates anxiety and depression. To reestablish normal stress response, you’ve got to (at least) roll back the excess cortisol production and existing inflammation. To sustain that normalized state, you need to actively promote a healthy immune system and prevent, to the largest degree possible, additional inflammation.
Again, research is key. I love CBD but as with anything the body can develop a resistance to it. There are a host of other adaptogens. Try a few and use the ones that resonate best with your body.
How to start healing the body with food
To summarize, here are some initial steps to take:
Research your ancestors’ ethnic and regional origins and their ancestral food habits.
Research the farms, farmer’s markets, butchers, and fishmongers in your area that sell wild caught, sustainable, organic, grass fed, full fat, traditional fat food stuffs. Increasingly, farms are developing larder share programs like this one in Washington state, which allow customers to buy into a program from June to October where they can choose weekly boxes of organic produce.
Research vitamin supplements to support your specific health conditions and ancestral eating lifestyle.
Seek advice from a nutritionist, naturopathic doctor, or herbalist specializing in your particular health condition to develop a eating plan that both heals your ailments and nourishes your entire body.
Be wary of trending diets. If they work for you, great; however, under no circumstances should these diets deprive you of the basic nutrients your body needs.
Be wary of veganism. Yes, I said it and yes, I’m aware my statement is polemical. Yes, many of our earliest known ancestors were vegan; however, the introduction of meat into our ancestral diets offered significant biological evolutionary gains that our bodies still benefit from today. That said, if you choose veganism, prepare to be even more rigorous in your approach to finding in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, etc. your body’s required amount of protein, iron, and other necessary components for writ large nourishment. Veganism isn’t switching from processed meats to processed soy. Like any other way of eating, it should be about conscious selection, combination, preparation of foods that provide the nourishment your body needs to thrive. Like whatever way of eating you choose, it needs to be informed by what your body is telling you it needs. I advise anyone considering veganism to reread and take action on item number 4 of this list.
Learn to listen to your body. If drinking wine gives you heart palpitations, pull back. If cheese and other mucus forming foods inflame your lungs and nasal passages, eliminate those from your diet. If a steak or lamb chop once a month energizes you with the iron and protein you need, do that. If that morning pastry leaves you foggy and hungry an hour later, maybe refined flour and sugar products don’t work for you. You get my drift.
Your body, the brain included, is a loci of consciousness. The skin tells you a story, the tongue tells you another. If your body is constantly rebelling against you, and you’re clueless as to why, you’re not listening to it. I, too, am guilty of this and am working on doing better by following the advice I’ve just shared with you.
Part II of this blog series will focus on dance and other forms of movement as tools for healing and re-embodiment.
Negarra A. Kudumu
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