Integrative Health
integrative health

Why This Neurologist Ate Only Raw Foods For 21 Days

Photo: Nataša Mandić

I believe in the power of food to heal. And that power comes from giving our bodies the wide array of nutrients and vitamins they need to perform their complex daily biochemical reactions with efficiency and precision. Eating raw for a period of time can reset the body as it allows the body to revert to a more primitive—and evolutionarily necessary—ability to chew, digest, absorb, metabolize, and utilize. Cooked foods bypass many of these processes, or at least minimize the need for the body to perform its natural functions.

I chose to do a 21-day raw food diet for two important reasons: The first is because many of my patients would greatly benefit from less inflammatory foods, but all my preaching in the world could not motivate many of them enough to radically change their diets. They needed more than my verbal guidance; I needed to set a shining example. Second, I learned that I had a recurrence of my brain tumor.

I want my patients to realize that they are never alone.

There are no two greater reasons to step up and make a statement to my patients and myself that there's a lot we can do to empower ourselves in the face of health challenges. Because despite the increasing popularity of Facebook groups and support groups, patients often feel they are alone in their despair. I can try to convince them that they are not alone, but I cannot share the plight of other patients due to confidentiality laws.

I do, however, feel it is my obligation—and my honor—to share my story with my patients. No one is immune to bad luck, no one is above tragedy, and all humans experience burden. The lives we lead are not linear, and we have to confront what comes our way. How we choose to confront is the key. And so, in You. We. All. fashion, for 21 days I ate only foods that were not cooked. I chopped, diced, sliced, spiralized, dehydrated, blended, pureed, and juiced each week.

Eating a raw foods diet isn't easy. But it does get easier.

I'm not living in a tropical paradise where foods are abundant in the surrounding landscape. I live in the middle of Seattle with two jobs as a neurologist (in both private practice and a hospital), a husband who works full time, a daughter with more activities than I can count, social gatherings to attend, exercise to do, and an Australian shepherd with a ton of energy. I know from personal experience that it's not easy to find time to change a diet in general, much less to a diet that is thought to be so labor-intensive and often socially difficult.

Photo: Nadine Greeff

At first it seemed insurmountable, but then it got better. I learned to prepare in advance and to pack snacks and meals to eat on the go. I learned there are some foods that are raw, portable, and quite tasty. I reignited my love affair with fruit, and I learned I can make a sandwich using raw sweet potato slices. I also noticed some pretty profound changes in the way my body functions, including:

1. My skin cleared and the texture improved.

2. My sleep was deeper and more restorative.

3. My bowels have never been smoother.

4. I lost 9 pounds.

5. I had incredible amounts of energy and bounce in my step.

6. I felt more motivated in general, as if there was nothing I could not tackle.

7. I rediscovered the real taste of foods before we cook and sauce them up.

My patients were impressed, intrigued, and clearly motivated as they now contact me more regularly to ask for recipes. And I am now ready to face my radiation treatments and am feeling confident I will do well and persevere and continue on my path of trying to help others be well and stay well.

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When it comes to health: We're all in this together.

I always ask my patients to focus on the good while striving to fix the bad. I work to help them see that they are not powerless—ever. There is always something to be done to feel a little more in control, and the most powerful method I have to help them take back their resolve and their grit, beyond my preaching, is to do it myself and make them realize that they have someone on their side and a community surrounding them.

In total honesty, my patients do more to encourage and motivate me than I do them. It is their pain that makes me want to dig deep inside myself and find the strength to show them who they can be, despite the challenges they face. It's only an added perk that I now salivate when I see an avocado or a banana or even a plump leek.

Know someone who's in pain? Here's a neurologist's best advice on how to help them.

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