Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What the Bible Says about Healthy Living

Several months ago, on the recommendation of a midwife friend, I read the book What the Bible Says About Healthy Living by Dr. Rex Russell. Jessica’s reading it now. I was skeptical at first because of the title, wondering what, besides books, this guy was selling. But, I was pleased to find that to make the nutritional changes he recommends, you don’t have to buy any recommended supplements (like Dead Sea Algae Capsules) or prepackaged “holy” foods. Instead, his approach is to recommend that we keep the dietary guidelines of the Mosaic Law.

His story is that he and his family were chronically run down and plagued with chronic illnesses – diabetes, arthritis, deterioration of his eyesight, cavities, among others. Even though he is a doctor, and was following the recommended treatments, he wasn’t getting much better. He tried other non-traditional treatments, like eating a fistful of vitamins every day, to no avail. Then he had the epiphany to give the Mosiac dietary laws a try. He found that in his own family and eventually in his patients that tried the same approach that many of these chronic conditions and others went away or diminished.

He distills the Levitical lists of eats and don’t-eats into three principles:

Eat only the foods that God created for human food – No scavengers like pork, shellfish, fish with skin not scales, birds without a gizzard, etc. These are nature’s trash collectors, full of toxins. Eat all the fruits, veggies, whole grains, seeds, and nuts you want.

Don’t alter God’s design – Eat whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. Drink water. Avoid meats that have been pumped full of antibiotics and hormones (which, because of price constraints and the minimal amount of meat your body really needs, means greatly reducing the amount of meat you eat). The food and drink that have been chemically altered, stripped, enriched, colored, preserved, hydrogenated, and fortified lose their nutritional qualities and fill you up with chemicals that have bad or unknown effects on your health.

Don’t let any food or drink become your god – Practice fasting to give your body its needed rest and to break any food addictions, like sugar and, ahem, caffeine.

He weaves in medical statistics and cases to back up his points. Those stats seem plausible to me, but more convincing is the theology and simplicity of the approach.

On the theology front, he opens the book quoting Moses’ speech to the Isrealites in Exodous 15. Moses is telling them about how God will bless them if they follow His Law. These blessings, Dr. Russell explains, are not just a matter of being cosmically square with God, but are tangible blessings of a better life: avoiding some diseases, relationship problems, property disputes, etc. that can be avoided. I’m with him on this point. And he doesn’t overstate it. No “health and wealth” claims of a charmed life. Some diseases and bad situations you simply cannot avoid or cure. He still has diabetes, though it has gotten better on the new diet. And, he doesn’t claim that eating this way makes you righter with God. And, you don’t have to keep a kosher kitchen, too tall of an order for me.

On the simplicity side, the principles pretty well knock out all of the food in the middle of any grocery store, where all of the processed, mass advertised stuff is. On this plan, you pretty much shop the perimeter of the grocery store, and buy things with price tags uninflated by advertising dollars. Eating this way can stretch your grocery dollar, keep you away from the doctor and dentist, and cut the amount of time you spend in the grocery store. Educating our children and communities to eat this way could benefit public health and allow the poor to eat and feel better.

We’ve started eating this way, and its not been absolutely easy. Convenience foods are pretty much eliminated on this plan. No more Create-a-Meals or Hamburger Helper, so stuff takes longer to prepare. And, we’ve switched to organic milk and as much as we can to organic meat, which are more expensive. But we have seen a net reduction in our grocery budget as a result, and we can feel the health effects of reducing processed sugar, white flour, pork, and other things. When we eat these things occasionally now, we can tell almost immediately that they make us feel worse.

-The Schweigers


Greg said...

We are trying to implement many of these things into our diets as well. We have decided to go the healthy route and lessen the chances for illnesses and trips to the doctor (and the prescriptions that they love to write). We have also opted for a medical plan at my work that has much lower premiums with larger deductibles and copays. We save that money to eat healthier foods.

You didn't mention it, but cancer research is showing more and more that the disease is caused by toxins in the body (free radicals) and diets poor in fresh fruits and vegetables (among other nutrients). I have read a book by Dr. Michael Murray called "How to Prevent and Treat Cancer with Natural Medicine." I recommend it if that sort of thing interests you.

Anonymous said...

My husband read this book last year. He stuck closely to the diet and I did too with a few exceptions. We are not overweight and never have been but we both lost weight and felt better than ever! We have since strayed from the principals and I am wanting to get back to it. It seems a little strange to eat like this at first but once you do it for a little while it makes so much sense.

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