We tend to turn to medicine to help treat health problems.
But maybe we should consider the role food could play, too?
Physiotherapist Louise Blanchfield was desperate to help improve her husband Richard’s health after he developed a form of inflammatory arthritis that led to him walking with a stick, and being told by his doctor he’d eventually need to use a wheelchair.
He already had the inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis, so was faced with a lot of pain.
Louise began researching the links between inflammation in the body and diet and lifestyle, and devised a diet designed to reduce inflammation and promote gut health.
Although sceptical at first, within weeks, Richard had started noticing improvements, and over the following year or so slowly got better and better.
“His joint pain cleared, his movement got easier, and function improved,” says Louise. “Little did we know that what we did was going to actually reverse all of his symptoms.”
These improvements were shown in a colonoscopy the following year, too. Richard’s bowel looked normal and the scarring from previous ulcerative colitis attacks had repaired.
Louise was so impressed that she trained as a nutritional therapist and is now known as “the Food Physio” (thefoodphysio.com), while she and Richard have shared their recipe ideas in a new book.
Louise believes it could be beneficial for people suffering from a range of autoimmune diseases and inflammatory conditions.
“Modern medicine had run out of answers, except take the tablet and get worse,” she says.
“Believing the root cause to Richard’s problems was a damaged gut barrier, and a consequent overreaction of his immune system to food getting into his bloodstream that shouldn’t have been able to get through, we set about trying to eat to heal the damage, settle the immune system reaction and calm the inflammation.
“We did this by removing foods we believed may be causing the gut damage, eating foods which contain nutrients needed for the gut to repair itself, and eating foods which are anti-inflammatory in nature.
“Richard is now totally pain free without any medication. I would never have dreamed this was possible. Our bodies are amazing, and given the right environment, it’s incredible what they can achieve. Richard is proof of that.”
Of course, it’s important to remember everybody is different, and our health and dietary needs aren’t always the same. It’s never advisable to make any changes to your treatment regime, or any big diet changes without discussing it carefully with your own doctor.
“Following a gluten and dairy-free diet, to remove probable food intolerances inflaming or damaging the gut, proved beneficial for Richard. However, this doesn’t mean ditching gluten and dairy is right for everyone,” adds Loiuse.
“Eating raw garlic, via an olive tapenade recipe in the book, was another change he adopted. This is to help balance gut bacteria, as it kills bad bacteria.
“Eating eight to 10 servings of fruit and veg per day, rather than five, can boost antioxidant levels and provide extra vitamins and minerals needed for optimum body function.
“Sauerkraut is said to help boost good gut bacteria. This is due to it being a fermented vegetable containing good bacteria, and because cabbage contains glutamine, which is needed as a fuel by gut cells.”
Louise says avoiding white potatoes and white rice, as they can feed harmful bacteria in the gut, was another change Richard found helpful.
“Eat a variety of coloured fruit and vegetables, as this will give a good mix of vitamins and minerals. Include sweet potatoes, beetroot, turnip and carrots, as they feed beneficial bacteria and help them grow in numbers.
“Also, make and eat chicken bone broth as the collagen in it helps the gut to heal, while processed food contains additives that add to the toxic load in our bodies, increasing inflammation and making digestion harder.
“Alcohol is also inflammatory and adds to the toxic load, but don’t have a fizzy drink instead as they’re inflammatory, too.”
Louise suggests avoiding pork products as she feels they’re very inflammatory, and steering clear of cakes, biscuits and crisps, as they’re made from inflammatory fats.
“Try to avoid vegetable oils,” says Louise, “but include spices like ginger and turmeric regularly in your diet, as they are highly anti-inflammatory.
“Richard followed the diet for nine months, before easing off some of the strict measures. Now, he can eat gluten and dairy on a rotational basis – once with no resurgence, and can even go off the plan on holiday for up to three weeks.”
Eating My Way Back To Health by Louise and Richard Blanchfield, published by Purple Star Publishing, is available now.