By Megan Nix
Chances are, you don’t look forward to visiting the doctor. It might be the questions they ask you, the immunizations you’re behind on, the general feeling that your everyday health has taken a backseat to the rest of your busy life. For me, I dreaded doctor’s appointments because I left with less closure than when I’d arrived. I was plagued with chronic stomachaches for a number of years, and was convinced by others who also felt abnormal more days than not, that it was status quo to hurt after eating. I’d seen specialists, had CAT-scans taken of my systems, gone on diets, eliminated sugars, fats, major food groups, and still, the late-in-the-day bellyaches were sending me home early from work.
It was my dad who referred me to Dr. Gerard Guillory, a doctor he’d been seeing for over 20 years, who looks at the human systems holistically rather than as separately functioning units. As a woman in my 20s, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to my father’s doctor, but I haven’t regretted my first visit to The Care Group or any subsequent ones since. The main difference between Dr. Guillory’s practice and my experiences with other doctors is that I left the office with lessons in-hand: read about what you’re eating, trace its roots and you’ll feel like you’re living in your own body.
This book is not only an informant but also a guide to living a more joyful life. Most people today don’t eat to feel good. We eat, myself included, to combat emotional stressors like sadness or anxiety or even plain old boredom. We often eat too much, forgetting each and every time, that the double bacon cheeseburger feels much worse 15 minutes after it goes down than it does in the fleeting moments of the first few bites. Our unhealthy cravings are bolstered by a food industry that wants us to eat too much of the bad stuff (salt, sugar, corn syrup, saturated fats), and too little of the good things (raw vegetables, live cultures, lentils, rice, and untreated meats). This book is how-to-guide: how to understand ourselves, and how to eat so that our happiest selves are the ones doing the living.
Dr. Guillory’s approach to may stomachaches was fairly hands-off. I had tests done on 350 foods, all of which came back as though I had no food intolerances whatsoever. It wasn’t until I sat down with Dr. Guillory and his P.A. Jessica, that I learned a tough-to-swallow truth: I had been eating a diet of almost entirely processed foods. Crackers, low-fat salad dressing, cereal, granola bars, all the fillers of my meals and the snacks in-between were packed with some form of MSG (monosodium glutamate). I left The Care Group with a stack of reading material in-hand and a mission to avoid MSG – the source of my stomachaches, fatigue, and general aloofness – at all costs.
As it turns out, it has cost me less than my life did before, although at first, the journey was frustrating. To navigate through a field of hazardous foods in a society that wills us to blindly consume is like swimming upstream. Guillory advised me to stay away from boxes and bags, to follow a macrobiotic diet of whole grains, legumes, and produce. My lifestyle of eating an energy bar between meetings needed rearranging. I threw out everything that “natural flavors”, carrageenan, “spices”, and hydrolyzed corn, soy or wheat protein – all pseudonyms for MSG, which Guillory believes should be taken off the market. I haven’t been to the doctor for 11 months. I’m a better cook. I don’t crave the treats that use to put a whole in my wallet.
Besides filling me in on the needs and nemeses of my own body, Guillory prescribed me probiotics and Vitamin D and enlightened me with surprising statistics you’ll likely find both appalling and life-changing in this collection of articles. I didn’t even know that bacteria could be protangonists in the story of my stomach. Little did I know we need living cultures in our digestive tracts to get the job done. Other particulars became clear in Dr. Guillory’s office that I wish I had known years ago when I was having expensive procedures done to no avail. For example, did you know that Vitamin D deficiency (helped along by winter months of little sunlight) has been linked to diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, at least 16 different types of cancer, chronic fatigue, and influenza? Did you know that one single drop of liquid Vitamin D under the tongue every day is enough of a change to possibly increase your life expectancy?
From testosterone deficiency in men to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women to water infiltration systems to the history, hidden sources, and consequences of trans fats, Guillory uncovers the truths behind the myth mass media would have us believe. He traces the organic movement back to 1873 and gives reason to buy into it. Most importantly, Guillory’s work questions the things that we’ve been told will do a body good. He takes on statins and proposes, by drawing on other experts’ advice, that for patients who haven’t had heart attacks, drugs like Lipitor, Zocor, and Pravachol are “debatable at best”. In fact, Guillory models that good health should involve debate: debate with our deceptive labels, debate with the FDA, debate with a culture that feeds us unnecessary, damaging items and will continue to do so if we don’t fight back.
In cases of functional hypothyroidism, Guillory challenges the notion that simple blood test can detect the disease, and suggests, instead, that patient undergo unconventional screenings to see if supplementation or a simple diet change is necessary to reverse symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, and difficulty staying warm. Other areas Guillory explores in this collection include gluten sensitivity, appropriate supplementation, the benefits of Omega-3s, the dangers of salt, and how to get the most out of every doctor’s visit, no matter the office.
It has been almost a year since I’ve been following Guillory’s 10 Steps to Better Health. Eating is more enjoyable for me now that I can avoid what upsets my internal organs (MSG, aspartame, anything labeled low-fat or diet). While the change has meant steering clear of convenience of processed and fast foods, it has also meant saving money and my health. My stomachaches are rare, my skin is clearer. My fingernails are longer and my energy level doesn’t plummet after lunch. I attribute my happier, healthier state of being to the lessons I learned in very little time in Dr. Guillory’s company. I’m not sugar-coating when I tell you I actually look forward to going to the doctor because it means leaving with a packet of lesson-packed literature.
Most importantly, Guillory’s writings and his practice have brought a healthy life into realistic view. His simple directives – eat well, exercise, and supplement only when need be – prove that the human body, when treated holistically, should be a fairly self-functioning entity.
Denver writer Megan Nix is a columnist for The Denver Post.