The month of November this year was crucial for the campaign to make people aware of the food they put in their mouths and feed their families. Proposition 37 of the People of the State of California, even though it did not pass by a very small margin, sought to alert us of the dangers of tampering with the food supply as nature intended and has evolved it for us through millennia. The main drive behind Prop 37 was the right to know if our food is truly natural or contains Genetically Modified Organisms. Many experts in the fields of medicine, epidemiology, biology, agriculture and others came forward and offered their staggering findings and real dangers for everyone’s health, including crops and cattle, if our food supply continues to be disrupted for the sake of profit or short-term economics without regard for the consequences in future generations.
We posed some of these questions to Dr Iverson in this interview, a practitioner of Naturopathic Medicine and and expert in Medical Botany, following up on his recent books, Nature’s Diet and Nature’s Diet Cookbook and Meal Planner. Dr Iverson goes way beyond the discussion of whether organic foods are the way to go for a healthy life or GMO foods are dangerous. He brings our focus to the wisdom of nature and what we can learn from becoming more aware of our bodies and diet and what foods promote our health and well-being and which ones are not suitable for us individually. He insists that finding the right balance with nature and within ourselves, mentally and spiritually, may surprisingly start with the kinds of foods we eat and put in our bellies. He calls it, reaching wisdom and spirituality through the backdoor of food. He invites us, with the help of his new cookbook, to discover the flavors of nature’s wisdom and learn to prepare our foods as nature intended, wholesome, healthy, life-promoting, and yummy tasty to our hearts and souls delight! Enjoy this wonderful exclusive interview with Dr Iverson for SuperConsciousness Magazine.
SC: We had an interview with you for SuperConsciousness Magazine earlier this year on your first book, Nature's Diet. Now you have just released the sequel and it's called, Nature's Diet Cookbook and Meal Planner, correct?
Andrew Iverson: You're right. It just came out. I would say that this is actually a stand-alone book, and more than likely people are going to be more attracted to the cookbook, because it's a practical handbook.
SC: In the first book you talk about a 21-day program which is easy to implement and can have drastic benefits on our health, just by changing our diet and the way we eat and becoming more aware, more conscious of our eating habits and listening to the “voice” of our bodies and nature. Can you briefly tell us about those ideas you presented in your first book and why the 21-day program is important?
AI: Let's just start from the perspective of the basic title, which is “Nature's Diet." There are so many diet books out there, however, this is a reflection on what nature does on a daily basis that we seem to forget about, the way the animals eat and humans did in their original homes. Before we had the ability to transport ourselves all over the world, humans adapted to the territories in which they lived. This 21-day program is just a reflection of the way animals eat, and the way humans epidemiologically have eaten according to where they have lived. Each of the days takes us through a particular criteria that we want to add into our lifestyle in order to mimic as closely as possible what nature is doing.
What I've found is that so many people are really excited about getting into the book, Nature's Diet, and they get through the first week and then it starts to become, let's say, less interesting or potentially more difficult to continue on past the first week, because it's rather straightforward and simple the first week, and then it gets more challenging. What I like about the cookbook is it really gives a person a manual on what they can do on a given basis. It has dozens and dozens of food options, whether or not you're an individual who is more of a Yin dominant or Yang dominant or a person that is plant dominant or protein dominant, which I think is also valid to talk about. Then it puts it in a category so that you can determine, as well, if you don’t fall into either one of those and if you are better off just following the seasons, whether it be a warm season or a cool climate.
SC: Why should we be changing our diet to mimic nature? What's the problem with the current diet right now?
AI: It's pretty clear that the food we're eating right now is nothing like our ancestors have ever eaten. It has taken millions of dollars of research to prove that packaged foods and fast foods are actually deteriorating our health. Why should we look to nature? Well, what else do we really have? What else can we really identify as being the truth? Nature in itself is all that we are given to reflect upon. Science changes. Year after year we hear something else is new for us or something else is no longer good for us. It's hard for us to even say that anything in science is static. What can we really depend on? The world around us.
If we take into consideration why we would change our foods based upon the temperature of the seasons, or that some people are better as protein dominant or plant dominant, it's all based upon what the earth would be doing if we hadn't become so developed in our food taste and food processing.
If you look at northerly territories where humans have lived in cooler and cold environments, the food that's available to them is typically going to be animal in nature, whether it be the Inuit Eskimos living in the northern territories eating a lot of whale blubber and other types of caribou or mammals that are predominantly fat-based. They eat very little vegetables, but the vegetables they do have are more starchy based. You see, nature is providing for them a specific fuel that matches their genetic disposition and their environment.
It has taken millions of dollars of research to prove that packaged foods and fast foods are actually deteriorating our health.
More heat is going to be generated with food that is higher in protein and fat and complex carbohydrates. In contrast with that, the equatorial regions tend to be areas where people are exposed to more natural heat, more natural sunshine, and there is a lot more plant life that we identify with the tropical forests, and also tropical fruits, which are all going to be higher in sugar. Because a person is more likely to sweat and lose electrolytes in the form of minerals, these people in their natural environment are given many more foods that are high in electrolytes and higher in the natural sugar so that their body can counterbalance the sweating that occurs in these places.
SC: You make the point that we need to get closer to nature and learn its wisdom, that it would benefit our health. But you also mention that we have been conditioned to foods that taste good and are filled with chemicals or heavily processed. Can you talk a little about that?
AI: I went to Panama several years ago and I had the opportunity to visit the Kuna Islands, which are considered to be some of the most untouched islands in the Caribbean. The people there have one little store on their entire archipelago of islands, and the store serves just very, very basic necessities. The people predominantly eat the food that they are able to catch from the water, grow in their own yards, and harvest from the forest, the jungles. I met a man there. He was the local medicine man, named, Don Juan. Don Juan, in his 40-plus years being the local medicine man, had only seen five cases of cancer.
We have to say there must be some type of correlation between what a person has access to and the disease process in general. Of course these people are not living where there are cars. There are no cars on these islands. They don’t have the access of chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis, whether it be from cleaning supplies or preservatives in our food or the food that's stored in plastic or even due to the very food that we eat that has herbicides, pesticides, and hormones. This is not exposed to these individuals, so of course those potential pre-carcinogenic chemicals are not in contact with these people.
Let's take in a very basic concept. Something that people often bring up to me is they say, "What is your problem with tropical fruit," or, "Why do you say that I'm not able to have, let's say, pineapple with my meal," and I said to them very plainly, "If you were an animal walking on the planet, would you be able to have a meal of rice, lettuce, fish and pineapple or banana for dessert," and the honest to goodness truth is it would be, “Absolutely, no!” because you wouldn’t be able to find all those foods in your one environment. And not only that, but many of these foods grow in a particular season. When somebody says, "You know, I'm very comfortable with the foods I eat. I eat them every single day," and I reflect upon them and I say, "But do the animals eat the same foods every single day? Are they able to eat the same foods in summer as they eat in the winter," and they just are not, because winter provides different foods than summer does. Nature provides for us different types of nutrients depending upon what time of year it is and where the country is located demographically.
SC: In your new book, Nature’s Diet Cookbook, is it structured in a way that helps the reader figure out what foods would be best for their health or to even reverse some of their ailments?
AI: In order to grab the reader we wanted to make it as interesting and as simple as possible. It's very similar to the format of Nature's Diet, where I didn’t want to get hung up in scientific minutia. In the very beginning there is a page that basically breaks it down to very simple three questions: Number one, "Are you somebody who can go a long time without eating, or are you hungry all the time?" Number two, "Are you somebody who feels satisfied with a light meal, or are you somebody who needs some type of protein or fat to really feel satisfied?" and the final component is, "Are you someone who feels that you have a sluggish digestion or that you just don’t break down food very well, or are you someone who can eat anything at any time of the day?" If you fall into the prior, a person who can go a long time without eating, feels satisfied easily and tends to have stomach weakness or digestion, these are people who do better with lighter and easier-to-digest foods, or what we call "Plant Dominant” type. We might even refer to them as the "Vegetarian Dominant” type, and many of these people do quite well on a predominantly plant-based diet, a vegetarian diet.
On the other hand, we have individuals whose metabolic makeup increases to the point where they feel hungry all the time, and these individuals need a higher proportion of proteins and fats so that they aren't feeling the need of wanting to eat sugar all the time, or reaching out for some type of sweet snack. So we've taken both of those groups under consideration, the Plant Dominant and the Protein, Fat Dominant, and put them into categories, along with breaking down Yang and Yin Dominants. Yang, in Chinese medicine, is considered to be expanding. These individuals tend to feel warmer in general and might also have a redness to their face. They tend to carry abdominal weight and have conditions of excess, whether it be excess blood pressure, excess cholesterol, excess blood sugar. These individuals are your expanding individuals. They have too much heat; they're too hot. They're Yang Dominant.
The opposite of that would be the Yin Dominant. These are the cold individuals. They often tend to feel cool, even when the weather is mild. They tend to be underweight, slim, and often will have a pallor to their skin. They're the individuals who will have glandular insufficiencies, whether they be thyroid insufficiency, adrenaline insufficiency, and even hormonal insufficiencies as far as the sex hormones, imbalances in their female cycle, or even men that have a hard time with maintaining libido. So you can see there are two extremes. You have the hot and you have the cold, and what I've done in the cookbook is break them down for foods that emphasize heat for those that are too cold, and emphasize cooling for those that are too hot. If you don’t really fall in either one of them then we follow what nature would do for us if we were to follow the seasons. In the summertime nature provides for us a lot of plant material, and so during the summertime it's better for us to eat predominantly plant-based, or cooling foods that are high in water content, to cool the heat. As we come into the wintertime, it's better for us to eat the foods that nature is providing, which are predominantly going to be the root vegetables, the squashes, the dried beans, and the meats. This is what nature naturally would do as the climate changes from warm to cool.
SC: You offer easy ways for people to identify themselves and their needs, and then provide recipes to cook very tasty food for themselves.
AI: I will say that, thankfully, and I talk a little bit about this in the introduction of my book, my mother is a huge part of this book. She was the second of nine children. She started cooking when she was five years old, living on a dairy farm, cooking for all these children. She very quickly became a master in her cooking, and it wasn't until later in her life that she was taught some of the importance of health, and she started to change her own ways of cooking as far as using less of the high-fat foods and less of the high-sugar foods, which were very much used naturally when growing up on a farm.
We had butter available to us all the time, dairy products, so, as she started to become more health-oriented, she took her recipes that she had been using since she was just a little girl and transforming them into sugar-free recipes that are not necessarily sugar-free but are based upon natural sugars instead of white processed sugar. She began transforming the different foods that would require white flour and started making them so that they would be more wholesome using wholesome grains, and of course utilizing less of the dairy products, if any at all, to make sure that the foods did not have the high amount of dairy in them. Mom was able to transcribe her recipes into ones that were also wheat-free or gluten-free, which so many people have challenges with.
What we're looking at are foods that have been really tested over the years, delicious combinations that most people, if they tasted them, would think that they were restaurant worthy. That's what we grew up with, with very good wholesome tasty food, and I wanted to make it easy for people so they could open up and say, "Hey, I can very easily do this, and the family is not going to complain.” That's a real big part of compliance. We've got to have it made easy so people follow through with the foods.
SC: That's wonderful! Mothers have always been such an icon that helps us understand what nature really is, a big mother that gives and provides lovingly. You speak a lot about nature, going back nature’s ways, and it is even part of the title of your books. Would you, then, promote a fully organic based diet with only organic products instead of artificial processed foods?
AI: I think "organic" is probably not the best word to use. Let's just use "wholesome" and "natural." There are absolutely areas that I recommend people buying organic, such as the meats. Any of the products that are from animals need to be purchased organic, because they're higher up the food chain, and animals concentrate the chemicals in their fat. However, if somebody is challenged financially, I'll say you do your best. If you can't afford to buy organic from the store then of course just do your best. I of course would prefer people to be able to do organic, but not everyone can do so.
SC: What is your opinion on GMO foods — Genetically Modified Organisms — and the battle in California with the people’s Proposition 37 to label all GMO foods as such and stop advertising them as “natural” foods? People are insisting on their right to know what food they are eating and whether it has been genetically modified and is not really a natural food as nature provides them?
AI: We don’t understand, just like we don’t understand the capacity of chemicals in our environment, what impact every small piece of the puzzle is having on our health. What I mean by that is there are so many small pieces of the puzzle, whether or not it be something we put in our mouth, or something we put within our consciousness, and Genetically Modified Organisms are clearly so far deviated from what we consider to be natural that my opinion is absolutely contrary to the benefit that they would have for humans.
We have to understand what is actually happening with the Genetically Modified Organisms. Humans are splicing and putting genetic components of something as strange as a virus within a component of corn or soy. This is so far away from what nature intended that we can only expect that in the long-term something could be deleterious because of this. I'm not going to try to rationalize it or surmise what's going to happen, but it's no different than any other aspect of humans getting too far involved and trying to expand production without understanding what the vital message is, really. In this case it is, "What will the long-term effect be?" And it doesn’t matter if it has to do with being able to create more money in any particular area of the economy. Genetically Modified foods are for farmers to be able to make more food that costs less to produce, and that's where the challenge lies.
SC: But what are the health benefits or detriment from such an economic gain? In your practice, would you specifically recommend to some of your patients with certain ailments and say, "Go organic, go natural, avoid heavily-processed or GMO food?" Has that become a necessary measure in your practice?
AI: Okay, let's say it like this. Most of the Genetically Modified foods are going to be used in processed foods. So, naturally, by adapting to the food recommendations that nature provides, you would not be eating them anyway. Many of your conventional processed grains, whether it be from cereals, crackers, breads, many of these are all made with conventional GMO grains, and the same thing when it comes to soy products. You're going to find those in most of your processed foods in the soybean oil and what have you. I'm a scientist. You have to understand this, I just don’t want to say that something is due to something else unless I have valid information behind it, but I would be crazy to think that I need to wait for the valid information to come out to not recommend eating these types of foods which are completely against nature.
Humans are splicing and putting genetic components of something as strange as a virus within a component of corn or soy. This is so far away from what nature intended that we can only expect that in the long-term something could be deleterious because of this.
Processed foods are where most of the GMO foods are located. I think it's also fair to say that the biggest concern with the GMO foods is what is happening to the immune system, because what is recognized is that there could be a higher association with allergies and the consumption of Genetically Modified Organisms. What is an allergy? An allergy is an over-response from your white blood cells, an over-response from your immune system. If the immune system is responding in this way, why couldn't it respond in any number of ways, including becoming overactive and cause a type of autoimmune response, is something that we are seeing now in the twenty-first century as we've never seen before. Autoimmune responses are on the rise, and there really is no explanation for why they are, other than, in my opinion, the environment.
SC: You mentioned in your book about flavor enhancers in processed food, that they train our brains to want to eat more of the processed foods. Basically, we are not eating for health or nutrition. Our culture has deviated from that, and more and more people have become compulsive eaters. We're addicted and conditioned to the flavor enhancers now. Can you please comment?
AI: That's part of it, but it also has to do with time, money, convenience; all of these are a big part of it. I will assure you, if we had more — and this is a dream of mine — healthy fast food, drive-through restaurants, if we had as many of them as we have McDonald's, at a price that people could afford, I'm certain that there would be a lot more conscious choices about the food we are eating. It comes down to the food available, is it a good price, and can I get it quickly enough that I can get onto my next activity. This is what we're seeing in our First-World countries now. We are putting aside nutrition so that we have more time to do whatever it is that we feel needs to be done ahead of that. Families aren't sitting down at the dinner table to eat any longer. Families aren't preparing meals together like they were, even back in the '50s, and this is a huge shift that has happened in the last 50 years with the advent of processed foods, the advent of medical science, thinking that, "Okay. If I get sick, science will take care of me." And that is such a contrary position to the way our ancestors once thought, because we really didn’t have the answers in medical science at that time for us to be taken care of by modern science.
Okay, let's say it like this. Most of the Genetically Modified foods are going to be used in processed foods. So, naturally, by adapting to the food recommendations that nature provides, you would not be eating them anyway.
This takes us back to Panama. When we look at what the children were eating, the children were not eating bags of chips, and candy, and pop, and the parents weren't throwing pizza inside the oven at the end of a day. They were eating what was available to them on the island. The problem we face is because we have more money and the availability, at any time, to just go buy food quick, fast and easy, and it satisfies us. We're satisfied, we feel full, but we don’t really have a mechanism that tells us whether or not we receive the proper nutrition or nourishment that's needed by ourselves. All that we really have in us tells us whether or not we got enough calories or enough energy and, because of this, we are adapting to foods that satisfy us, taste good, yet are nutrient deficient. The problem in the long run is that the real food just doesn’t taste good anymore. The food of our ancestors, even food right from the garden taste tasteless to some people that have been on a food that's high in these chemical enhancers.
SC: You created the 21-day program to turn the wheels on our state of health and the current conditioning to unnatural chemicals we find ourselves in culturally. But why 21 days specifically? Why is that important?
AI: Just like I was talking about earlier, most people get through the first week and then they're done. I'd say that's probably one of the most difficult challenges with this profession, to have compliance. It's much easier for somebody to take a medicine, to say, "Just take this pill and you'll be fine. Continue eating the way you are." However, when we're trying to adapt the lifestyle of our ancestors, it's the retraining that was really required.
I just had a patient this morning come in, and she said, "You know, it's really funny that it's taken three appointments for me to get down the first concept you brought up on the first one." It's about repetition, and the reason behind the 21 days is that we continue to do what we do on the first day throughout the entire 21 days. In the first few days are the most important qualities and characteristics, which are like adding exercise, adding water, adding good vegetable content, protein content, starch content, fat content, and carrying that out throughout the entire process so that you can start to see the effects within your own body. Ideally it would be 360 days, right? Because 21 days isn't nearly enough to create what we need as far as locking in the health. However, we've got to start somewhere. I would say that the compliance level, especially for people who are not sick, is the hardest thing. Sick people are much more compliant, especially people with severe illnesses. They follow everything that's recommended, and very commonly they see improvements with nutrition alone, and that's what's so beautiful.
It comes down to the food available, is it a good price, and can I get it quickly enough that I can get onto my next activity. This is what we're seeing in our First-World countries now. We are putting aside nutrition so that we have more time to do whatever
SC: As you have explained, we do not have the natural mechanism, physiologically, to alert us what to eat and what to avoid or moderate for our own well-being. It appears that we need to rely on being well informed and becoming more personally conscious of the food we buy and eat and give our families. Can you elaborate on the importance of us becoming more aware and our own physician, which you also mention in your book?
AI: There's no one responsible for our health; only us. We are the primary individual who is responsible for our health. That's very different than the model of yesteryear when the doctor was responsible for our health.
This is probably the most important part that we can talk about, because when you start to change the foods you put into your body, you start to change the organism, and when you start to change the organism, the organism can have a shift that is unlike what we would expect if we were just to continue to eat the foods that required no thought. Let me say this in a different way. Many patients who come in here really don’t know what they're about to undergo when they come in. They may come in for something as simple as weight loss and will end up talking about how they've formed a connection with food at a very young age because of either a reward system that they were brought up with in their family, or maybe an aversion to certain foods that were healthy for them because of something that they recognize as being a punishment.
The very food that we put in our mouth can change our perception. I was actually talking to a colleague about this. Naturopathic medicine in itself is the beginning of a shift. When a person starts to become aware of what they put into their mouth, it is the beginning of becoming aware of other connections they have, whether it be with their thoughts, with other individuals, with their own Spirit. Becoming aware of what you put in your mouth is the very foundation of what we can change as far as human health is concerned. As a person begins to eat better and they start to notice that their energy is getting better, that their sleep, their mood is better, then their consciousness focuses less on, "I'm hungry. I'm needy. I need to be cared for," or, "I'm in pain; I'm sick," and can be shifted towards something that is more positive, such as, "What is it that I want in my life," or, "What is it that I enjoy," or, "How can I enjoy this life more now that my body is more healthy?"
And in a fascinating way, the body or the organism will often be given opportunities, healing opportunities, emotional opportunities, to clear something that it has been carrying in the past as the body starts to become stronger from a physical perspective. For instance, if someone has a long history of traumas as a child, or just general traumas as they've been growing up, and they start to have a stronger sense of self and a stronger physical body, they'll start to notice that they're able to handle the way they communicate themselves in the world. That will in turn unfold less trauma in their day-to-day life and, eventually, they will be able to handle situations that they were not able to at one time because their body is stronger overall. They're able to adapt to conditions that they may not have been able to adapt to prior.
I'm finding that my medicine and my way of treating is changing as I become more in-tune with patients, and as I become more in-tune with myself. When I first started 16 years ago, it was almost all based on what I recommend people putting in their mouths. Now it's becoming so much more what people are putting in their ears as far as how they interpret the world, and how they respond to that interpretation of the world about them.
In fact, Nature's Diet is such a small part of the overall health and well-being that when a person is able to recognize the power of their thoughts, the power of their actions, and how their actions in turn reciprocate the actions of those around them, we can see an incredible change in a person's well-being just with that alone. Many people come in here for symptoms related with headaches, neck aches, backaches, stomach aches, multiple digestive symptoms, skin issues, even asthma and allergies, that we've cleared completely with having a person becoming aware of where their thought patterns are going, and how they're responding to people in the world around them, and that has very little to do with what they're putting in their mouth.
The very food that we put in our mouth can change our perception. When a person starts to become aware of what they put into their mouth, it is the beginning of becoming aware of other connections they have, whether it be with their thoughts, with other individuals, with their own Spirit.
SC: Do you think that by becoming more aware of the food we eat we are actually becoming more in harmony with nature and that is benefiting the earth in some way?
AI: That is the central idea of everything that we've talked about. In other words, starting with the food is reaching spirituality through the back door. For people who are not yet ready to look at their thoughts, not yet ready to look at the impact of the emotional body, who are not yet ready to look at their connection with the Divine, starting to eat according to nature will naturally guide you in that direction, which in my opinion leads to connectedness to all that is and complete healing.
There's no doubt that when a person starts to pay attention to what they put in their mouth and start to create a connection with certain foods that feel good with them, they will in turn start to identify how they are responding to the world around them. As within, so without; what you do for yourself you are able to identify with what's happening around you.
SC: This has been a wonderful interview. Are there any last words you would like to add before we say thank you?
AI: I was thinking about our talk this morning, and really the main point that I wanted to get across was that this is so much more than the food we are putting in our mouth. We are creating a dynamic change that goes beyond food. We are actually changing our emotional and spiritual bodies by what we are putting inside our mouth. That's the concept that we really want to get across and how that affects everyone around us. As we become more grounded and more at peace in our lives, more at joy, we affect others around us and they in turn want to know what we are doing and wonder, “How are you having this?” And we watch as they start to do the same thing, and it's infectious. It's occurring all around us. In this small town where we are, we see how a community is reaching out and giving so much, and everyone is exchanging it, because the knowledge is out now and is inspiring and helping a lot of people in so many different levels.
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