Laurel Herman
Chef Instructor, Culinary Storyteller, and Culinary Medicine

What We Eat, Choice, and the Ironies Between Western and Natural Medicine

Gluten free oatmeal with grass fed butter

Allow me to start off by saying this blog is coming straight from my heart, or maybe the gut. I am attempting to put things in perspective. This is what I see. Yesterday I received some results from  my lab work that literally shocked me. Either this Physicians Assistant saved my life or she had no idea what she was talking about.  I sat there, and I asked her, “do you know what you’re talking about? Are you thyroid literate? because most docs aren’t” As she continued to brief me on a potentially  life threatening condition I was very close to experiencing.   My greatest fear is ” Maybe I will crash. “  But consider this, as one friend told me “Maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll feel fine.” Something I hadn’t considered. I didn’t trust her because it was Western Medicine.  However, she quite literally saved my life.

In the natural healing world we have become what we didn’t like from the other side.  Close minded. Who have I become? Hear me out. I think there is a place for both, and it is up to us to  become our own advocates and remember that medicine is not always an exact science. sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s intuitive, and often an educated guess. I’m glad I paid attention, with some help from trusted friends and medical professionals, because I didn’t believe, based on my own prejudice.  How do we judge each other?

Given the nature of my work, this example is food related:

Should we all be vegan? I don’t know know.  I can’t answer for anyone else. However, I do know this from my conversations with my Native American friends, who are leaders in their community; what your ancestors ate, and what is grown near you can seriously impact health  for the good.  Prickly Pear jam eaten regularly  lowers blood sugar for Native Americans; not strawberry  or other sugar laden jams from the store, but the foods of the ancestors. The plants nearby, prepared in the old way.  Diabetes is a huge problem in the Native American community.  We would benefit if we followed their wisdom. They  also eat meat, bison, elk and the foods of their ancestors. Not what we have in the supermarket; or what is prescribed by the white man, but what is shared between the tribe in the way it has been for centuries.  It’s not a debate, they  follow and trust the wisdom of their people, period. I respect that.  Who are we to say?  Would we tell them what/how they and their ancestors ate is cruel?   If we are to say we respect their ways then that mean this too. They are so much wiser than the white man, and we can really learn something here.  We must not be judge and jury to each other. We try to make conscious choices . We do our best. This means me, you.

Pikuach Nefesh  Saving a life. The Wikipedia version describes a principle in Jewish Law:

” The preservation of life overrides virtually every other religious rule.”

Even in Ayurveda, exceptions are made.  In Chinese Medicine, meat is often medicine. Don’t get me wrong,  I see the arguments on both sides,  they both have merit. This blog post isn’t even about the meat or no meat debate. 

We must be willing to go against the grain, ( pun intended) to save our own lives; and understand that conventional wisdom, is well, conventional. We are deeply conditioned by both sides, and we aren’t even aware of it.   

Ideally both sides would listen  and learn from each other, and what a perfect scenario that would be for healing.  I think in some ways the gap is closing, we cant ignore each other forever. We must accept the fact that even the holistic world has become homogenized. 

My other  labs came back with  an amazing  high HDL. What was different?

I did what is not generally accepted in the functional medicine world for people with my autoimmune disease. I ate oatmeal, a grain. Gluten Free oatmeal. My body wanted it, and I listened.  How did I know that didn’t contribute to my good numbers?  We treat one thing , and possibly disregard another. Which of these paths do we trust? And can we trust our own bodies to guide us?  How silly we humans are.  I think we would do well to prepare ourselves for the possibility that  the God given wisdom of our bodies, along with  Western and Natural  medicine  may not be such a bad thing if we are willing to listen, and hopefully they are willing to learn from  each other.   I often hear people say, “don’t go to the doctor, you can heal this your self. ” I say ” If your child needed  surgery would you give them some broccoli and hope it goes away?” No, you would save their life. Food, and working with healing foods has been my lifelong work and calling, and we can find a place where both live happily. Eat whole foods, and know your own body. Stay open to all possibilities. I learned something important. someone unexpected may just save your life.  I’ll go with that.

Always from and with love,  Laurel

About the Author
Laurel Herman is Chef Instructor and Culinary Storyteller, and Culinary Medicine practitioner, residing in Richmond, Virginia. A classically trained chef in the European style( Thames Valley University, London, U.K. and The Institute for Integrative Nutrition) Her style is anything but classic, its fun, and relaxed. A lifelong career in food, Laurel had the unique experience of being the only woman in a kitchen brigade of 30 men, ( 40 years ago) earning their respect and affection through hard work and determination. Laurel's passion is bringing people together through food, her joy is to watch people arrive as strangers, and leave as friends. Her workshop and retreat work use storytelling combined with cooking and music to evoke a sense of remembrance. She teaches that cooking is a healing modality anyone can learn, but mostly that it brings people together. She currently teaches at Mise en Place Cooking School, and various venues throughout Richmond including a program for City of Richmond Employees. Her newest endeavor for 2020 is a fun online teaching course, and hopes to bring food education to food desserts throughout the city and surrounding areas. She is a strong believer that one way we can fight racism and bigotry of any kind is by helping people have access to clean and abundant food, supporting farmers markets and local vendors. Although not a chef himself, her favorite mythological character is Robin Hood, the revolutionary defender of social equality. Her books, The Blissed Out Chef was published in 2015 and the Inner Kitchen, Balboa press in 2011.
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