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by Dr. Jon Repole, DC, NC, HHP, CPT, CFMP

There has always been controversy in the various nutritional camps – especially the paleo, ancestral-based, animal-centric diets VS. the plant-centric, evolutionary-based diets.  In recent times, the debate has grown stronger, more passionate and, unfortunately, at times more hateful, divisive, and condescending. The most recent entrance into this never-ending debate has been “the science” behind the movie, “What the Health?” I could spend an entire blog article going head to head showing my arguments (research, personal experience with patients, common sense, rules of reasonableness, etc.) for a plant-based rather than a paleo-based approach.  I am, however, going to make a confession – this would be a futile argument simply because all the conclusions (regardless of the camp) would ultimately be based upon one’s opinion and belief system. In other words, each camp would gather data that simply reflects his or her belief systems. The actual FACT of the matter is that there is enough research on both sides for each corresponding camp to make their arguments for or against. Let’s start with admitting this FIRST!

With that said, how do we navigate the conflicting data in choosing what dietary approach is best for our health? I believe, the ultimate litmus test is in how one defines the word HEALTH.  So, for the purpose of the blog, I am going to take a novel and integral approach that I hope will convince you (regardless of the nutritional camp you belong to) that this is not a difficult task. In fact, we are all making this harder than it has to be!

Almost no one today believes that they are just a physical body. Most people I talk with believe that they are a conglomerate of a mind, a body, and a spirit. And although we can’t put into words the ineffable (things that are too great to be expressed in words) the lack of evidence is not evidence against.  Consider the energies that power the galaxies and stars, the orbiting of planets, the magical union of sperm and ovum, a butterfly, the difference between a living and dead body, and an acorn to an oak tree.  Attempts, of course, have been made through the various religious, mystical, and spiritual traditions. Even though there are exoteric ("exterior" – rituals, traditions, books, practices, etc.) differences, the interior world of which they all describe points to a singularity – or a kind of absolute truth held to the core of our very belief systems.

Varying disciplines from philosophy, quantum physics to metaphysics suggest that we do not only live in the universe, but the universe, in fact, lives in us. We begin to see that we are not islands onto ourselves and, therefore, can no longer behave with this pathological autonomy!

We all know, for example, that we are much, much more than our physical body. We have a body, we have emotions, we have a mind, we engage in relationships, and we possess a spirit – we are, in fact, spiritual beings inhabiting a physical body. Even though we know this intuitively, we still tend to make decisions about our health and take actions as if we were only a body. In other words, we can choose to eat food from an egocentric lens of reality – eating to satisfy or to quench only our emotional pleasures or needs while at the same time pathologically ignoring the impact to our body, the impact to the environment (i.e. the packaging the food comes in), and the impact our food choices have on our fellow sentient creatures we share planet Earth with (i.e. factory farming and the like).  

If we are a mind, body, and spirit – our definition of health should include nourishment and alignment to this Truth.

The greatest discovery, I believe, is that the game of life is set up exactly as it should be – as you do the RIGHT THING, you are REWARDED!

It is our duty to include a broader lens as we move forward on this health and wellness journey. We can no longer focus solely on egocentric concerns that do not take into account life’s interdependence simply because:

 “Doing GOOD is GOOD for us!” and “Giving is Receiving”

In other words,

  • When we practice self-care, we increase our capacity to heal. As we heal, those around us heal – we have an effect on everyone we come in contact with. This is the theory of emotional contagion, the butterfly effect and three degrees of separation.
  • When we choose organic foods, we protect BOTH the environment AND our bodies from pesticides, herbicides, and the like.
  • When we take a stance against factory farming, we protect BOTH our bodies (from the harmful effects of antibiotic, and cholesterol-laden foods) AND needless animal abuse and suffering.
  • When we treat our fellow sentient inhabitants with kindness and compassion, we feed our spiritual-self with the like.
  • When we give to others, we are rewarded with a hit of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
  • When we connect with others, we are rewarded with the hormone, oxytocin.
  • When we stand up for the environment, the environment gifts us with clean air, clean water, and so on.
  • And much more…

I have and will continue to argue the science and research for a plant-based diet. For this blog, however, I have left that behind and for today I am not going to talk about petty discussions on lectins, vitamin deficiencies, gluten-free, and so. I will leave that for another time – most likely tomorrow in the office. It sometimes seems, however, like a nonsensical political discussion that is devoid of heart – such as when politicians fight for decreasing regulations on environmentally polluting corporations by using the word “regulation” rather than “protection” for the environment.

As I move forward on my own journey – arguing the tenets for and against diets based solely through an egocentric lens with a tunnel vision on only the physical domain seems an immaturity of the past. A paleo approach is by definition "ancestral" - meaning a regression to another time and place that lives only in the minds and memories of the past. A conscious plant-based diet is evolutionary - it both transcends and includes and takes into account where we are TODAY! If we believe we are mind, body, and spirit – we must act in accordance with this truth. It is our obligation!

And this obligation, will reward you – that I am certain of!