When we began the work of healing our daughter’s intestines after her diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis, one of the major challenges was to help her create a healthier immune system and that meant healthier gut bacteria. In addition to adding VSL#3, a probiotic formulated for UC, we also needed to eliminate the toxins in her diet that kill the good gut microflora: chemicals like glyphosate, found in RoundUp. How could we be sure those chemicals were not in her diet? It was almost overwhelming to sort through all the complications of food in the U.S. until we learned more about what “Certified Organic” really meant. In the U.S. “natural” is not a regulated term, so it means something different to everyone. But organic can only be used if the product is not genetically modified and has not been sprayed with toxins. For animal products, they cannot have been given hormones or antibiotics the way most meat in the U.S. has been treated. Organic became an answer for us in the early days of gut healing and continues to be a huge part of our family food solutions. The problem is IT’S EXPENSIVE! I want to share with you some of the tips I have learned to make organic happen for the family despite the added costs involved.
1. Get perspective. First, in the United States we spend a smaller percentage of our income on food than any other country in the world, and far less of our income goes toward food than our grandparents spent. We spend about 6% of our income on food, while Canadians and the British spend about 9% of their incomes and the French spend about 14% of their incomes on food. The reason I point this out is that part of what we have to do is shift from valuing the least expensive options to valuing and being prepared to make sacrifices for nutritious foods that lead to health, not chronic disease.
2. Plant a garden. Most kids truly love planting and working in a garden, being outside and eating foods they have grown themselves. When you raise foods from the seeds, you know exactly how they have been treated and how safe they are. Plant herbs, tomatoes, lettuces, and peppers if you are new to gardening. They are super easy to grow and earn their keep in a short period of time. If you are low on space, use pots and discover how easy it is to have a potted vegetable garden. Eating a warm tomato out of the garden on a sunny day will make anyone a believer!
3. Buy organic meat protein in bulk. Costco is now carrying organic chicken (whole, breasts, drumsticks, and wings), organic ground beef and several varieties of frozen wild caught fish, including pole-caught canned tuna. They also carry bison whose care and nutrition are regulated, soit is safe for us without the organic label. We save about one-third of the costs of our proteins by buying this way, and meat proteins are the biggest expense in our organic diet. Remember that when animals consume toxins, they are absorbed into the meat but do not disappear, they land on our plate. As our functional medicine doctor likes to say, “you are what you eat!”
4. Buy fresh produce twice a week and only the amount needed for the specific meals you have planned for those days. Organic produce does not last as long as non-organic and it is more expensive, so the key is to have no wasted produce. If you see something unexpectedly good at the store, by all means grab it, but immediately change your food calendar to incorporate the item and do not buy the eliminated one.
5. Use frozen organic fruits and veggies. Costco (I’m sure there are other sources, this is just the one I use) is now also carrying lots of different organic, frozen vegetables and fruits. Frozen is nice when you are using a rotation diet because you can pull out just amount you need and the rest stays good.
Since we began the journey, eating an organic diet has become much easier and more widely available. Yes, food is bigger expense that it was before, but everyone in the family is much healthier as a result. When you are doing battle with a chronic disease like Ulcerative Colitis, it sometimes takes a long time to see the results of these lifestyle changes, but here we are four years later, so grateful that the changes have led to healing.