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So you’ve started transitioning from processed foods and are more aware of the food you are putting in your body. That’s good news!

You’ve started paying attention to organic foods. Perhaps your eating more fruits and vegetables. Or, you’re becoming more aware of poultry, meat and dairy products from clean, sustainable sources.

Maybe you’ve made an effort to eliminate modern, industrial oils and other artificial fats such as shortening, margarine, or fake butter spreads.

And after all this, you thought you were making some headway, but you’re not seeing as many positive changes as you’d like. You’re still tired, have brain fog and inability to focus, or you’re short-tempered and have no patience.  Maybe the weight is just not coming off like you wanted, or you are still having blood-sugar crashes and problems sleeping.

How could this be? Surely the changes you’ve made have affected some impact. So why do you still feel like something is missing?

Don’t despair. There may be some basics missing. Here are some possible reasons why you may not be seeing the full benefits you’ve been hoping for:

1. You’re buying organic, but processed foods are still finding their way to your kitchen.

Simply because the label reads “organic” or “natural” doesn’t guarantee the product is not processed and replete with non-food and toxic ingredients. If purchasing soups, marinades, salad dressings, sauces, macaroni and cheese, cookies, crackers, breads, chips, cereals, and other packaged high carbohydrate foods, you may want to consider eliminating those from your diet.

It’s all too easy to buy foods labeled “organic”, but which may not be better for your health if they have high sugar content, contain foods or ingredients subject to high-heat or deodorization, and/or contain modern, rancid oils like canola, soybean, or corn oil. There are other less-than optimal ingredients in organic foods such as evaporated cane juice, dehydrated cane juice, brown rice syrup, oat, rice, and potato flours, “organic” and “natural” flavorings (alternate terms for MSG), “natural” colors and others that may seem benign, but are highly-processed and anything but natural.

Real foods made at home from scratch can help your body to heal and improve. Highly processed foods, whether they bear the organic label or otherwise, can be similar in quality to conventional, processed foods.

2.   Maybe you are cheating more often than you should.

No one is perfect all the time, and you’re doing much better than the past. You’ve started reading labels and being more mindful of organic and sustainable foods.

But…maybe you are still eating out several times a week, or are still taking short cuts by buying processed foods, foods with pesticides/herbicides (commercially-grown produce, legumes, nuts, grains), or commercial meats/animal products that might have antibiotics/hormones. Eating healthy does cost more, but think of the cost savings you are doing for yourself buy eating better now for the future.

Read Is the Cheap Food You Are Buying Really Cheap?

3. You’re skipping meals or not eating enough.

One of the most notable enemies of normal weight balance, normal blood sugar levels, consistent energy, and even moods is skipping meals or not eating enough. To maintain metabolism levels, normal weight, and keep blood sugar even, regular meals are essential.  Degenerative diseases including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other issues can be caused or made worse simply by not eating regular, nutritious meals.

Everyone is different. Some people need three meals a day, whereas some do better on two. The key is finding what works for you and doesn’t exacerbate health issues. I’ve found that my body stays in balance when I eat three regular meals a day. If you experience conditions such as chronic adrenal fatigue, diabetes, weight gain, hormone or blood sugar problems, you may find benefit from staying on a 3-4 times per day meal schedule.

4.  Your digestive tract may need some assistance.

In her lectures, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, M.D., author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome, says that almost everyone is GAPS. What does that mean? It means that most people have digestive issues which are affecting their health in some way. Those issues stem from many sources: a diet of nutrient-deficient, processed foods, use of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, stress, and environmental factors.

If you grew up in an industrialized nation, it’s also likely that at some point in your life you avoided real fats because mainstream health told you to do so. This may have led to chronic digestive and overall health issues too. Maybe  you are now eating more full-fat foods than ever before, but are still experiencing digestive problems such as nausea or a feeling of indigestion, bloating, gas, abdominal discomfort, or diarrhea and  constipation. But don’t give up! Real fats really are critical to healing your body. So don’t fear them and return to low-fat and artificial fats.

In Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. McBride recommends eating fermented foods in the GAPS protocol to elicit healing of the digestive tract, immune system, and other organ systems. Our ancestors consumed fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and beverages such as kombucha, water kefir, and beet kvass. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have consumed less and less fermented foods, and more processed foods.

If you are just starting to eat real fats after many years of consuming modern, artificial fats or low-fat foods, an adjustment period is a good idea to allow your body a chance to adjust.

A dietary protocol like GAPS by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, AIP (The Loving Diet by Jessica Flanigan), or SCD by Elaine Gottschall can heal digestive issues and enable the proper digestion of fats and other nutrients. Book recommendations via Amazon affiliation.

In general, I try to stay away from supplements. Depending on your unique needs, some find that they need support due to longstanding health issues and severe deficiencies. If, after you have tried a healing protocol like GAPS you find that you need additional support, there are a few options available.

Good quality digestive enzymes can help. Our bodies need living enzymes to digest our food. When we’ve abused our bodies for years, enzyme production goes down significantly. There are many enzymes available on the market, but some are quite spendy and/or are of  low potency.

I take and recommend Enzyme Formulations by Loomis Enzymes. Dr. Loomis, a chiropractor, was the original creator of enzyme for human beings. These are live digestive enzymes accompanied by healing herbs. The blend of these two substances together combines a powerful healing action in the digestive tract and enables absorption of the nutrients in foods you eat while healing your gut at the same time.

To find out which enzymes or other supplements are right for your body, I recommend consulting with a knowledgeable practitioner who can test to find out what you need. The link provided above can advise about practitioners in your area.

Another option is Swedish Bitters. Some people find these to be greatly beneficial to aiding in the digestion of fats. As healing occurs, you may find you only need them for a period of time rather than indefinitely. Read more from The Healthy Home Economist about Swedish bitters.

Probiotics are important too … that is, beneficial bacteria. We have trillions upon trillions of cells in our bodies, and we need a good supply of beneficial bacteria to support the life of those cells. Modern food products are overly processed and chemical-laden, with very little supportive, diverse, or living friendly bacteria. These products are the antithesis of what is needed to support our digestive systems.

There is a lot of debate about probiotics. From what I understand, getting as many of these little critters into your system as possible, daily, is optimal. That means including fermented and cultured foods in the diet regularly, and from a variety to create a diversity of bacteria.

Home-made versions of these foods are superior to what you can buy in the store. And for some, that also means taking a quality probiotic that will boost your numbers of good bacteria. Recommended:

5.   You are still avoiding meat and animal products.  

Meat, dairy products, and cheese have received a bad reputation for many years.  The distinction between animal foods raised on pasture and the industrially-produced versions of these foods is not emphasized in most health recommendation environments. Grassfed and grass finished meats & poultry, eggs from hens on pasture, and raw dairy foods from healthy cows provide critical nutrients not found elsewhere in our food supply. These include fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2, Omega 3s, Vitamin B12 and other B family nutrients, a variety of minerals, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, an important antioxidant).

Fat-soluble activators A, D, and K2 allow for the absorption of minerals into the body. Avoiding these foods can cause nutritional deficiencies over time. So, if you are still on the low-fat track, you may want to reconsider!

Many low-fat foods are still processed, and processing = a lack of nutrients.  Processed foods are typically void of nutrients, enzymes, and co-factors necessary to absorb the benefits of what you are eating. Even if it’s organic, if it’s low-fat such as reduced fat milk or cheese, or lean meat, all bets are off about it providing genuine health benefits.

In his travels, Dr. Weston A. Price observed that traditional opulations consumed in some cases TEN TIMES the amount of fat-soluble vitamins than populations from industrialized, developed countries. The presence of modern diseases we are now very familiar with such as cancer, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes were virtually unknown. It was common to see individuals living well into old age with no health problems, ease in conception and pregnancy, showing the ability to resist infectious and chronic disease and tooth decay, and possessing happy, bright dispositions. Children were healthy without chronic issues seen today such as autism, ADD, obesity, frequent colds, ear aches, flus and other infections, tooth decay, and crooked teeth.

If you want to to improve your health, try increasing your daily fat intake: butter, ghee, cream, sour cream, yogurt, kefir, lard, tallow, olive oil, coconut, palm oil, fatty cuts of meat and poultry, bone broths, and organ meats from sustainable sources you trust.

Try buying meats and animal products from a local farmer that uses safe practices with raising their animals and birds. Read Questions to ask your farmer.

Here is more information on the health benefits of real, grassfed and grass finished meat.

Recommended: Bariani olive oil, Fatworks pork lard, Fatworks beef tallow, Nutiva coconut oil, Nutiva palm oil, Pure Indian Foods grassfed ghee, Ancient Organic grassfed ghee

6. You are eating grains (maybe even properly prepared), but your body is not doing well on them.

Many folks in real food and holistic health communities are soaking, sprouting and fermenting or souring grains as a way to make these foods more digestible. Dr. Weston A. Price did find evidence of healthy populations who consumed grains prepared this way.

Despite what has been written and postulated about eating grains properly prepared, there are reasons why even doing this may not render grains healthy to eat. There are various factors occurring in modern times which were not present during the time of Weston A. Price:

GMOs are produced with a pesticide originating inside the DNA of the plant (which is inserted into the seed in the lab).  When insects eat this substance, it causes their internal organs to rupture. In the movie, Genetic Roulette, Jeffery Smith from the Institute for Responsible Technology discusses how these substances can cause irritation and punch small holes in the intestinal linings of those consuming them. This is also the case with soy, corn, and cottonseed oil which are also genetically-modified. Monsanto and other seed companies who produce these crops have not yet officially approved GMO grains for the U.S. market. Still, test plots exist in varying locations in the U.S. Contamination of non-GMO grains is eminent and likely has already occurred. If you consume wheat, even organic wheat and other related crops such as kamut or spelt, it is likely you have consumed contaminated grains.

Read more from Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple who discusses misconceptions about grains and why they may not be as healthy for us as we are taught by mainstream health and nutrition experts: Top 8 most common reactions to your grain-free diet (and how to respond).

7.  Your foods may be coming from a GMO source.

You may be buying farm-fresh eggs and locally-raised meats, but have you checked to see if your farmer is using GMO (genetically-modified substances) in the feed given to animals or birds?

Foods grown or fed with genetically-modified substances – commonly soy, corn, cottonseed, salmon, dairy foods, and some other foods can cause serious health issues for those consuming them – the animals, birds, and human beings too. Animals are experiencing higher rates of miscarriage and infertility than those who don’t, and human infertility rates have been on the increase dramatically over the last two decades. There are other issues as well:

8.  Other factors might be affecting you besides what you are eating or not eating.

What about a toxic environment in your home or place of business? Do you have a lot of chemicals or toxic substances near you? What about carpets, paint, cleaning solutions, air fresheners, personal care products such as deodorant, toothpaste, hair sprays, shampoo, conditioner, clothing and dishwashing detergents, dryer sheets, perfumes, etc.?

What about toxic relationships or situations with people in your life? Are you in a situation where you continually feel guilt or accountability for something that isn’t your responsibility? All can affect your health adversely, and need consideration. These can contribute to stress and strife that depletes nutrients and valuable minerals your body needs.  Whenever possible, remove yourself from obligations or connections to toxic environments or relationships.  Chances are, they are not doing you or your health, any good.

9. You aren’t receiving enough sun exposure. 

If you are trapped behind a desk in front of a computer or work in some other industry requiring you to be inside every day, or are in the house doing chores, etc. you are probably not getting enough sun exposure. The sun provides Vitamin D in its most elemental and well-absorbed form. Contrary to popular belief, sun exposure is critical to our health and if you don’t get it, your immune system is probably getting weaker every day.

Have you ever wondered why people seem to get sick during the winter? It’s no coincidence that when we are lacking in Vitamin D, our immune systems are vulnerable to bacteria and viruses that make us sick. Some years ago, Dr. R. Edgar Hope-Simpson confirmed this during decades of research and believed there is a reason for flu outbreaks that comes in the form of a “seasonal stimulus”. But it is also true that not everyone comes down with the virus.

As research has continued through others such as John  Cannell of the Vitamin D Council, it is now apparent that low levels of Vitamin D are indeed this “seasonal stimulus” which is not only triggered by a weakening in the immune system, but also greatly impacts our susceptibility to infection. Vitamin D has extremely powerful influence over the immune system, and its presence can prevent sickness. When we are exposed to a virus, our immune system produces broad-spectrum antimicrobial elements – antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). We also have this ability in our skin cells and the cells lining internal openings and passageways, and also a varying amount of immune cells to produce AMPs after exposure to harmful microbes. In order for this response to happen, there must be sufficient Vitamin D in the body.

In Nature Immunology, a study was produced discussing how Vitamin D must be present for proper signaling and activation of T-cells, our immune system’s guard against damage by foreign pathogens. T-cells cannot activate without Vitamin D. Vitamin D is actually a precursor to our bodies’ ability to produce a natural antibiotic which are responsible for protecting us against pathogens – bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Vitamin D Crucial to Activating Immune Defenses, Science Daily.

10. You’re not getting enough rest/moderate movement or exercise/stress relief. 

Never underestimate the positive effects of getting enough rest – which means going to bed before 10 p.m. most nights and sleeping a full 8 hours or more – and making sure you don’t over extend yourself in terms of obligations and tasks. These are both instrumental in healing.

If you are prone to staying up late and don’t allow your body the rest and recharge it needs…or if you are constantly on the go and being pulled every which way, you can expect your body to be worn out, tired, and not capable of handling the demands of your day-to-day life.  Your immune system will be weak and you can easily fall prey to chronic health issues, colds, flus, and infections.

Getting outside and moving is important too, but over exercising (which many people in our culture do) without proper rest, nutritional, and lifestyle support is a recipe for adrenal exhaustion and body burnout.  Dr. Joseph Mercola talks about how too much cardio can actually damage your heart.  Dr. Lawrence Wilson says that too much exercise can lead to severely damage the adrenal glands and damage your health. When this happens, your hormone levels are not normal and your immune system becomes overwhelmed. The result can be vulnerability to disease and illness.

Cortisol levels normally released only on occasion for helping your energy levels and appetite to increase, and for keying down allergic and inflammatory responses in the immune system. Cortisol also maintains and releases energy in the body to allow it to overcome negative effects of illness and disease, trauma, extreme temperatures, and also helps maintain balanced moods and emotions.

Cortisol production goes out of balance when used too often. This is what happens when the body deals with too much stress or demand without proper support. When cortisol levels in your body stay high for too long a period of time, the results can be: weight gain, a decrease in bone density, loss of muscle mass, decreased ability to produce protein which leads to kidney damage, retention of fluids, thinning of the skin, up and down blood sugar levels, and increased susceptibility to viruses, bacteria,  fungi, allergic response, yeast overgrowth, parasites, and cancer.

Stop doing so much, avoid working over time whenever you can, and in general do less.  Some things really can wait until tomorrow. If not, it may be time for re-evaluation of your priorities.

For more information, read What is adrenal fatigue and do I have It? from Keeper of the Home.

11. Healing takes time. Be patient.

We often want progress much sooner than it actually happens. The reality is, our bodies became sick over a period of years, probably decades of time. Healing can take months to years to accomplish, and if we slide back too often, longer.  But if we are on a steady course, we can notice improvements and signs healing in a shorert amount of time – days, weeks, or months.

Less fatigue, more energy, better sleep, less pain in the body. These are all things we can expect if we commit to regular effort of eating well and treating our bodies with care and kindness. Don’t give up if you feel you aren’t progressing. It may just take more time than you believe. With lifestyle changes you will eventually see a difference and reap the rewards of your careful attention to your body and what it needs.