Whenever Dr. Lieberman is unraveling a particularly challenging case history for a new patient, he often reaches a point where he says, “I think the Rule of Thumb applies here.” The patient waits expectantly for this revelation, and Doctor instructs, “Please hold up your thumb.” While the patient raises his thumb and stares intently at it, looking to see what mystery this physical examination will reveal, Dr. Lieberman says, “The Rule of Thumb is that the food you eat the most and crave the most is usually the food to which you are most allergic, and is often causing a lot of your problems!”
Now we all get a good laugh, including the patient, but how does this help the rest of us?
Another staff member has written recently in her Blog about our great emphasis in this country on researching and applying healthful diets, yet we have so many diet-related diseases. Why is it that many people’s waistlines exceed their willpower, and inertia is much more common than real energy?
Here’s where the Rule of Thumb really does help, because when we unknowingly eat foods that are allergenic or are food intolerances for our particular body, they act as stressors for us. Our body encounters them as if they are foreign proteins and sets up all sorts of defense mechanisms to cope. Immune cells are mobilized to clean up the offenders, which means our immune system may be too busy to take care of real enemies, like bacteria and viruses, leaving us dragged down by low-grade chronic infections. Our body also quickly mobilizes available glucose for the fight or flight response, making blood sugar rise rapidly, and then uses it up in the stress response rather than being available for productive activities, like necessary chores or exercise. The resulting rapid fall in blood sugar leaves us hungry and craving for more—usually of the food that got us into trouble in the first place!
Fortunately, Environmental Medicine helps teach us ways to get to the root of these problems, partly through the history given during a new patient’s initial evaluation, partly through allergy testing, partly through food elimination diets. Patients are amazed when they see for themselves that many of their problems are indeed caused by certain foods, and that the endless cycle of awful cravings, low energy, and edema and weight gain can be stopped by avoiding foods to which they are allergic or intolerant.
But what if you’re the patient who believes, “Even if I were to find out these foods are pure poison for me, I wouldn’t be able to stop eating them. That’s how addicted I am—I just must be an addictive personality.” Here’s where testing in our testing room really shines. We test patients for their so-called “addictive foods,” and provide desensitization extracts for all the foods craved and eaten most. These extracts help soften the withdrawal phase. Whenever the patient feels an uncontrollable urge to eat their addictive foods, they can use the extract, and they’re amazed how quickly this tool works to overcome the most persistent cravings.
So ultimately, the most healthful diet for us may need to be built not so much on what we eat, but on what we don’t eat, and for that we may need a little help. Just remember the Rule of Thumb, and if you need a team of folks to get round your cravings to be able to even look at your thumb, we’re here to help.