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Protein and Healing
The second in a three-part series on:
How much and what type of proteins .
 

Kathryn Alexander D.Th.D

In the first of this series of articles on Protein and Healing, I mentioned that the recommended daily protein requirement is around 1g of protein/kg of body weight. To the average person this represents 50-70g protein daily. The best type of protein for healing is derived from vegetable sources; more specifically, protein in its least concentrated form as found in vegetables. You will obtain an average of 2% protein in most vegetables; an average of 8-14% in cereal grains (dry weight); 21-35% in legumes (dry weight); and 12-27% in nuts. Animal protein is more concentrated at 16-25% raw weight. Remember, as grains and legumes swell with water during cooking, the protein content of these foods, per cooked weight, will be reduced by two-thirds.  

 
Many professional nutritionists often complain that patients on the Gerson Therapy, whether for cancer or chronic degenerative disease, cannot possibly be getting enough protein as the diet seems to consist only of vegetables! However, not only do our patients heal but their bodies are regenerated and restored to full functioning capacity.  
 
So it's time to get the calculator out. How much protein does a patient on a detoxification therapy taking up to 6kg of vegetables and 3 kg apples daily. 3.75 kg of these vegetables are juiced, along with 3kg of apples daily. The juices alone provide around 60g of protein daily (taking a conservative 1.6% estimate of protein content in vegetables). Potatoes are also on the menu (6g protein from this source); oatmeal (another 7g) and additional quantities of both cooked and raw vegetables. I would say that on average the patient is consuming between 75 and 80g of quality protein daily. If 200g of non-fat yoghurt is added to the regime, then we are looking at an additional 7g of protein daily. 
 
Having satisfied traditional dietary recommendations, we come to a more pressing matter - that of digestibility. This concept is usually totally ignored. Scientists will refer to the gross amounts of nutrients found in foods with little reference to its true biological value to the human being. The biological value of a food depends on two criteria: the strength and efficiency of the patient's digestive system, and the accessibility of nutrients within a given food. The bottom-line remains: that no amount of "good" food is beneficial to the patient if they cannot adequately digest it, if the nutrients remain bound within the food and unavailable, if the food contains enzyme inhibitors which render it indigestible, and if the cooking process has rendered it a "non-food".
 
By the time we become sick, our digestive system is already impaired. How can we then heal on a diet therapy if we are unable to digest our food? It was against this scenario that Dr. Gerson formulated a diet which would fulfil the nutritional requirements for healing and regeneration, even for the most compromised digestive system.
 
Assisting the digestion means that you take living foods, unprocessed, which come with their own quota of enzymes required for their digestion. The juicing of vegetables, taken fresh every hour, ensures maximum digestion and assimilation of a plentiful supply of nutrients. By removing all the fibre, the digestion does not have to "compete" to release and absorb the nutrients. All natural foods contain living enzymes: it is the processing of foods which destroys their life-force and taxes the pancreas to release greater quantities of digestive enzymes to complete the task. Additionally the food enzymes help in the assimilation of minerals. The slow cooking at low temperatures of vegetable dishes also ensures maximum breakdown of indigestible fibres, the conversion of starches to the more digestible sugars, and maintaining a greater integrity of the enzyme and protein structures.
 
As the healing proceeds we begin to add foods which have a higher protein value. This becomes important when patients are winding down their dietary healing program and they start to ask, "How much protein, and what type is safe for me to eat?" They immediately recognise, that by cutting down their juices to perhaps only four daily, that the nutritional and protein content of their diet is going to suffer considerably. They will be looking to foods that provide concentrates of nutrients, particularly from the grains, legumes and dairy products. 
 
As the patient is healing so the digestion strengthens, and it becomes possible to include the more difficult to digest foods. However, what most people fail to realise is that grains, legumes and dairy produce are of little nutritional benefit, even to people with the strongest digestion, if they are not prepared correctly. These foods need to be "pre-digested" through various techniques that prepare the food for the best assimilation.
 
The easiest example of this is the natural souring process of raw milk, where the lactose is digested by the lactobacillus bacteria. Products such as buttermilk, natural whey and yoghurt are high in lactic acid which assists both in the digestion of the product itself and in the general digestion. Isolated protein powders, such as whey powders, are processed at high temperatures which denature the amino acids and the product becomes useless as a food. Similarly, pasteurisation destroys all the natural enzymes, nutrients will not be absorbed and the protein profile (lysine and tyrosine) of the milk is damaged. It is now difficult to obtain raw milk products, but if you can, then this is obviously the way to go. The inclusion of pre-digested dairy products is important on the vegetarian diet as it supplies good amounts of tryptophan (an amino acid) that is lacking in many vegetarian foods.
 
This brings us to seeds, and by this I mean anything that sprouts - legumes, grains and nuts. There are two major problems with this group of foods: the amount of phytate they contain, and the presence of enzyme inhibitors. Phytate is particularly nasty in that it will bind to calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc and take it out of the body. Phytate is found in the outer covering, or bran of the seed. Soy beans are particularly high in phytates. Traditional methods of soaking or fermenting seeds will neutralize the phytates in most seeds. It is a form of pre-digestion, and one that ensures maximum absorption of nutrients.
 
Soaking oats in warm water overnight before cooking the next morning will neutralise the phytic acid; similarly soaking any grains and legumes for 12-24 hours before cooking will decompose phytic acid; natural fermentation of grains or flour products through soaking in an acidic medium such as buttermilk (high in lactic acid) or in water with whey or yoghurt added will also pre-digest the food and neutralise the phytic acid. Many traditional cultures allow a natural fermentation of their grains for a 36 hour period before cooking. This allows lactobacilli and other useful organisms to break down and neutralise the phytic acid. Similarly if you soak grains for 7 hours in warm acidulated water, this too, will neutralise most phytic acid.
 
The traditional leavening process of bread using sour dough techniques also pre-digests the grain. These techniques have been largely been discarded in favour of the quicker fermentation methods using yeast. It is doubtful whether the phytic acid is destroyed with rapid yeast fermentation. It is known that yeast proving diminishes and destroys much of grain's nutritional value. Fermentation using a sour dough starter is a much longer process requiring a fermentation period of 7 days for the starter alone, and seven hours for the bread proving. The nutritional value of sour dough bread is much greater than the traditionally yeast leavened breads.
 
Gluten, a protein high in wheat (also found in rye, oats and barley), is very burdensome on the digestion. However, during the soaking and fermenting process, the natural microbes (lactobacilli) break down or pre-digest the gluten, and many people who suffer wheat intolerance/allergy are more able to digest the product when prepared using these methods.
 
Many traditional breads are not leavened but made from sprouted wheat or rye. The germinating or sprouting of seeds will also neutralise phytic acid. However, a word of caution, raw sprouted grains/seeds/legumes contain irritating substances in their shoots, so it is not a good idea to include too many in the diet. These substances are neutralized through cooking. Alfalfa seeds should not be included in any healing diet as they contain an immature amino acid, L-canavanine, which is known to inhibit the immune system and contribute to inflammatory disorders.
 
There is another case for the germination of seeds. All seeds, in their dormant state, contain enzyme inhibitors. These compounds stop the seed from germinating until conditions become favourable. They also neutralize our own enzymes in the digestive tract. These enzymes are not de-activated by cooking, so if we eat grains or legumes that have not been adequately prepared before cooking, the digestion of all proteins taken at that meal will be impaired. 
 
The correct preparation of both grains and legumes is to soak them for at least 12 hours at room temperature. Soaking will not only neutralize the phytic acid but allow the proteases within the seed to neutralise the inhibiting factors and so activate the natural enzymes. If you then drain and rinse your seeds and place on a tray, or in a large jar, covered by a damp cloth, for at least 12 hours, you will notice buds appearing on your seeds. They are just beginning to germinate. It is at this stage that you can cook your grains and legumes as normal. Germination will increase the enzyme activity six-fold. Additionally, certain of the complex sugars are broken down making them more digestible. You will find that if you have had digestive difficulties with legumes and cereal grains in the past (lots of gas) then these preparation techniques should be enough to alleviate the problem by increasing their digestibility. 
 
Soy beans have the highest amount of phytic acid of all the seeds. They are also high in very potent enzyme inhibitor substances. Traditionally they were only planted for their nitrogen-fixing capacity, and not as a food. Unlike other seeds, even using preparation methods described above, the soy bean cannot be rendered edible. The process of precipitation to make tofu or bean curd will only remove a portion of the enzyme inhibitor substances but none of the phytates. It is only through specific fermentation during the making of soy sauce and miso that these anti-nutrients are eradicated. Soy beans and soy products are therefore not recommended in any dietary regime as they will cause chronic nutritional deficiencies both of minerals and protein by virtue of their high phytate and enzyme inhibitor content.  
 
I have also mentioned how heating denatures proteins and carbohydrates. By denaturing we mean changing the shape of the protein or carbohydrate and rendering both biologically inactive and at worst, toxic. The higher the temperature, the greater the distortion of the food molecule. Food, when cooked in water, will reach a maximum temperature of 100°C; fried food can reach 215°C; and certain processing techniques such as those used in puffing cereals apply a very high temperature and a pressure of 1500 pounds/square inch. The greater the damage to the protein or carbohydrate molecule, the more toxic it becomes in the system, and may even act as a poison. A study using four groups of rats revealed just this. The first group was fed only water and nutrients, the second group was fed whole wheat, water and chemical nutrients, the third group was fed on sugar and water (no nutrients), and the fourth group was fed on puffed wheat, water and chemical nutrients. The first group fed on water and chemical nutrients lived 8 weeks; the second group fed on whole wheat, water and chemical nutrients lived for over a year; the third group fed on sugar and water only lived 4 weeks; while those fed on puffed wheat, water and chemical nutrients lived for only 2 weeks. These results indicate that the inclusion of puffed grains were acting in a morbid fashion, accelerating the mortality rate.   We now understand that starch-based foods exposed to excessive heating or processing (includes all the puffed cereal grains, crisp breads, biscuits, snack foods, potato crisps and fried potato chips), are high in acrylamides which are not found in the raw or boiled food. This indicates a conversion to a toxic, plastic, carcinogenic substance when exposed to high temperatures.
 
In order to keep both your proteins and carbohydrates digestible, it is important to cook using the lowest temperature you can. Simmering on the stove, or baking in the oven are the preferred methods. Try to use the waterless cooking method where applicable so that no nutrients are lost. Frying not only heats the food to very high temperatures but it destroys both the cooking oil and the natural oils found in the foods themselves. You will end up consuming both toxic oil and toxic protein products. It is interesting that traditional Asian cooking methods add water to the wok, then the vegetables and then the oil. The water and the vegetables keep the temperature down so the proteins and the oils are not destroyed.
 
Many patients with chronic degenerative disease will start to improve after they have removed the bulk of protein from their diet. Dr. Gerson found that in chronic degenerative disease and cancer, the liver is damaged and toxic. It is the liver's responsibility to deal with abnormal, partially digested proteins. When the liver is unable to detoxify properly, these abnormal proteins can build up in the system and even affect the brain. Research has indicated that the build-up of a digestive end product of A1 beta casein, found in cows' milk, is implicated as a factor in the development of schizophrenia and autism. This same protein is known to have immunomodulatory properties, and it is suggested that early exposure to cow's milk in youngsters genetically predisposed to Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus can be one environmental factor which triggers the autoimmune response. Additionally, research into Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, has shown a greater vulnerability to these diseases in those with measurable deficiencies in their liver detoxification capacity.
 
So how much protein can we eat? This obviously depends on your state of health. Many patients who have had cancer, or who suffer from a chronic degenerative disease may find that they have to watch their protein intake for life. Many of my patients who have been chronically ill can remain symptom-free taking up to 2 -3 servings of each of the rice and legumes weekly. They may also include 100-200g of yoghurt daily. Some patients include a little fish (1-2 times weekly) and some include a few nuts (always soak your nuts to increase their digestibility). To all may patients I recommend juicing daily, for the rest of their lives, along with a diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits, cooked and raw. We learn to monitor our own health and vitality. Do any of my patient's eat meat, you may ask? The answer is yes, some do. But for the purposes of detoxification, sodium elimination and reversal of the tissue damage syndrome, a low protein intake (average 1g quality protein/1kg body weight) is recommended.
 
My book "Get a Life" offers a more detailed insight into some of the issues raised in this article. Order on-line now.
 
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