(This post has been a while in coming, since I first mentioned our introduction to eating raw meat- it's taken a while to research and write, and it's quite long, so I'll post it in a few segments. Enjoy!)
This is completely new territory for me. Though I have been promoting raw dairy products for quite some time now, and I am a mighty big fan of sushi, I never imagined that I would actually be convinced that eating raw meat could possibly a good thing!
Nourishing Traditions has (so far) been my primary source of learning in this area, though I am aware that there are many others out there with similar opinions. The reasons listed for the inclusion of raw meat in the diet, and what it specifically offers nutritionally are many, and I will get into a few of them. First, though, I thought it was very interesting to note this:
"When Dr. Weston Price made his pioneering studies of primitive peoples around the world, he was struck by the fact that almost every group he visited age a certain amount of their animal protein raw." Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions
Almost every group! Now, my husband and I have had discussions regarding all of this "eating traditional foods" stuff, and one of his arguments (because he likes to play devil's advocate with me to force me to think through my arguments more clearly), and so let's state up front that just because almost every cultural group did it does not necessarily make it right or nourishing (though it does make it worth looking into).
Instead, let's examine some of the arguments for (and against) and the studies or anecdotal evidence for it's benefits (and quickly state that when I refer to raw animal products, I am referring to raw meat, of course, but also raw dairy and fish):
Raw animal products contains B vitamins that are difficult to obtain elsewhere
"Pyridoxine or B6 deficiencies are widespread in America, partly because our traditional source of this heat-sensitive vitamin- raw milk- is no longer sold commercially. It requires some courage to consume the best source of B6- raw liver. This leaves raw cheese, meat and fish as the only sure sources of B6, available to most Americans. When B6 is lacking, the pathways for use of vitamins B1 and B2 may be less effective, leading to widespread symptoms of B vitamin deficiencies. Deficiencies of B6 have been linked with diabetes, heart disease, nervous disorders, carpel tunnel syndrome, PMS, morning sickness, toxemia of pregnancy, kidney failure, alcoholism, asthma, sickle cell anemia and cancer... Americans would be wise to include raw meat or fish on a frequent basis to avoid these debilitating conditions." Nourishing Traditions (bold mine)
"As with men, insufficient intake of certain nutrients can often make women less prone to become pregnant. Much research reveals that subnormal intake of vitamin B6 can diminish the chances of conception... Sometimes birth control pills diminish the amount of available vitamin B6 so that women who discontinue this oral contraceptive often cannot conceive until a year after cessation. Then, in one study, 98 percent of them taking vitamin B6 regularly resumed normal menstruation and became pregnant within four months. " James F. Scheer, Health Freedom News
It was also noted that many Eskimos (who ate primarily raw fish and meat) become ill when switching
to a more modern diet, but experienced complete cure when switching back
to their native diet
The B vitamin complex in general is crucial to our health, and affects every system to some degree. B vitamins are crucial for things such as our nervous system, adrenal glands (which affect how we cope with stressors), our skin/eyes/hair/muscles, and especially enzyme and hormone production.
trying to become pregnant with my last child, I did much study into
infertility and hormonal imbalance (as I have PCOS, a hormonal disorder
that often causes infertility). One of the things that I came across
during that time was the use of B vitamins, specifically B6, to help
regulate one's cycle, improve the length of the luteal phase (which is
necessary for a fertilized egg to successfully implant), and increase
chances of conception for various other reasons. B12 is also thought to
be related to maintaining fertility health.
I found it most interesting to note all of the material referenced in regards to infertility and problems within the female reproductive system, in a discussion of raw animal products and B vitamins, which brings me to my next point.
Raw animal products appear to improve hormonal and reproductive health
Here are a few other very intriguing things that I read while researching:
- Among the Eskimo people, Weston Price was told of a physician's observation that prior to eating a modern diet, the women had extremely healthy pregnancies and fast, uncomplicated deliveries. Once they began to move away from their native diet, the girls of that first new generation often had to be carried to the hospital after they had been in labor for several days.
- Raw milk and meat were used to bring about marked improvement in patients with hormonal or thyroid diseases, as well as disease of the prostrate gland.
- In a truly fascinating study by Francis Pottenger, 900 cats were studied over a 10 year period, so that multiple generations were observed. One group was fed raw meat and meat, the other only cooked food. Of the raw group, they maintained good health, bone structure, normal behavior and the ability to reproduce normally. Among the cooked food group, there was much infertility, miscarriage and mothers or kittens dying in childbirth, as well as an inability to nurse. They had inconsistent bone structures, poor teeth, gum diseases, weak skulls, were irritable and dangerous to handle and lacked sex interest, among many other conditions. They did not live past the third generation, and that strain of cats was eliminated.
Please hear me when I say that clearly, humans are not the same as cats. It bothers me when this study is used (as I have seen it used several times before) to suggest that humans ought not to eat any cooked food, because look what happened to the cooked food cats in the study. Cats and humans have different dietary needs, however, I think that we can safely glean the fact that raw animal products, as compared to those that are cooked, provided something different that was essential to the health of those cats. We may be wise to consider whether those differences would have an effect on us as well.
Raw animal products contain crucial enzymes
"Enzymes are complex proteins that act as catalysts in almost every biochemical process that takes place in the body... the enzymes we need to consider when planning our diets are the third category, the food enzymes. These are present in ample amounts in many raw foods, and they initiate the process of digestion in the mouth and stomach." Nourishing Traditions, pg 46
In addition to the food enzymes, the other enzymes that she refers to are those that our body makes, the majority of which are made in the pancreas. By eating solely cooked foods, we actually use up our bodies own stores of enzymes.
The thing about enzymes is that as we age, they decrease. Through much study done in the past 50-100 years, it appears evident that this decrease in enzymes is highly correlated to much of the degeneration (ie. sickness, effects of aging) that takes place in our bodies. Many studies have also shown that enzymes tend to be lower in those who are suffering from serious diseases.
The brilliant thing about traditional diets is that they included a vast amount of enzyme rich food- raw animal proteins and fats (in the form of raw dairy, raw fish, raw meat, and even raw organ meats), in addition to a certain amount of cultured and fermented foods (which I just talked about recently), as foods prepared with these methods are extremely rich in enzymes as well. Enzymes are also found in raw vegetables and fruit, as well as sprouted (or soaked or sourdough) grains, soaked or sprouted raw seeds, etc. although the enzyme content in these foods is not nearly as great as in raw animal foods, or cultured and fermented foods.
In addition to preserving the enzymes made by our bodies, eating foods rich in enzymes also encourages healthy digestion. Having good digestion cannot be praised enough, as this affects toxins in our body, nutrient absorption and assimilation, elimination, and many, many other areas of our health (a good reading resource on this topic is Eating Alive: Prevention Thru Good Digestion).
In the next post, I'll talk more about the safety and whether this is ultimately a wise thing to include in our diets or not. What do you think so far?