Health Lessons from the Weston A. Price Foundation Conference

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Where else but at a Weston A. Price conference do you dine with 1,700 people heaping masses of butter on their food, wait in line for sauerkraut, and stroll conference halls with bottles of raw milk and kombucha at hand?

I just returned from the 13th annual Wise Traditions conference of the Weston A. Price Foundation at the Santa Clara convention center. I had high expectations being this was my second conference – and was not disappointed. Invariably there are too many remarkable sessions to physically attend but I focused on the nutrition and behavior tracks.

Gut Health and Damaging Carbs

The conference presenters ranged from doctors to nutritionists, acupuncturists to PHD’s – but some common themes quickly emerged from these sessions.

“In proportion as man has learned to modify Nature’s foods, he has degenerated.” Dr. Weston A. Price

First is that proper nutrition is the foundation to healing and this means a diet based on the principles that Dr. Weston A. Price discovered studying healthy traditional societies around the world. The key components of this diet is nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K found in animal fats. This is contrary to contemporary conventional nutrition advice and a main factor in our degrading health.

Chris Masterjohn gave a fantastic presentation on “Meat, Organs, Bones, and Skin: Nutrition and Mental Health,” and revealed his own experience of rampant tooth decay and anxiety from his vegetarian years to robust health adopting the principles of Dr. Price.

“Our only recommendation for ending the worldwide physical and mental health crisis is to cut all sweetened foods to below 10% of calories.” World Health Organization 2006.

A second recurrent theme is the detrimental effects of refined carbohydrates and sugars and its role in ailments ranging from skin conditions, obesity, and heart disease, to food cravings, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, depression, and other mood and behavior afflictions.

Julia Ross calls sugar addiction the “greatest dietary crisis of all time.”  Sally Fallon Morell‘s seminar on traditional diets describes how the vibrant and healthy societies that Weston Price studied quickly succumbed to tooth decay and disease when introduced to the refined foods of modernization.

“All diseases begin in the gut.”  Hippocrates, 460-370 BC

A third recurrent motif of the conference is the role of proper gut health. Chris Kresser presented a well-attended session on the gut, brain, and skin connection and how they are all inter-related.  Joette Calebrese discussed the gut/mind connection with a special emphasis on children’s health and behavior.  Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride presents a full day seminar at every conference on her healing GAPS diet, which emphasizes restoring proper gut function as a treatment for autism, depression, ADD and many more.

“The child’s digestive system holds the key to the child’s mental development.”  Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

Healing the Planet

“Since any civilization rests or is premised on its resources rather than on institutions, changes in the institution cannot be made in disregard of so basic a resource as the  soil.” Dr. Weston A. Price

The Weston A. Price foundation advocates a holistic view of health and nutrition which includes sourcing foods from organic and biodynamic farmers. This invariably leads to healthier soils and ecosystems.

The Saturday night banquet featured a keynote address by Andrea Malmberg from the Savory Institute. The Savory Institute promotes large scale restoration of the world’s grasslands with holistic management through the use of livestock and thoughtful study of the unique location being restored. This work has profound effects on climate change, food security and sovereignty, and community well-being. Malmberg showed before and after slides of restored grasslands from all over the globe, from South Africa, to Argentina. It was an inspiring message and crucial in a world where city council’s declare “Meatless Mondays” as a message  of health and eco-awareness. How have we been so removed from our traditions to expect healthy societies and sustainable agriculture without animals?

Delicious Fun

The exhibit halls filled with food vendors and specialty products is a highlight of the conference. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to connect with farmers and food vendors directly – many of whom gave presentations at the farm track and “wise entrepreneurs” track. I began each day of the conference with a tasting of fermented cod liver oil and was overwhelmed by the choices of kombucha and other fermented goodies. I discovered some new green cleaning products, non-toxic makeup, and added another dozen books to my reading list.

Best of all, though, are the connections made with new friends and old, and sharing a passion for real food, health, and food justice with hundreds of others.

Get another glimpse of what the conference was like by doing a twitter search with the following hashtags: #wapfconf, #wapfcon, and #WAPF.

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