Book Review: The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates


Body Ecology Diet Book
The Body Ecology Diet, by Donna Gates, is a fantastic book that I found fascinating from the first page.  The Body Ecology Diet incorporates different health theories that author Donna came across when searching for her own healing.  The book will appeal to those who have an interest in alternative medicine, it includes elements from ancient Chinese medicine, the blood type diet, food combining, and lots of cultured foods.

Similarities between the Body Ecology Diet and Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet

Like Gut and Psychology Syndrome that we have been following, the Body Ecology Diet (BED) works to restore the internal ecology.
Over a year and a half ago I was introduced to this whole internal ecology through the GAPS book, and BED provides even more explanations for how food affects our whole body’s function, including both physical and mental function.
The goal of BED, as well as GAPS, is to restore gut health so that nutrients are best assimilated, the gut is not ‘leaky,’ allowing undigested particles through to the bloodstream, good gut flora is encouraged and toxic pathogens are starved out so they too cannot emit toxins to the blood stream and eventually the brain.

Differences with BED and GAPS

The Body Ecology Diet is primarily a vegetarian diet, which only allows meat with proper food combining, and at that vegetables still should make up 80% of the meals, meat only 20%.  Four BED grains (buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and amaranth) are allowed, as well as young red potatoes, and it appears that corn/popcorn is allowed as well.  Grains are not allowed at meat meals, and again, in grain meals vegetables should make up 80% of the meal, grains should be well soaked and only make up 20% of the meal.

Animal protein and fat is discouraged, but coconut is greatly encouraged for fatty acids.  When eating animal protein, fish is the recommended source for the BED.  Eggs, especially the yolks, are recommended especially at the beginning of healing.

For fats, small amounts of unrefined oils from coconut, pumpkin seeds, evening primrose, and some ghee are allowed.

I have noticed that some people seem to tend toward more of a vegetarian diet, doing well with little meat. I’m one of these people, though I like a little red meat and lots of butter and coconut oil every day, rather than fish and only some coconut oil or liquid unrefined vegetable oils.

My children, on the other hand, seem to have a strong need for meat and animal fat.  My 2-year-old son especially wants red meat and stock, he will even correct me if I give him fish or chicken (though he eats both) “Dat’s not meat. Dat’s chicken! Dat’s fish!”  I think we all required the high-animal fat content of the introduction GAPS diet especially.

Some Examples of Alternative Medicine in the BED

The ‘Alternativeness’ of the BED book would make it more suitable to some people, but would also make it a book less likely to win over a die-hard Western medicine follower.  Some people who may understand the science behind the GAPS diet but are still reluctant to follow it may be won over by the word pictures of Eastern medicine, examples to follow.

“Women should cut way back on salt and continue to do so from the time of ovulation until they complete their period (monthly cleansing) so their bodies will easily “open up,” relax, and expand ever so slightly to release the uterine lining.  When a woman’s body becomes too contracted from too much sea salt, she will have extreme cravings for sugary, sweet foods as her body attempts to balance itself so the lining of the uterus can be shed.  If she eats too much salt during her period, she may not have a complete cleansing” page 76

“… Man’s nature is more like the energy of fire.  Traditionally, man’s role in society and teh family has been more outward, expanding, forceful… arousing and inspiring… more fervent… conquering and intense. p133 […] The dampy, moldy, fungus-like nature of yeast dampens the fire nature of man.  Candidiasis, while it is not as common among women, is weakening many men in American today and has become a serious threat to the well-being of the family unit and to society.”  p 139


Overall Impression of the Body Ecology Diet book

A must read for anyone with health issues or with a desire to learn more about food-focused holistic medicine! I loved this book and am so glad that it is out for us to learn from! You can buy The Body Ecology Diet here.  While I don’t think my little one is ready for the allowed grains in the BED, nor do I want to make our diet mostly vegetarian, I might try incorporating some of the principals soon, especially the constricting/relaxing foods to eat according to mood, and the heating/cooling foods to eat according to temperature.
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  1. wssims39 says

    I have many books, The Body Ecology, GAPS, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, Nourishing Traditions, The Fat Flush series… the list goes on. I agree with your assessment on figuring out what each family member needs and working for their best health. I appreciate the knowledge each brings to the “table” and I want to know why! I must admit I hadn’t thought about reading the part about “dampening the fire” to my husband. Thanks for the smile on that one! Keep up the good work!

  2. Candy says

    I have tried the BED diet several times but always give up because I become very weak. I am now trying the GAPS intro and haven’t felt weak at all.

    • Shari says

      I felt very weak at first too, but maybe more on the Paleo diet. Once I upped the ancient grains a bit, I felt much better.

  3. Thea says

    My main concern about the BED is that they rely heavily on supplements. This doesn’t accord well with Weston A. Price teachings about traditional diets. Too many things from a bottle or jar makes me worry that people are just substituting a more healthier instant fix.

    • MaddyG says

      I have followed Body Ecology for over 16 years and have never relied on supplements, so I’m not sure what you are referring to? She encourages you to make your own cultured vegetables and beverages, but at no point in the edition I have does she emphasize supplements. In fact, embracing B.E.D. means preparing all of your food from scratch with simple wholesome ingredients in proper combinations to be as alkalizing as possible. I often buy the cultured veg when I don’t want to deal with it myself, but other than that, it’s all about cooking healing meals.

  4. says

    Gut and Psychology surpasses BED in my opinion.

    My daughter was diagnosed with terminal cancer and although she did not survive the GAPS diet helps reduce symptoms after aggressive chemo (which my 25 yr old daughter opted out of after 3 treatments).

    I want to add that soy infant formula was the reason she got cancer and my son who was also feed soy infant formula was a candidate for cancer which we knew after he has a battery of test which show significant amounts of calcium that had been leached from the bone as well as many deficiencies including the fact that the soy make it impossible for my children to metabolism and absorb fats and protein. The Gaps diet made this possible and from there we adopted the Western Price diet, the whole family is healthier than ever before.

    The more animal products, meats, organ meat, raw dairy, cultured dairy, lacto – veggies, ………..the healthier we got. We all got tested more than once and I can see on paper the progress that we all made.

    My husband was on high blood pressure meds, statin for high cholesterol, 50lbs over weight, post nasal, chronic bronchitis, issue with his teeth …….ALL GONE.

    I might add that out of desperation we adopted a vegan diet for about 9 months and ALL of us got very sick. Hair thinned, nails peels, chronic fatigue, tooth decay/gum disease, and I got vulvodynia. We were all depleted of B12, D, calcium etc……….

    Today we eat 70% animal products, 20% complete protein and 10% carbs/starch each day.

    • Erin says

      how do you know that the soy formula was the reason for cancer in your kids? Is there any way to combat this while they are still young? My son had hypoallergenic formula that I will have to do some ressearch on. I myself was also on formula as a child but have no idea if it was soy or dairy or what! as it was in the 80’s

  5. says

    Thanks for the review. I have found that it helps to read and glean from many different writers about health and nutrition. No one person has all the knowledge and all the experience. By bringing together what many have learned, I can save myself the time of researching every theory and can put together what works for our family. Weston A. Price didn’t have ALL the answers, either, but we take what he learned and go from there. I will definitely consider adding this book to my collection.

  6. Gloria says

    EACH ONE OF US IS A UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL possessing his or her own distinct biochemical variations and functional capacities in the world, there is no set, rigid diet that applies to everyone.

    In order to develop an appropriate diet that gives maximum support to every aspect of our lives, we need to individualize it so that it is totally functionally on all levels.

    We all need a diet rich in vitamins and essential nutrients such as dietary minerals, essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids for optimal health.

    How much we need and what foods we get them from may vary from person to person.

    • MaddyG says

      That is absolutely correct! And one of the things I like so much about the Body Ecology combination of elements is her insistence that we are all unique and have to find our own version of B.E.D. that works for us. It’s a crucial element of the program, actually, and I love that.

  7. RG says

    I found BED to be difficult, irritating, and ineffective for my body: I felt weak and deeply exhausted while on it, full of cravings, digestive distress, with no improvement. BED talks about Candida as being the cause–yet candida is only one organism that may take over the gut–and this approach is simply too simplistic. The starches allowed on BED feed not only the candida but all the other pathogenic organisms as well as irritating the gut.

    GAPS is working so much better for me! After the initial die-off, my athletic performance got much stronger. I still move through intermittent bouts of die-off, yet my brain, emotional state, and meditation are so much better. My gut is settling down and finally I have longer and longer spells of flat-bellied, easy comfort.

  8. says

    I followed body ecology diet for 2 months and it completely healed me. I hated it, it was the worst most difficult diet I have ever done and i don’t recommend it lightly but in terms of effectiveness, it worked. I also put my clients (I’m a health coach) on a version of this diet and have had numerous success stories. It’s hardcore… where I find GAPS may be easier for some because it’s a little laxer but it takes a little longer. I wanted to get healed asap so i smashed it out. I found the weakness and die off only lasted a week as I took the Pau D’Arco herbs (which she doesn’t recommend to do) so I was pretty shot but afterwards I worked full 10 hr days of physical work and was fine. I also put myself on stage two straight up, cutting out fruit was tool much for me so I allowed berries. I still incorporate so much from this book in eveyrday life in terms of expansion and contraction, food combining and probiotic foods. You don’t need to use supplements nor buy her version of probiotics. I simply made my own using Sandor Katz as a you tube tutorial.

    Finally It’s also important to remember if you currently eat alot of meat and you try to do BED, you will have a harder time, as not only will there be the candida die off but your meat parasites that live inside your gut are going to make life very difficult for you as they cry out to be fed (cravings), then try and drain you (you become the meat they need as they start sucking from the inside) until they eventually die of and exit your body. Colonics and herbal remedies can help greatly with this. Use this time to properly cleanse your body so you can truly listen to what it needs again.

  9. MaddyG says

    This is an interesting review. I went from being a vegetarian to doing Body Ecology 16 years ago and was incorporating eggs, fish or chicken at every single meal so to me it’s a very protein-centric way to eat. I find that this is really the only nutritional lifestyle, of MANY I have tried, to really heal all of my issues (quickly) and make positive changes right away…but I will admit that the first week or two are usually brutal if I have strayed for a while. Still, a wonky week or two is a small price to pay for feeling like a whole new person, so I am a big fan of this philosophy and can’t put into words what it has done for me over the years. The concepts of uniqueness, taking it step by step and the stages of the diet depending upon your situation make it all very malleable while still tacking some tough imbalances. I tend to leave out the seed-grains altogether, I just grew tired of them, but love incorporating buckwheat at a stage 2 or 3 point, along with goat milk kefir, homemade. I never used or needed any supplements with this, either, though I do like to take Paragone from time to time, just because it feels so good to me. But all in all, B.E.D. has been nothing short of life changing for me. I don’t mind lugging homemade ginger ale or salmon roll-ups with me to movies. :)


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