Looking past 'You are what you eat'

Local author tackles digestive problems in new book

If you're one of the growing number of people who are taking things like gluten and lactose right out of your diets because of digestion issues, Whistler author Van Powel says it's not actually what you've been eating, but how you eat it that's the real problem.

He'll be on hand for the launch of his book on the subject, You Are Not What You Eat, on Friday (June 1) from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Whistler Public Library.

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Powel, a registered psychiatric nurse who was the top student and valedictorian of his class, suffered from digestive problems at one time, as well.

"I experienced food problems myself," he said. "I looked at what I ate, and started cutting out the things that disagreed with me gluten, lactose, chocolate. I kept adding to the list. Soon I was down to, like, plain white rice it seemed."

But it was while studying abroad that Powel began to suspect there was more going on than just a sensitivity to a lot of foods.

"I spent a fair amount of time in Asia," he said. "And while I was there I studied martial arts, and became familiar with yoga and shiatsu."

In India, Powel became immersed in Ayurveda, the ancient traditional system of Hindu medicine.

"I was already a registered psychiatric nurse," he said. "So I was coming at this from a Western frame of mind, and I was very skeptical," he said. "But as I learned more and saw how my Western training supported what Ayurveda was teaching, I gained an appreciation for the knowledge.

"They've been dealing with digestive troubles for thousands of years, so those writings, those thousands of years of clinical study, have to count for something."

Powel said it's rare for people to be actually allergic to certain foods, but they often have degrees of sensitivity due to poor digestion.

"Only in some rare cases are people actually allergic to food," he said. "But it is when the digestive system is compromised that your body fights back by becoming intolerant to certain foods."

The Ayurvedic techniques have worked for him.

"You could say I've spent my life studying this," he said. "I always had a fragile constitution and had these digestive and health problems."

But now, Powel said he rarely even gets a cold.

Although it's been a lifelong passion, Powel didn't start penning the book until 1990.

"I really started researching and studying the subject in 1990 when I decided to write a book," he said. "I wanted to merge the cutting-edge Western thinking with the ancient Eastern traditions."

Writing the book wasn't the hurdle he expected, but getting it published was, he said.

"It sat at Random House for a while," he said. "They were trying to figure out which editor or editors to take it to, and I got tired of waiting."

So Powel pulled the book from Random House, shelved it and focused on Mind Body Fitness Inc., a health and fitness company based in Whistler.

"A friend asked me about the book and encouraged me to take it back out," he said. "With technology being what it is today, I was able to self-publish the book, and it is now available through Amazon and for Kindle eBooks, as well as at Armchair Books in Whistler."

Discover the secrets to better digestion - and how you can enjoy milk and bread again - on Friday at the Whistler Public Library as Powel launches the new book and signs copies from 7 to 8 p.m. For more info, go to www.youarenotwhatyoueat.com.

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