Once I started reading Grow a New Body, I'd a hard time putting it down. Before sharing some details of the book, I just wanted to clarify that it’s the first book I read from Dr. Villoldo, and although I enjoy exploring practices that promote wellbeing from a variety of perspectives, it’s also the first time I’ve had contact with shamanic rituals. After all, why wouldn’t I be interested in learning subjects I appreciate—nutrition, spirituality, nature—from a new angle?
Let me divide this review in 3 parts. First, I’ll share some thoughts and takeaways from the read. Then, I hope to write a summary from each chapter of the book with some excerpts I highlighted while reading it. Last, I’ll include personal advices to whom I’d recommend reading the book.
I was thrilled to learn Dr. Villoldo’s diet plan is aligned with the latest evidences of unbiased clinical and experimental researches. After all, his protocol is similar to the ones reputable figures such as Dr. Hyman, Dr. Mercola, Dr. Longo, Dr. Lipman and Dr. Perlmutter recommend. Right in Chapter 1 we get a glimpse of what’s coming ahead—we delve into the details later, in Chapters 5 and 6.
Just recently I started studying the synergy between food and spiritual rituals as a one practice. I used to think of them as separate activities. Well, they can be powerful when brought together, creating a deep sense of awareness and gratitude due to their potential to heal from inside out. So why not taking advantage of that while preparing, consuming, and digesting our meals? As I shared above, it's the first time reading about shamanic practices, but during the last year or so I’ve had the chance to read 2 books that incorporate spiritual practices and rituals around meals. They focus mostly on Buddhist practices involving cooking and eating, whereas Grow a New Body also adds the healing aspect of proper nourishment to the spiritual practice.
Even though I enjoy being in nature, going on adventures with certain regularity, and being away from technology whenever is possible, I’ve never brought shamanic rituals into my forays, and never being on a true vision quest as Dr. Villoldo suggests in Chapter 14—which is the culmination of what we previously learn throughout the book. I’m sincerely excited to try it out. Just as an encouraging clarification, we surely don’t have to attend any one of his retreats or to spend money with expensive products and vitamins. In fact, Dr. Villoldo states clearly right in the introduction “…in this book, I offer you the same practices you’d learn in the retreats, including the medicine plants and spiritual strategies that will help you return to health and keep your health for the rest of your life.” Also, for the vision quest, we don’t have to go in the remote wilderness; instead, Dr. Villoldo suggests that the natural setting can be done even in an urban area close to home, just making sure “the place is beautiful, safe, and sufficiently secluded that you’ll not be interrupted by hikers.”
Some of the takeaways I learned throughout the book are:  exploring rituals enrich life experiences,  being open to unknown elements by trusting our instincts is key in life,  being in direct contact with nature in a deeper level is innate to us, and  having simple yet nutritious meals is precisely important for our healing journey.
[Introduction] Right in the beginning Dr. Villoldo explains how his life turned upside down unexpectedly during a conference upon noticing he couldn’t walk without collapsing in exhaustion. After a complete battery of tests, medical doctors found out he’d contracted parasites, hepatitis virus and toxic bacterias throughout the years doing research in Indonesia, Africa and South America. Trough a combination of Western medicine and spiritual medicine received from the shamans in the Amazon he was able to get fully recovered. At the end we learn that our organs can regenerate when our bodies are directed to grow healthy, vibrant new cells.
[Chapter 1] According to the One Spirit Medicine, “the best way to heal and maintain health is to grow a new body on a regular basis. It recognizes the body as a system, not as a collection of parts that can be medicated or replaced when they go wrong. You can’t repair the heart without attending to the gut and the brain, and vice versa.” In addition to thinking about what to eat and when to eat, we learn the importance of setting up a choreographed encounter in nature to accelerate the body’s self-repair and regeneration systems and to reconnect to our own deepest purpose.
[Chapter 2] Dr. Villoldo shares insights from the Amazon healers who took him under their wing. In his own words, “I learned that there were 2 magical ingredients to health. The first ingredient could be found only in the invisible matrix of the universe—what I call Oneness. The second ingredient was the plants that promote health, but don’t treat specific disease.” He further explains that the visible and invisible worlds are intertwined with precision, and once we’ve opened our eyes to this, we can dance between them. We learn that our Spirit is omnipresence and explore ways to harmonize its forces, “in fact, Spirit isn’t a deity at all. Spirit is the great balancing force of life itself. It brings harmony, not punishment.” Later we’re introduced to the luminous energy field, which surrounds the physical body to inform our cells and biome about how to live in harmony. Our intention is to raise the quality of our luminous energy field to express the genes for health and longevity, and to live a more original and rewarding life.
[Chapter 3] According to Dr. Villoldo, we can’t really change our minds without changing our brains: “after you detox your brain and begin to manufacture brain’s natural bliss molecule, you’ll be able to transform toxic relationships, upgrade your health, and repair your emotions more easily.” To rewire our neural networks we’ve to detoxify our brain.
[Chapter 4] Here is a primer on the gut-brain connection. We learn the importance of maintaining a healthy microbiome in order to prosper in life. As an example, Dr. Villoldo shows how a diet rich in sugar—or foods rich in sugar substitutes—is the main cause for Candida proliferation inside the gut. He by no means forgets to include worthwhile advices on how counteract Candida naturally. Later in the chapter, we become aware that “the human brain isn’t designed to handle the toxins released in the environment over the last century.” As Dr. Villoldo puts, it’s not something we don’t know yet. What’s new is “our understanding that these neurotoxins prevent us from attaining the experience of Oneness so easily reached by our Paleolithic ancestors.” We then delve into the dangers of genetically modified foods, grains, and leaky gut syndrome.
[Chapter 5] Now we shift gears toward the longevity genes. It’s where cutting edge research topics are discussed to clarify how we can, in fact, grow a new body through proper nutrition. Among them, we learn  feasible strategies to implement intermittent fasting,  the importance of cycling protein to avoid overconsumption,  the mechanisms of mTOR, a metabolic regulatory pathway, and ways to calibrate its activation,  and a description of the different fat sources.
[Chapter 6] Dr. Villoldo walks us through the nutrition plan. Based on a plant-based diet, “some plants are considered superfoods because of the epigenetic instructions they provide to our DNA. Phytonutrients are the reason the villagers I met along the Amazon didn’t suffer from the four great maladies of modern life: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.” We learn the details of specific food sources that activate NrF2 inside the cells to turn on the longevity genes. Among them, cruciferous vegetables, turmeric, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, almonds, olive oil, avocados, berries, and fermented foods are high in the list.
[Chapter 7] This chapter is dedicated to the importance of mitochondria—from its emerging days as the first oxygen-breathing bacteria on Earth all the way to the latest evidences showing that fueling mitochondria with proper nutrition help us thrive in life. I highlighted the following passage due to its clarity: “By changing to a diet high in plant foods and healthy fats and low in carbs, your pancreas will quiet the insulin system that activates the mTOR pathway. Autophagy will kick in. Toxins stored inside the cells will be eliminated. Dead mitochondria will be recycled for their amino acids. The system will run as it’s supposed to.” At the end of the chapter Dr. Villoldo shares 3 key substances—brain-derived neurotrophic factor, glutathione, and superoxide dismutase—that can help us grow a new and healthier brain by producing neural stem cells. Also, he doesn’t forget to include how we can increase their levels naturally.
[Chapter 8] Now we explore strategies to free ourselves from stressors. Dr. Villoldo states that fear make us sick, explaining that “many of the health problems we face today are caused by our unhealed emotions, and paramount among these is fear.” He then goes further by showing that when toxic emotions dominate our thinking and nervous system, we put ourselves in danger. “To stop being the victim of your circumstances and become a hero embarking on an epic journey of discovery, you’ll need to heal your emotions.” For that, we learn that life offers “plenty of challenges and stressors that will allow you to transform toxic emotions like fear and anger into positive feelings like compassion and love.” Finally, the following topics—limiting beliefs, overstimulation and fight-or-flight, addiction to adrenaline, fear of death, and separation versus unity—are all discussed one by one to bring us close to experiencing Oneness.
[Chapter 9] Step by step, we first eliminate the poisons in our body and upgrade our brain with superfoods and neuron nutrients, switching on the genes for health and turning off the genes for disease. Then we transform our toxic emotions, reset fight-or-flight, and turn on the production of the bliss-creating molecules in our brain. Now, “the next step will be to let go on the familial and cultural myths that script your life. You can then adopt a new, more empowering myth that supports your ability to dream a new body and a new world into being.” This chapter is an introduction to mythology, explaining how myths can influence the way we perceive the world and, consequently, the choices we make every day. It sets the stage for the next 4 chapters, where “we’ll look at 4 myths that illustrate the power that comes with embracing a new personal mythology.”
[Chapter 10] The first story is about the legend of Parsifal, a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table, which “illustrates a man’s archetypal quest for wholeness and healing, the struggle to let go of the identities of the past in order to evolve.” We learn that when we finally let go of who we think we’re supposed to be and shed our fear of disapproval, we open our eyes to new opportunities.
[Chapter 11] The story of Psyche, who challenged death, tells us that the young part of ourselves, full of fresh ideas and the opportunities they bring, threatens the old ways. “As the myth points out, this is precisely what fear of death and loss can do—destroy our beauty and vitality.” Dr. Villoldo ends the chapter by saying that mastering the fear of death is a lifelong process—that we’ll be challenged and tested many times, although with each time, the way becomes easier.
[Chapter 12] As part of his duty, the archer Arjuna becomes deeply conflicted at the prospect of battling against his own relatives. The god Krishna stops the action, calms Arjuna down, and explains that “when we become still in the midst of the turmoil, we can observe clearly how our actions and the actions of others, past and present, fit together in the tapestry of life. In the timeless instant when we stop moving and simply witness the moment, the dust settles and the big picture emerges. Then, with this new map of reality in hand, we can choose wisely what course to pursue.”
[Chapter 13] The story of Siddhartha illustrates “the awakening of vision, the call to destiny, and the return to the world to share what we’ve learned.” Siddhartha, an Indian prince who later became the Buddha, noticed during his first foray outside the palace that in life  there is suffering,  that suffering is caused by attachment, and  to end suffering, we have to release all attachments. He then abandoned his life of richness and ease, and set out as a wandering monk to find an end to his suffering. After years in deep meditation he came to direct knowledge of  the path leading to the cessation of aging and death. These are, in fact, the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism.
[Chapter 14] This chapter is probably my favorite: the vision quest. We learn how transformative the vision quest was for Dr. Villoldo’s clients through their personal stories while going through not only discomfort and fear, but also experiencing personal evolution, a deep appreciation for life, and an intuitive understanding of the wonder of Oneness. In Dr. Villoldo’s own words, “a vision quest can change your life forever. It’s impossible to forget the intense awakening to your luminous nature that comes as the hunger pangs subside", adding that "it’s a powerful way to begin your transformation, a means of jump-starting your personal evolution and your new body.” At the end of the chapter he offers a step-by-step manual to create our own 3-day vision quest in a natural setting.
[Chapter 15] Here we learn the details of the Grow a New Body program. Dr. Villoldo walks us through the program with care, bringing all the information previously learned in an instructional format. In fact, it’s one of the most comprehensible implementation manuals I’ve ever read.
[Chapter 16] Next, there is a 5-minute questionnaire to explore the quality of our health in terms of physical and emotional sensations, as well as about sleep quality and overall energy. Dr. Villoldo suggests to score ourselves before and after completing the Grow a New Body program.
[Chapter 17] This chapter is composed by simple recipes intended to be prepared during the 7-day Grow a New Body program. As he states, the 7-day program “is designed to stress your system in subtle ways so that it’ll respond creatively by going into repair and regeneration mode.” In terms of recipes, I’ve only tried 2 of them because the ingredients were on hand. In fact, I've just had the “Green Smoothie” before starting to write the review. A refreshing combination of spinach, kale, lemon, fresh ginger, mint leaves, coconut oil, and ripe avocado. Yesterday evening I tried the “Los Lobos Vegetable Soup” for dinner. It's aromatic.
[Chapter 18] Last, Dr. Villoldo explains how simple strategies taken on a daily basis can protect our health. We come back to the discussion of the primary metabolic regulatory pathway, mTOR. When mTOR is activated, it fuels growth and regeneration, and its activity can enhance cellular maintenance and repair at the expense of accelerated aging. For young and even midlife athletes, stimulating mTOR to build muscle and enjoy greater strength is a worthy goal. However, if we can slow down the activity of mTOR as adults, “we can take nature’s foot off of the accelerator of aging and experience a longer health span.” It turns out that to slow aging, from the mTOR perspective, we should reduce the intake of meats, dairy, and eggs—all rich in the amino acid leucine which activates mTOR the most. Finally, we learn strategies to prevent cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
I hope the summary helps you form an idea of the content before making any commitment. I’d sincerely recommend the book if you’re interested in incorporating spiritual practices along with your own eating habits, specially if you're familiar with similar nutrition plans suggested by those doctors mentioned in the beginning of the review. Also, if you’ve experienced shamanic rituals before, but aren’t aware of the natural and healing nutrition plan proposed here, this book can be a valuable complementation. After all, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.
Although I’d love to recommend this book to all of us, it wouldn’t be fair. Not all of us are willing to embark on spiritual forays or willing to adopt a primarily plant-based diet rich in good fats and phytonutrients—after all, they’re the core of One Spirit Medicine. That said, the content is so valuable—and beautifully explained—that can take us by surprise.
Well, it turned out to be a long review. I was excited to share some thoughts with you because the content has potential to improve the quality of our lives in the present and in the long run. All that to say that I’ve just purchased the audio version to listen to it before embarking on my first vision quest. I also hope to purchase the physical version at my local bookstore so I can share it with loved ones.
Take good care,
- Paperback: 293 pages
- Publisher: Hay House (19 March 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1401956564
- ISBN-13: 978-1401956561
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 431 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)