Meet Donna Gates: On The Body Ecology Diet + Fermented Foods

Donna Gates is a mother, nutritionist, author and the founder of Body Ecology, a gut and gene health-centric education platform with a line of nutritional products we love. Her book, The Body Ecology Diet is something of a health and wellness classic.

The Chalkboard met up with Donna to find out more about what makes the Body Ecology program so unique…

TCM: How did you get started on your nutrition path?

Donna Gates: “When I was young, I was constantly fighting off one cold or lung infection after another. By the time I was a teenager, my skin began to break out with acne. This led me to be antibiotics for a long period of time.

When I ate the standard American diet and followed doctor’s orders, my health suffered. I became sick. I knew that I was not the only one having this experience. I knew that others around me were unknowingly sabotaging their own health. My body seemed to be growing more sensitive with time and with antibiotic use. It was not until I was in my 30s that I began searching for answers to all my health issues.

By looking at my own diet and pulling together bits of information that I found in several other disciplines, I was able to figure out why my body struggled to be well. After several years of searching, I slowly began to heal a lifetime of sensitivity and infection. I felt better than I ever had before. So I decided to put together what I had learned into a book that is easy for others to follow and to relate to. “

TCM: What makes the Body Ecology Diet different from other diets out there?

DG: “The Body Ecology Diet focuses specifically on restoring and maintaining the gastrointestinal tract, what I coined our “inner ecology”.  Unlike most diets, the Body Ecology is not a one size fits all solution. While it incorporates many principles that are important for everyone, it also approaches every individual through the lens of uniqueness–each of us has to honor our unique constitution and health challenges.

The mistake most diet programs make is assuming everyone should start their healing process exactly the same way with exactly the same foods. Thus, the Body Ecology Diet is a complete system embraced by many doctors around the world. One of the main tenets of the Body Ecology Diet is the introduction of probiotic rich, fermented foods and beverages. A number of diets over the years, like GAPS, have changed their protocol to include fermented foods after I demonstrated how their systems were incomplete.

Fermented foods are no longer consumed on a regular basis. Maybe our great-grandmothers made these foods at home, but most of us have forgotten about truly fermented yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir. Fermented foods are extremely important to our health because they educate and inoculate the gut with a wide range of beneficial microorganisms. When these beneficial microorganisms are not present, harmful ones are. When we give our body reason to house harmful bacteria, it will. When we give our body the tools that it needs to build a thriving and balanced inner ecosystem, it will!”

TCM: If people could remove one thing from their life to be healthier, what would it be?

DG: “Sugar consumption is at an all-time high – and growing. In the early 1800s, we ate roughly 5 pounds of sugar a year. Today, each of eats about 110 pounds of sugar a year. We are consuming sugar multiple times a day and our body is not equipped to handle this. Convenience food is loaded with sugar because it is a preservative. It also enhances flavor and drives up sales. Sugar is addictive. And sugar is extremely harmful to the body on multiple levels. It immediately weakens the immune system function, it blocks hormone receptors, it feeds disease-causing microorganisms and the list goes on. If we could drastically reduce the amount of sugar that we consume, I believe that we could greatly reduce many of the health disorders that are becoming ‘epidemic’.”

TCM: Can you give an example of a perfect Body Ecology dinner?

DG: “The first rule of thumb is to include fermented foods with every meal. The second is to follow the Principle of 80/20, which means that 80% of your meal is composed of non-starchy vegetables. About 20% of the meal would be a starchy vegetable, grain or animal protein. A lightly cooked piece of salmon, skin on, gives the body a small dose of long-chain omega-3 fats. We know that omega-3 fatty acids are good for healthy brain, joint and immune system function. I also always enjoy a glass of coconut water kefir or one of our fermented drinks with every meal.

So the perfect Body Ecology dinner would have a side of fermented vegetables, which add a flavorful kick to any meal. There would also be a side of lightly steamed vegetables topped with a healthy fat, like pumpkin seed oil, ghee or coconut oil and a handful of fresh, baby salad greens sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil and dulse, which is a type of ocean vegetable.”

TCM: Why is eating fermented foods such an integral part of being successful on the Body Ecology Diet?

DG: “Fermented foods are tremendously important because they safely deliver a complex range of healthy microbes to the digestive system. This cannot be accomplished with a probiotic capsule. You see, our intestines house millions upon millions of bacteria. And it turns out that these bacteria play a very special role in overall immune function and health! The Body Ecology Diet suggests that we eat foods that strengthen our immune system rather than weaken it.

The microorganisms found in fermented foods naturally assist with digestion. They also help to heal a permeable gut, which is at the root of many systemic infections and many chronic immune disorders. When the gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed, we are more likely to develop allergies, autoimmune disorders and signs of neurological degeneration. Beneficial bacteria have been found to reduce inflammation. They also have been found to metabolize heavy metals that are inherently toxic to the body.

Most of us think that the digestive system is largely about transforming and using food. While this is true, it is also full of cells that related to the immune system and to the nervous system. The bacteria and microorganisms that populate the digestive tract have been found to do amazing things like communicate with the cells of our immune system and to even generate their own neurotransmitters, which the body picks up and uses! So of course, we want to do everything that we can to create a healthy and balanced environment.

TCM: How do children respond to the Body Ecology Diet?

DG: “Children do extremely well on the Body Ecology Diet. I think it is the solution to so many of the issues children are now facing—from obesity and diabetes to reduced immune systems and autism. I wish I could speak with Michelle Obama about her ‘Let’s Move!’ program and her desire to fight childhood obesity. I have answers!

Through working with thousands of children over the years through our BEDROK Program–Body Ecology Diet Recovering Our Kids—we’ve found that proper detoxification, diet and supplementation can result in what many believe to be miracles.  When we add good, nourishing fats to their diet while removing sugars and most grains, we find that these children thrive. The addition of fermented foods literally changes their desire for junk food, which many children are drawn to.

Once children begin the Body Ecology Diet, they are happier. They think clearly, perform well in school and many behavioral issues simply disappear. The Body Ecology Diet can also help to heal many of the digestive and immune system disorders that children face today. Whether a child has sensitivity to certain foods or to their environment, when parents change their child’s diet, they find that their child functions at a higher level and is susceptible to seasonal allergies and to infection.”

TCM: What do you do in your free time?

DG:Research! I love finding information and putting together the puzzle pieces in ways that others have yet to do. Research not only helps me to be a better teacher, but allows me to give better guidance to others so they can live a happier, healthier life.”

TCM: What’s one thing people might not know about you?

DG: “That I love architecture and interior design. I’ve remodeled or built over 13 homes. When I need to relax, I simply open a design magazine and study the beautiful rooms.”

TCM: What are you excited about working on now?

DG: “Well, I had my youngest son when I was 44 years old. He is 21 and in college now. Many women are having babies later in life due to our culture, but there hasn’t been a shift yet in how we support women to be healthy enough at later ages to increase their fertility and create happy, healthy babies. Through my work with autism and my desire to teach people how to prevent it, I am now focusing on working with women so they can cleanse properly and increase fertility, and have an easy pregnancy and healthy babies.”

Learn more about Donna and The Body Ecology Diet here.

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From our friends


  1. I’m interested in reading about the Body Ecology Diet. I recently eliminated gluten and, for the most part, animal products from my diet – joint pain gone. I thought I was eating a healthy diet but something still wasn’t right with my intestines so changes had to be made. I’m reading the book whether it’s won or purchased! Have a beautiful day.

    Becky | 06.20.2012 | Reply
  2. I met Donna 10 years ago and she was the first person to introduce me to young coconuts… She is amazing!!

    Seana | 06.20.2012 | Reply
  3. I’ve completely changed what I consume this calendar year, and by eliminating certain things other things have increased their necessity (ie. caffeine, sugar, nicotine). Slowly but surely I’m incorporating more healthy food into my diet, exploring cleanses to kick start a new health regime. I’m hoping to become more in tune to my body, nourishing it with what it needs, intuitively taking care of my nutrition by responding to my body. I’m definitely going to explore this diet more to see how the body heals itself from the inside out. Thanks, Chalkboard & Donna!

    Anni | 06.20.2012 | Reply
  4. I would love to win a copy of The Body Ecology Diet because for the past year I have been on a gluten free diet upon discovering that I have an intolerance. I’ve been interested in introducing more fermented foods into my diet in hopes of healing my digestive tract, but I’m not really sure how. I’m hoping that Donna’s book can help me on my path to a healthy lifestyle! Thanks for the wonderful article and interview!

    Ashley | 06.20.2012 | Reply
  5. The Body Ecology Diet is the next step in my journey to learn about proper nutrition and how to really eat for optimum health so I can keep spreading the word to all I come across. What Donna says makes so much sense and I can think of so many people I know personally that can benefit from this knowledge. Thank you for sharing it with your readers!

    jenny | 06.20.2012 | Reply
  6. I’m in the midst of an ongoing (three-year) battle with chronic fatigue and food sensitivities. I’m always researching and trying to figure out new answers to address these issues… always an interesting journey! Definitely want to learn more about Donna and her philosophies to see if the body ecology diet might make a positive difference. Thanks for publishing this great article (and others)!

    louise | 06.20.2012 | Reply
  7. I’d LOVE to read the book! I have a casein allergy and have to avoid all dairy. In addition, I’m a pesca-tarian so my protein sources are different than those who eat the standard “American” meat+cheese.

  8. I would like to win this book because I’m searching for a way of life, including eating, that will take my body to a healthy and medicine free state. It sounds like this author is onto something & I’d love to give it a try! 🙂

    Deb S | 06.20.2012 | Reply
  9. A great friend of mine told me about Body Ecology a year ago. She said that she had never felt better than when she followed Donna’s plan. She lost weight, had more energy, and cleared up her adult acne. A week ago, I ended up surfing over to the Body Ecology website. Then this morning, I saw this link on Chalkboard, and another friend said to me, “The Universe speaks in threes.” After 3 recommendations, I’d love to learn more first-hand. I keep to a fairly healthy diet, but I have colon cancer in my family history, so I’m looking to learn more about how to keep one’s gut healthy as a means of keeping the whole body healthy.

  10. This sounds exactly like the information I’ve been in such need of! A couple months ago I first heard about how the health of your colon and digestive functions has SO much to do with your overall health. It was really shocking to know that the problems most people experience with their body can be radically different with some applied eating habits! I’ve had several different consulting sessions at the doctor simply to find a solution for the digestive “predicaments” of my body- I would LOVE to read The Body Ecology Diet in search of some help!

    Sarah | 06.20.2012 | Reply
  11. I would LOVE to read this books and learn from Donna. I work in early childhood and I have seen how nutrition is such an integral part of development and growth; it sets the stage for the rest of our lives. I would love to see how the body ecology diet can work for children and their parents, to help with the many food sensitivities and behavioral issues I have seen and to help families better work towards optimal health.

    Wendy Gierhart | 06.20.2012 | Reply
  12. I would love to win this book because I’m trying to eat healthier. It seems like every time I finish a meal I feel tired! Even when I finish a smoothie I feel tired and need a nap. I don’t know whats going on and I hope this book can help me eat better, heal better and become a pro at nutrition so I can share advice with the people I love.

    Christine Phu | 06.20.2012 | Reply
  13. I have an autoimmune disorder. Not positive which one yet because I am in the process of being tested by my rheumatologist. My entire life, especially my diet, is going to have to be made over with this diagnosis. It is overwhelming. This book could be a huge help to me. I would be very grateful to receive it.

    Cindy | 06.22.2012 | Reply
  14. June 8th my doctor mentioned this book and started me on a no dairy, wheat, soy, nuts, corn and sugar diet to clear my ACNE. I have used Accutane, Retina A and every over the counter acne product you can think of. I am convinced now that it is food allergies and that getting fermented foods and reading about Donna’s experiences in her book and using her recipes will be exactly the support I need while healing my stomach and face. I sincerely hope to win this book. With ultimate gratitude for all the work you’ve done. Love LOVE love, Erica

    erica jago | 06.22.2012 | Reply
  15. I am very interested in this! Trying to cut dairy out but I need a plan!

    Maryellen | 06.22.2012 | Reply
  16. Wow! This article is great reminder to me how important fermented foods are and how important digestive health is to our whole bodies. I would love to read this book!

    Jill@simplyhealthful.me | 06.23.2012 | Reply
  17. I love your book and would love to share it with as many friends as I can. I am so excited about so many things that I have learned through this book. Thank you Donna.

    Cheryl Townend | 06.24.2012 | Reply
  18. CONGRATULATIONS, READERS! ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE COMMENTED WILL RECEIVE A COPY OF THE BODY ECOLOGY DIET! We’re thrilled to let you know that Donna Gates and team have decided to gift everyone with a copy of their book! To collect your winnings, please email hello@thechalkboardmag.com with your mailing address as soon as possible, placing ‘Body Ecology’ in the subject line. Only readers who have already commented will be eligible.

    The Chalkboard | 06.25.2012 | Reply
  19. My personal goal, as both a practitioner and lecturer is to educate both clients and students about the absolute importance of reinoculating their gastrointestinal tract and down-regulating inflammation through fermented foods. My aim is to run classes with children and their parents to teach them basic skills (including fermentation) that have been lost in our “convenient” lifestyles. I think education is the key to changing the lives of our future generations and the Body Ecology Diet definitely plays a key role.

    TESSA BAILEY | 08.27.2012 | Reply
  20. I was having intestinal issues and the over-the-counter meds were not helping after a year. I knew there was something I was lacking in my diet and adding things slowly to test whether I could tolerate it wasn’t working. My body was telling me I needed a change. Then I found your site. I have felt better since I started but have a long way to go. I feel positive this is the way for me to go. Thank you for your site and I’m looking forward to living healthy from now on. I’ve already passed this info on to my friends who want to eat healthy.

    Jeannine | 08.31.2012 | Reply
  21. I have been on a plant-based diet for over 30 years but am currently suffering from inflammation of the joints, possible rheumatoid arthritis which may qualify as my 2nd auto-immune disorder. I am an integrative health coach and yoga teacher and am interested in learning more about the Body Ecology Diet!

    Katherine Rossmoore | 01.24.2013 | Reply
  22. I would love to win a copy of the Body Ecology Diet! 🙂 I am a 1st grade teacher in Hawaii and I am on a mission to be as healthy as possible. I have psoriasis and ankylosing spondylitis and I have had great success eating a starch free diet although there are still some areas of my health that I feel are lacking… mainly gastrointestinal issues. After reading this interview with Mrs. Gates I am intrigued with the concept and I want to try out eating more fermented foods. I am wanting to eliminate more sugar from my diet and I feel that adding some flavor-rich fermented foods might aid me in this process! 🙂

    Andrea | 02.12.2013 | Reply
  23. Very interested in the Body Ecology Diet!! I love sauerkraut but I have no idea how to make it, I would love to learn more about fermenting foods!

    • Bev check out any of the Chalkboard posts by Culture For Health! They are such an informative resource – you will love!

      The Chalkboard | 02.15.2013 | Reply
  24. Hi there, I have just graduated as a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and would love to use this book in my Practice to help my clients heal their gut issues and learn a new approach to eating. I think that it would be a valuable resource!

    lori | 02.26.2013 | Reply
  25. I use to eat fermented foods but I found that the salt content was so high that it had an acidic effect on my body and I was always bloated. Should I make my own sauerkraut/ fermented foods and control the salt content?

    molly | 03.19.2013 | Reply
    • Hi Molly, if the salt content of store-bought fermented foods is too high, then it’s definitely worth a shot to make your own. Let us know how they turn out!

      The Chalkboard | 03.19.2013 | Reply
  26. I am just beginning to radically change my diet, away from carbs and starch, and toward greens and fruit. This book is meant for me because I have no idea what “fermented” food IS! I am open to understanding the process and benefits and would appreciate an in-depth exploration of the subject. I have suffered endless gastrointestinal “disruption.” I exercise, walk several miles a day, run the back stairs in my office and seek peace in my body.

  27. I heard Donna Gates speak on Hay House Radio 2 months ago, just after finishing the PrevPac for helicobacter and also finding out that I had candidiasis and 3 parasites! I’ve been working with a functional medicine doctor who put me on a very restrictive diet but it just didn’t resonate with my body. So I checked out Ms. Gates’ book from the library and have been reading it as fast as I can! I’m 1/4 the way through it but it’s so packed with information and explanatio(thaI’m not sure I’ll get though it in time….I’ve added in the fermented foods but am limited because most of the fermented veggies are not allowed in my blood type diet…what to do…thanks so much for sharing all this very important information with the world!

    GAIL | 06.24.2013 | Reply
  28. I are kimchi for one year when i lived in South Korea. I felt great & had no digestive issues. I didn’t think anything about it until I returned to the states. My IBS returned with a vengeance. I didn’t put two & two together until I S
    Started drinking kombucha. I crave it so much that I know my body needs it. I put two & two together since starting Joshua’s school, IIN. Because Body Ecology focuses on gut health, I feel it would be a perfect tool to help me ‘regain my gut’ then in turn help others to regain theirs. Thank you for your fabulous work!!!

    Jamie | 07.13.2013 | Reply
    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Jamie! We are huge kimchi and kombucha fans as well!

      The Chalkboard | 07.15.2013 | Reply
  29. I would LOVE to win this book. I am just at the beginning of transforming my health and I am so unsure how to go about it. Unfortunately I do not have health insurance and cannot afford to see most health care practitioners (even naturopaths) and my health is a daily struggle.

    Tammi D. | 07.22.2013 | Reply
  30. I heard Donna speak through my IIN studies and am fascinated by her approach to health through fermented foods, reducing sugar intake and healthy fats. I’m still in such a learning phase and get confused with so much conflicting information out there I seemed to be drawn to learn more about her approach to health.

    Debi Curry | 12.29.2013 | Reply
  31. Hi The chakboard! I have candida overgrowth since so many years, but lately reading your website and searching on internet as well, I got noticed taht to beat Cnadida it’s important to keep a low sugar and carbs diet and restoring muy gut, so I need to learn more about it but I dont know how to start, so I would love to win a copy of the BED book please! I’m so interested in this, that would help a lot for start. Thank you!

    Jenny | 03.31.2014 | Reply
  32. For years I have been handicapped with OMNARIS , with Patanol, for eye allergies and Isopto tears – medicines along with Claritin – 24 hours of messy agony -Now with kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, and pickles, etc. I feel my body and soul is in charge of my being and not my uncontrolled frustrated emotions. “Steady as she goes-so to speak” Norm

    Norm | 10.02.2015 | Reply
  33. I have had chronic plaque psoriasis for 11 years that has covered over 75% of my body. I’ve been on every diet conceivable, but all of them have given me temporary to no relief at all. All of my problems started with the gut and my mission has been to restore that 2nd brain in order to achieve maximum health again. I have been eating cultured food for about three days now and my chronic constipation is beginning to show signs of, to put it politely, excusing itself from blocking the exit ramp? I need to read you’re book Donna, my life must change. I have suspected candida overgrowth for some time now and the doctors think their immune lowering drugs are the only solution. I need an alternative and I think this is my last hope.

    Gary | 10.16.2015 | Reply
  34. Can I have a copy of her book too ? Please. I’m really so much eager to read her anti-aging book. Thank you so much 🙂

    Lavanya Pm | 01.28.2016 | Reply

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