Your Greatest Tool
In the west, few topics are as contentious as dietary preferences. People have strong beliefs on what they should eat, what makes a person healthy, and even the ethics of food in general.
We have good reason to be passionate - immense healing power lies in what we eat.
Ancient medicinal knowledge has been passed down in the foods our ancestors have eaten. Many pharmaceutical medications today are made from herbs and foods used for thousands of years.
Each time you eat, you not only connect with your own traditions, but you also tap into the oldest healing modality on earth.
What food suits us depends on our unique biochemistry, genetics, nutritional needs, and the healing benefits certain foods can have on the conditions we have.
Diet Does Matter
A few decades ago it was commonplace to go to your doctor, find out you are overweight and be told to stick to a low-fat, 1200 calorie diet. This created a wave of 'low-fat' diet foods.
We now know that diets very low in fat increase mortality from all causes by about a quarter and diets that restrict calories too much can slow your down metabolism.
The problem is, you can find scientific studies today that say too many carbohydrates, too few carbohydrates, too much of the wrong kind of fat, too much of the wrong kind of protein, and too much sugar will all kill you too.
A Plant-Based, Whole Food Diet
So what do you do? Fortunately, some nutritional truths are universal. Very processed food is stripped of nutrients and not worth eating if you can help it.
Eating food in its most natural form is best (an apple is better than a packaged bar with apples in it) and eating slow (in a relaxed environment, taking your time) helps your body digest your food properly.
I have a problem with any 'extreme' diet. Too much or too little of the wrong foods will create a strain on your body, making it prone to disease and will affect your quality of life.
There is a very popular Hippocrates quote that you will find on many doctor's walls: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" - but he also said: "Everything in excess is opposed to nature." I agree.
There are times when a person needs a more tailored diet if they wish to reduce the symptoms of a condition, lose weight, have more energy, get better sleep or prevent a condition that 'runs in their family.'
In cases like these, the application of functional medicine can fine-tune their diet to be optimally effective.
+ The Latest Nutrition Science
Nutrition as Medicine
How we use food to help you heal will depend greatly on your medical conditions and health goals. Here are two examples of the first changes we would implement in two different diagnoses.
If a hypothetical patient has been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue one of our first steps would be to look at their diet. In cases of adrenal fatigue, it is particularly important that you get a proper diagnosis.
There are many conditions that masquerade as adrenal fatigue (neurological fatigue for instance, which would be treated in a completely different way).
Eating every 1.5-2 hours a diet that is moderate in carbohydrates will be extremely beneficial in rebalancing the body quickly. Electrolyte-rich fruits and vegetables would be added generously throughout the day.
Frequent eating in the case of adrenal fatigue is intended to avoid the added strain of the release of adrenaline that occurs during a period of fasting. This method of eating would be implemented for a specific amount of time to give the body time to heal.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Very low carbohydrate, high-fat diets (paleo, keto) are extremely popular at the moment. If a patient suffering from SIBO were on this diet, it may make their problem worse.
In most bacterial infections affecting the gut, the liver is already burdened with microbe induced toxicity. Certain types of bacteria can produce their own toxins as byproducts called endotoxins, and it is this toxin load that can be detrimental to the liver.
Not only can microbe induced toxicity impair the liver, but it can also cause toxins to be recirculated back into the body - creating a cycle of illness.
An already burdened liver with microbe induced toxicity will have to slow or stop it’s healing to deal with excess dietary fat.
Reducing dietary fat, even in the short term, will assist the body in resolving the bacterial infection faster by supporting the liver. Adding adequate fiber is important in carrying out the waste produced by an infection and pharmaceutical grade supplementation would be given to target the specific bacteria affecting the gut.
A common occurrence in SIBO patients trying to treat themselves with 'gut healing diets' is that they feel great on these diets (like paleo or AIP) and have almost no symptoms.
But as soon as they stray off the diet for a piece of fruit or some refined carbohydrates - all of their symptoms come roaring back. This indicates that the infection is not getting killed off, it is merely kept dormant by the diet.
In order to get rid of SIBO for good, and not have to be on a strict diet the rest of your life, you most likely need to have a treatment targeting the specific strain of bacteria you are infected by.
Finding a Healing Diet for You
There are thousands of processes within the body that happen at every meal. What you eat is very important to your health - but remember that there is not just one healthy diet.
Listen to your body. If you feel tired, you can't sleep, you are experiencing anxiety or depression, excessive weight gain or loss or don't have enough energy, then your diet or an underlying condition may be to blame.
Usually, becoming even more 'strict' is not the answer. The healthiest diet for you will be one where you are not always hungry. Healthy does not have to be 'hard.'
If you have 'tried everything' or have reached a point in your healthy diet where you seem to be reacting to more and more foods then a functional medicine evaluation can help you pinpoint the problem and implement immediate changes.
Your approach to getting healthy should be a multifaceted one which should include appropriate testing, nutrition, genetic data, patient history, family history, and your current symptoms.
I offer nutritional consultation as part of my functional medicine appointments. I also can do online consultations for those out of state or out of the country.
If you have questions or are wondering if I can help you, feel free to Book a Free 15 Minute Consultation online to speak with me or call my office at 913- 548-1700.