Are you frustrated and confused by all the dietary advice out there? So many self-proclaimed experts making claims that their diet is the one-size-fits-all food plan that will result in optimal health for all who declare their loyalty to this diet! This “perfect” diet shows up with various dogmatic declarations: Gluten is evil! Lectins will kill you! Soy should never touch your lips. All meats should be condemned. Well, maybe their declarations aren’t quite so dramatic, but the truth is that studies are showing that there is no single diet that every human being should be following. There are probably an untold number of factors that influence what makes up your ideal diet, and your ideal diet is not the next guy’s ideal diet. The problem is that so many of our guts are messed up and these dysfunctions impair our ability to digest, absorb, and tolerate many otherwise healthy foods. Therefore the ideal diet seems out of reach to most folks.
In order to help people get started down the path of optimizing their diet to fit their current gut status, I will be writing a series of posts that outlines how we do it at Legacy Health. Remember, these are NOT “forever” diets. These are what we call “Therapeutic Food Plans” that have short-term purposes in sight. When we get the answers to the clinical questions we’re asking, we gradually broaden our patient’s dietary horizons to find the widest variety possible since this is the best approach for overall nutrition and health.
To find your ideal diet, you have to start where your gut is, at this very moment. Maybe your gut is a mess. Okay, we’ll accept that your gut is currently dysfunctional and we’ll have to work WITH these dysfunctions for the time being or things may get even worse. I tell my patients that we’re going to ask your gut a question and we’ll listen for its answer. You have to ask your gut which diet makes it the happiest at this particular point in your life. If the number of different foods that you can comfortably eat is limited, then you’ll have to do some work to “teach” your gut to accept and process the broadest variety of healthy food types possible. Such broad variety is the “spice of life” and is most conducive to a healthy quality of life. How many times have my patients told me they were looking forward to going out to eat only to find that they had a reaction to everything on the menu?! That is no way to live and that’s what we’re seeking to resolve. Not only is this problem bad for your quality of life but it’s also bad for your body. Good nutrition is a major factor in optimal health, and only being able to eat two foods is not good nutrition. I wish I had kept a running tally of how many people have told me they had been eating ONLY baked chicken and plain rice for months to years!
The good news is that food sensitivities and limitations are not necessarily a prison that you can’t escape. With some time and dedication, you can walk through the steps that help many, if not most, people find the best diet for their gut and even greatly improve their sensitivities to many foods.
Before we get into way we do this, we must make distinctions between a food allergy and a food sensitivity/intolerance. A true food allergy is mediated by immunoglobulin E (IgE) and can lead to life threatening anaphylaxis. This is NOT what we’re talking about here. If you have a food allergy, avoid this food and keep the epinephrine pen handy—this section doesn’t apply to food allergies. What we’re dealing with here are food intolerances and sensitivities. The root cause of these may be from an imbalanced gut microbiome, digestive enzyme deficiencies, or even low-grade immune responses to any number of components that make up the class of food to which you are sensitive.
So for our purposes here we are going look at food sensitivities from two perspectives: (1) Foods that may be causing low grade immune responses, and (2) Foods that are fermented by an out-of-balance or out-of-place gut microbiome. This distinction will be very important as I help you navigate through the murky waters of dietary therapeutics. Stay tuned! In the next part we’ll begin to walk you through the Legacy Health protocol to find your perfect therapeutic diet.
Reference: NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel, Boyce JA, Assa'ad A, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergy in the United States: report of the NIAID-sponsored expert panel. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010;126(6 Suppl):S1-S58. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2010.10.007