The 3 most important things you’re not being told about your diet.
Regardless of the patient, the number 1 question that we are asked is ‘what is the right diet for me?’
How do we choose to answer that?
Watch the video or read the article below.
A dietary approach may be an approach which is only appropriate for a set amount of time. We may be using a dietary approach that is specific to either enhance someone’s wellness in a specific area, or to reduce symptoms that a patient may have at that time.
We cannot ever give a patient a specific answer for what is the right diet for them unless we have gathered significant data to allow us to make that decision.
There is an appropriate dietary approach for an appropriate patient with an appropriate condition at the right appropriate time.
As an example, we may have patients who have a condition called small intestine bacterial overgrowth or SIBO. In our experience, many of these patients are eating foods such as onions and garlic which are incredibly health-providing foods but are problematic to these patients. Therefore, for a period of time, we have to take patients off these foods to resolve this particular issue. That said, we can only keep these patients on a specific dietary SIBO approach for a short amount of time - about 8 weeks before this approach starts to become unproductive and potentially harmful to their gut bacteria in the large intestine and colon.
One dietary approach can become problematic. Remember, what is the right diet? It is the right diet for the right patient at the right time.
Whilst giving recommendations on an individual basis is not so straightforward, there are dietary approaches that generally are good to use.
If we are dealing with people who are generally healthy then we can look at the scientific literature and advise on certain approaches. Based on that literature, a Mediterranean diet approach would be one that we would be happy to recommend.
We like to always include the “rainbow of colours” advice - trying to achieve as many different colours as possible into the diet on a weekly basis. This enhances our ability to increase the differing amount of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in our diet. One of the big mistakes we see quite often in practice is patients who are eating a great quality diet but are not having anywhere near the variety of foods that would be more beneficial.
Whilst organic salmon and broccoli is a great meal, for example, having this every day is missing the point with regard to diversity of food choices.
Here are 3 major factors that are rarely considered with regard to your dietary approach:
- Quality of food
What you are putting in your mouth as far as foods is only the first step in potentially guaranteeing that the foods that you eat do the job that you need them to do. The quality of the food you eat absolutely matters.
- Healthy digestion
The second factor is fundamentally about whether an individual has the capacity to break down those foods optimally and whether those foods are absorbed into the body and delivered to the cells correctly. In our experience, many people do not do this well. Your digestive tract has to be in optimal shape for this to occur. We see many test results come back showing lowered stomach acid, a lack of digestive enzymes and other test results suggesting a digestive tract that is not working properly.
We also, as a society, eat on the run and eat far too quickly, yet still expect our digestive tract to optimally absorb all our nutrients from our foods. This just doesn’t happen. One of the very simple but big influences in changing poor eating habits is to slow down, take much longer to chew and eat your foods and to avoid eating in a stressful environment. These are not easy things based on the busy lives we often lead but are extremely important. We have seen some incredible diets with some patients, diets that we would expect to produce great health outcomes and yet on testing we have found numerous nutrient depletions. We see this often and we have to reiterate to people how important the ritual of eating is. There is no doubt that stress is a big player in affecting the efficiency of the digestive tract.
If we are advancing our understanding of both humans and nutrition, we need to remember that humans are super organisms. We are slightly more bacteria than human cells and therefore to have optimal health we have to provide our bacterial friends with the right foods for them to flourish. This is where foods rich in fibres seem to play a large role in keeping our bacteria happy. If we keep our bacteria happy, they do a great job of protecting us. They also are producing post metabolites or post-biotics which in the recent literature seem to be incredibly helpful for human health.
- Each individual is unique
It’s key to remember that we are all unique. Therefore your requirements from your diet may differ slightly to everyone else. This individualising of nutrition called ‘nutrigenomics’ has expanded massively in the last 20 years and has allowed us to understand on an individual basis some of the additional requirements that an individual may need.
As an example we may see an individual who may need higher levels of B vitamins than someone else. This is because they potentially do not methylate as well as a normal population. Therefore, if they are not getting the right amount of B vitamins through foods this could be problematic for their health, promoting potential for mood disorders, cognitive decline and cardiovascular risk as a few examples. In these individuals, specific tailoring of supplements can be very helpful.
This leads to another question that we get asked a lot - ‘what supplements should I take?’
Whilst most people would likely benefit from a daily multivitamin and mineral, we don’t deliver specific advice on supplementation until we’ve been able to work with a patient for a period of time and be able to gather data that allows us to make personalised and precise advice. We have tested hundreds of patients over two decades and on test results even with the healthiest of people we have never found anyone who doesn’t need a little bit more support through supplementation.
This begs the question can you get all of your nutrients from your foods? We’ve never seen it!
Are you interested in an individualised approach to your nutrition and overall health? Head to our Functional Medicine Pathway page to find out more.
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