Is food a problem?
There's a lot of talk lately about different diets - gluten free, paleo, vegan, AIP, FODMAP, and more. Seems that just about every week, you'll hear about a new diet that promises to solve all your discomforts. If you just follow this new diet, you'll lose weight, you'll have more energy, you won't have digestive troubles, and you won't hurt. Sounds amazing, doesn't it? And very likely, if you try one of these plans, you'll feel better for a while. After a bit, you start to crave the foods that are on the 'bad' list, you no longer feel better, and you just want to give up. The book made it seem so easy and the results so amazing. How could this be? You start to think that this must be YOUR fault that somehow you are doing this wrong, after all, those pictures on the website are of beautiful, happy people, and you want to be beautiful and happy!
What's happening? It's a more complicated problem than you might think. At first, when you start this new diet, you probably shifted from eating more processed and packaged food to more whole, unprocessed foods. You probably cooked more meals than you are accustomed to cooking. Making this shift removes the artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives from your diet. You're taking in fewer things that your liver has to filter out and discard. Your liver now can work to reduce the other chemicals that you've been consuming through diet, skin products, and environmental contaminants. You suddenly feel much better because the liver can do a little 'spring cleaning.' After a couple of weeks or maybe a month, you start to see your progress tail off. You're not improving and the symptoms may start to reappear.
This is where things start to get more difficult to decipher. Your food cravings have returned, and you really want to just 'have a taste.' You know that if you have a taste, you'll eat more than you want. You try the 'approved' alternatives of those favorites, but they don't satisfy your craving. What does this all mean? This is where the 'one size fits most' approach breaks down. Lots of people are truly helped by these diets. You probably know one or two who are doing amazingly well by making a dietary shift. For each of these success stories, there's at least two people who just don't improve. There's three different reasons for this. One would be that the foods you removed are not the ones that are causing your problems, and you still need to discover which foods cause you to have sensitivities. The second is that you may have other foods that cause sensitivity that you need to reduce or eliminate. Third is that you may have some nutrient deficiencies that are causing your symptoms rather than food sensitivities. Along with the third reason, I like to add environmental contaminants that may be making you feel sick. This includes plastics, silicone, aluminum/non-stick cookware, poor quality supplements or prescription medication side effects.
To figure out what is causing you to stop improving, you have to do some detective work. Start working your way through the different reasons. Try something new for a week or two and see if it improves your situation. Remember that eliminating a food from your diet now doesn't mean that it’s forever off your list. Often, once you heal your digestive tract and reduce the liver's filtering load, you can have an occasional indulgence - even those foods that you thought were off your list.
Changing your diet is hard work. Even making small changes takes a lot of commitment. Congratulate yourself for sticking with it. No one knows how your body reacts to food better than you. Listen to what it tells you after you eat.
Does all this seem too complicated? I've been there - tried these diets and felt what they do to the body. I have done it myself - I've got sensitivities to gluten, soy, oats, and corn, and had drug sensitivities to contraceptives and over the counter medications. I have trained with some of the best gut health herbalists to understand how food affects us and learned how to teach you to eat for your personal health. Now, I work with people just like you to figure out the best food and supplement options to make sure your body gets what it needs to keep you feeling healthy and happy.