Eating is such an important part of our health. This includes not just what we eat, but also how and when we eat, as well as how much.
Trying to figure out what foods are best is a process of personal exploration and discovery. Especially when it comes to determining what not to eat.
We can reach outwardly and talk to others about their experience, read books, and listen to podcasts. I’ve heard so many different opinions and ideas of what is right and wrong when it comes to eating. There are even federal dietary guidelines for Americans telling us what to do.
Sorting through all this information has left me with one conclusion – that diets are best personalized by the individual. Yes, this means that the same plan is not good for everyone.
We are all different in how we absorb and metabolize nutrients. And these differences can change over time. This is affected by factors such as our lifestyle, genes, gut microbiome, current state of health, stress, and overall toxic burden.
There is an emerging field, called nutrigenomics, that is researching personalized dietary advice based upon genetic testing. They are pushing the envelope on normal dietary rules. The ones that tell everyone what to eat and not eat, like more whole grains or less sugar.
Nutrigenomics would offer an individualized plan. This type of approach requires genetic testing, even analyzing your gut microbiome. There are companies out there today offering exactly these kind of tests.
But I think there is an even more effective way of figuring out what kind of food we may want to avoid. One that brings our attention to our own body. We can do the testing and analysis right in our very kitchen, without costing anything. This is called an elimination diet.
An elimination diet is a process of removing foods that often cause problems in most people, and then reintroducing them back into our diet one-by-one to see how we respond ourself.
It is a short-term eating plan that supports us to individually determine, from our own experience, what our body likes and doesn’t.
You would start by removing dairy, eggs, gluten, sugar, processed meats, trans fats, and soy. There is more, and make sure you include the foods you crave as these are likely the ones you are most sensitive to.
You could also have an intolerance to natural chemicals in some foods, like oxalates and salicylates, or chemicals produced by your body after eating certain foods, like histamines. Remove these foods too.
Stay on this restricted diet for several weeks. I like to reach for three weeks in order for my body to remove the build up of toxins and reduce the overall inflammation I’ve accumulated.
There are many health problems associated with eating foods our body doesn’t tolerate well. And we may actually eat these every day. Headaches, depression, joint aches, asthma, low energy, digestive problems, and skin irritations are typically related to what you eat.
Going on a three week elimination diet will allow your body to recover and begin functioning efficiently again. It will also make you more sensitive to foods that have been causing problems.
Often, symptoms that have been challenging will resolve themselves simply by removing aggravating foods. I recommend adding in anti-inflammatory foods during this time, such as fatty fish and dark leafy greens.
The elimination diet offers a personalized approach to eating that reduces inflammation, helps support repair of damage caused to your gut, and promotes a greater awareness to foods. Getting in touch with your own bodies response is key to individualizing what you eat.
Come on down for a comprehensive guide.
Scott Porter is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug. He is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.
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