Posts Tagged as: Nutrition
The beauty of functional medicine is it puts your health journey in your hands. The curse of functional medicine is that, compared to popping a pill, eating healthy takes more time, which can feel stressful. Enter the Instant Pot, a relatively new kitchen appliance that is simple to use, makes it easy to stick to a whole foods diet, and takes a lot of stress out of cooking when your schedule is hectic.
What makes the Instant Pot a good functional medicine tool?
The Instant Pot’s success is in its multiple features and that it produces consistent results. The Instant Pot sautés, foolproof pressure cooks, slow cooks, makes yogurt, functions as a rice cooker, and quickly makes bone broths.
It is conducive to big batch meals that will create nutritious leftovers for a few days.
Here are some ways the Instant Pot can help you save time in the kitchen without sacrificing nutrition:
Cooks frozen meats. How many times have you forgotten to put the meat out to thaw for dinner? You can put your frozen meat in the Instant Pot and still have stew for dinner.
Cuts down on dishwashing. The Instant Pot allows you to do multiple things in one pot, cutting down on dirty pots and pans. For instance, you can sauté the onions and brown the meat in the same pot you cook your stew in. Additionally, you can cook in Pyrex bowls inside the Instant Pot, which can then be stored in the fridge and used as a lunch container.
Removes the stress of timing. Once you put your meal in the Instant Pot, you press a button for how long it needs to cook and then you can walk away. Not only will it shut itself off, it will also keep food warm for up to 10 hours. It makes reliable hard boiled eggs, and some people even crack their raw eggs into a bowl before cooking for a quick and easy egg salad that doesn’t require peeling egg shells.
Takes the complexity out of pressure cooking. The Instant Pot’s most popular feature is pressure cooking, which radically shortens cooking times. Best of all, it uses a foolproof design so you don’t have to worry about blowing up your kitchen.
It’s a great slow cooker. One of the most satisfying dinners is the one you make in the morning and it’s waiting hot for you in the evening. In addition to cooking quickly, the Instant Pot is a great slow cooker, and you can brown the meat in the same pot.
Makes dairy-free yogurt. Yogurt is a delicious and convenient snack that is hard to give up when you go dairy-free. Dairy-free yogurts are expensive and filled with thickening gums, which are irritating and immune reactive for many people. The Instant Pot is a great dairy-free yogurt maker, using gelatin or chia as a thickener. You will need to order a high-quality brand of coconut milk however, for a good end result.
Easy squash and root veggie cooking. Peeling and chopping squash and root veggies can be a real deterrent to including them in your diet. No worries, just toss them in the Instant Pot whole and then peel, seed, and chop them after they’re cooked. Cooking more fragile vegetables such as broccoli, however, is best left to the stove top steam basket to avoid overcooking.
These are just a few of the ways the Instant Pot can be a part of a functional medicine protocol to help you manage a chronic health disorder. Don't be intimidated by it — the learning curve is quick and you’ll soon be able to intuit how to use it. The internet abounds with tips, recipes, and general enthusiasm to get you up to speed.
A recent study showed a low-carbohydrate, whole foods diet low in inflammatory foods significantly decreases thyroid antibodies — the marker for autoimmune thyroid disease, or Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland; it is the cause of about 90 percent of hypothyroid cases. This study is further evidence you can profoundly influence autoimmune Hashimoto’s through diet and lifestyle interventions.
In the three-week study, almost 200 people with Hashimoto’s were divided into two groups. One group followed the low-carbohydrate study diet while the other followed a standard low-calorie diet.
The results were significant: Levels of several different thyroid antibodies that serve as markers for Hashimoto’s dropped between 40 and almost 60 percent! This group also lost a little weight.
Meanwhile, the group that followed a low-calorie diet saw antibody levels go up between 9 to 30 percent!
What the study group ate to tame Hashimoto’s
The study designers chose a curious route for their research in having their subjects follow both a low-carbohydrate, anti-inflammatory diet as well as a diet low in goitrogens. Goitrogens are compounds that lower thyroid function and are found in raw cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.), soy, and other foods.
Before people understood the mechanisms of autoimmune Hashimoto’s, it used to be the rule of thumb was to avoid goitrogenic foods.
However, through the evolution of functional medicine, we have learned most people with Hashimoto’s can safely eat normal amounts of cruciferous vegetables. In fact, they contain many beneficial nutrients as well as fiber. People with unresolved small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or genetic difficulty metabolizing sulfur may not do well with these vegetables. So we don’t know how subjects would have fared in this study had they included these vegetables.
Soy, on the other hand, has been shown to lower thyroid hormone levels in studies and is best avoided by those with Hashimoto’s.
The study diet that improved Hashimoto’s
Here is the diet the study subjects ate that lowered their thyroid antibodies:
- Low carbohydrate diet that was 12 to 15 percent carbohydrates, 50 to 60 percent protein, and 25 to 30 percent fats. (Most people eat a diet that is about 50 percent carbohydrates.)
- Lots of different vegetables. Research shows a diet high in veggies improves immune health through its impact on beneficial gut bacteria.
- Lean meats and fish.
- No goitrogens: cruciferous vegetables (which, if not eaten to excess, improve beneficial gut bacteria), canola, watercress, arugula, radish, horseradish, spinach, millet, tapioca, nitrates.
- Eggs, legumes, dairy products, bread, pasta, fruit, and rice. In functional medicine we know gluten and dairy exacerbate autoimmune Hashimoto’s for the most part. Eggs, legumes, and grains are inflammatory for many people as well. People with poor blood sugar stability may need to limit their fruit intake.
In functional medicine, we see the best results with a diet very similar to this one called the autoimmune paleo diet (AIP). In fact, a recent study showed the AIP diet significantly improved autoimmune gut disorders.
Ask my office for more advice on managing your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or other autoimmune disease.
A recent study confirmed what functional medicine has long since known — the autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet is highly successful for managing chronic health disorders. The first-of-its-kind study showed the majority of participants quickly achieved and maintained remission of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis on the AIP diet. A number of participants were even able to discontinue drug therapies.
Many people follow the AIP diet to manage not just Crohn’s but also chronic pain, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome, skin rashes such as eczema or psoriasis, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, brain-based disorders, diabetes, autoimmune disease in general, and other chronic health problems.
People are surprised to find that not only do their symptoms fade but also they enjoy more energy, better sleep, weight loss, increased libido, less stress, and a general overall improvement of their well being.
A primary reason the diet is so effective is because it helps repair leaky gut, a condition in which the lining of the gut becomes inflamed and porous, allowing inflammatory compounds into the bloodstream. This creates inflammation throughout the body and brain and leads to a wide array of chronic gut, metabolic, and autoimmune disorders.
Anti-inflammatory is the key to the AIP diet
An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on whole foods and is free of inflammatory foods, additives, fillers, and artificial colors. It includes an accompanying protocol of appropriate sleep, physical activity, rest, and positive socialization and self-treatment. Certain nutritional compounds that gently cleanse and detoxify the body may boost the success of the diet.
AIP diet sites and articles abound, but here are basics:
- Eliminate all processed foods, fast foods, desserts, coffee drinks, sodas, etc. Your anti-inflammatory diet should consist of whole foods found in the produce and meat sections of the grocery store, with an emphasis on plenty of vegetables. Also eliminate processed vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils and stick with natural oils.
- Eliminate common inflammatory foods, the most common culprit being gluten. Many people’s symptoms resolve simply on a gluten-free diet. However, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, grain, and nightshades are commonly immune reactive as well. Eliminate these foods for about six weeks to see whether you react upon reintroducing them one at a time.
- Eliminate sweets. On the anti-inflammatory diet you will avoid all sweeteners. This helps curb cravings, stabilize blood sugar, lower inflammation, and lose excess fat. Enjoy low-sugar fruits instead, such as berries.
- Eat lots of vegetables. Not only do plenty of veggies load you up with vital nutrients and fiber, new research shows they create a healthy gut microbiome – the bacteria in your gut that profoundly influence your immune and brain health. A diet based around veggies creates an abundant and diverse gut microbiome and thus better health.
- Get enough sleep and exercise. Sufficient sleep is a major inflammation-buster, as is regular physical activity. Overtraining, however, can cause inflammation so watch out for that.
Boost success with gut repair and detoxification
Adding in specific nutritional compounds can help repair a damaged gut, lower inflammation, support the liver, and detoxify the system. Ask my office for more information about a detoxification and gut-repair program using the AIP diet.
Do you dread going to the doctor because you know they will pin your health problems on your weight? Or maybe you quit going to the doctor all together to avoid feeling embarrassed and ashamed. Because the stigma attached to body size has been shown to cause weight gain, researchers are calling for doctors to emphasize exercise rather than weight loss.
Although it’s true obesity is linked to myriad inflammatory health conditions, it’s also true that diets fail the majority of people and often lead to weight gain. Also, some people are overweight due to genetic predisposition, numerous starvation diets, a history of an eating disorder in response to childhood trauma, and so on.
For those people who have spent a lifetime battling their weight and the stigma associated with it, a visit to the doctor simply opens a Pandora’s box of shame, despair, hopelessness, and self-loathing. Many decide it’s simply healthier not to go.
Policy may shift to taking the emphasis off weight
Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is aware of the ineffectiveness of shaming patients.
A recent essay published by the CDC called for doctors to lay off patients who don’t meet the body mass index (BMI) guidelines and instead shift the focus to helping a patient exercise regularly.
The essay argues that avoiding “fat shaming” will go a long way to establishing better doctor-patient rapport and trust, thus facilitating a patient’s sense of positivity and willingness to adapt healthier habits.
Diets and thinking you are fat lead to obesity
Studies consistently show diets actually lead to long-term weight gain and obesity.
What’s even more shocking is that the perception you are overweight also leads to long term weight gain, even if your original BMI was in the normal range.
In other words, telling a patient they are too fat can actually make them gain weight, not lose it.
And telling yourself you are too fat will do the same.
Addressing obesity and health without stigma
Clearly, telling people they are too heavy and need to lose weight isn’t working.
The key, say researchers, is to promote the idea that a person can be healthy at any weight. This requires decreasing the stigma, establishing trust and rapport, and encouraging exercise and healthy behaviors. It also requires taking into consideration the patient’s social and financial situation.
According to recent studies, regular exercise improves health at any weight. It also reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Focusing on regular exercise also shifts the focus away from judging the person’s body and instead puts it on behaviors that can be influenced, barriers that can be addressed, and progress that can be measured at follow-up visits, regardless of weight.
Diets have a terrible track record for the majority of people. However, exercise is an area where most people can succeed, regardless of their body size or fitness level.
Ask my office how we can help you improve your health in a way that works for you.
The United States enjoys liberal access to nutritional supplements. We can buy virtually any supplement from multiple sources either at the local grocery store or online. Other countries can be more stringent when it comes to access and don’t enjoy near the wide range of variety.
However, the freedom around nutritional supplements in the United States means consumers must be wary of shoddy, fraudulent and even unsafe supplements with misleading claims. It’s important to learn how to be a smart supplement shopper to make the most of our supplement-shopping freedom. You may be surprised to learn the worst supplements aren’t from some shadowy corner of the internet, but rather usually from your local drug or grocery store.
At the same time, it’s also important to protect consumer access to supplements. The FDA’s approach to the industry is often viewed as unnecessarily aggressive due, it is widely believed, to the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. As the the rates of “untreatable” or “mysterious” chronic diseases and dementia continue to skyrocket, people increasingly turn to alternative health care and nutritional supplements to address their health concerns. This has turned the supplement industry into one worth many billions of dollars.
What supplements to avoid
The supplement industry as created its own standards of quality that manufacturers can choose to comply with in order to reassure their buyers only the purest ingredients are used.
Avoid cheap, mass marketed supplements comprised of synthetic or inflammatory fillers (such as wheat and corn), poor quality ingredients, inactive ingredients, and artificial colors. There is also no way of knowing how shipping and storing has affected the ingredients.
What to look for in quality supplements
For starters, avoid fillers that use wheat, corn, starches, and magnesium stearate. Also, research the origin of the ingredients. Herbal ingredients can come from heavily polluted areas in other countries and be loaded with toxins. Good companies test their ingredients for toxins.
Research the brand. Are they formulated with a health-care professional and scientific advisory board? Are there peer-reviewed studies to back up the ingredients? Does the company test purity?
What is their marketing like? Do they use sleazy snake-oil selling tactics? Or do they cater to licensed practitioners and provide educational seminars to teach about the products and how best to incorporate them into a health care plan?
Also, look for supplement companies that send their products out to independent labs to test for quality and purity.
NSF International, and independent organization, certifies supplements on three levels of quality:
Certified Good manufacturing practices (CGMPs): Guidelines that assure a product conforms with what’s listed its label.
American National Standard for dietary supplement products: Testing that ensures products contain what is on the label and not undeclared contaminants.
NSF Certified for Sport: Screens for athletic banned substances.
If you struggle with excess weight or high blood sugar, your blood tests show may also show fatty liver (high liver enzymes). Although fatty liver has no overt symptoms, a liver filled with fat hinders detoxification, promotes inflammation, may increase gallstones and increases heart attack risk. So a fatty liver means eat less fat, right? Wrong, the culprit in fatty liver isn’t too much fat but rather too many sugars and carbohydrates.
Too many carbs are the main culprits behind the excess belly fat that is a sure sign of fatty liver. This is because sugar signals the liver to produce more fat.
This process is heightened when the liver must process fructose particularly high-fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks and other junk foods.
From fatty liver to fatty liver disease
While some fat in the liver is normal, if it exceeds 5 to 10 percent of total weight of the organ, it is considered fatty liver and the first stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). If fatty liver progresses unchecked, it can lead all the way to cirrhosis.
(Alcohol abuse can also cause fatty liver disease and the majority of alcoholics have a fatty liver.)
NAFLD is the most common liver disorder in the west, affecting as many as one third of Americans. It primarily afflicts those who overweight and middle-aged, but NAFLD is increasingly affecting children and teens due to their over consumption of sodas, sweets, and high-carb foods. High cholesterol and diabetes are typically found with NAFLD too.
How to reverse fatty liver and regain liver health
The good news is you can reverse fatty liver before it’s too late. Even though the liver may not initially complain with symptoms, it’s important to take liver health seriously to prevent serious long-term complications. Steps to reverse fatty liver include:
Adopt a lower-carb, sugar-free diet. High blood sugar leads to fatty liver. To start reversing it you need to bring blood sugar down to healthy levels with a whole foods diet abundant in fibrous vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins while low in foods that spike blood sugar. Most people will begin to lose excess fat on this way of eating as well, further unburdening the liver.
Exercise daily. Exercise helps lower high blood sugar, detoxify the body, and shed excess fat, all of which will help reverse fatty liver.
Avoid alcohol and unnecessary medications. Alcohol is very hard on the liver, as are many medications. Avoid both as much as possible while working to reverse fatty liver.
Lower inflammation. The liver actually plays an important role in inflammation and lowering overall inflammation will likewise ease its burdens. The most important ways to do this are by removing foods from your diet that promote inflammation (gluten and dairy are the most common) and minimizing exposure to toxins and chemicals.
Take natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Certain nutritional compounds really shine when it comes to lowering inflammation. These include high doses of emulsified turmeric and resveratrol, absorbable forms of glutathione, vitamin D, and many other compounds. Ask my office for more advice.
Support liver detoxification pathways. If your liver cells are clogged with fat it may have trouble with everday detoxification duties. The liver responds wonderfully to herbs and compounds that support detoxification, such as milk thistle or n-acetyl-cysteine.
Ask my office for more ways to reverse fatty liver and support liver health.
For decades the diet industry has conned consumers into thinking good diet products are low in fat. This led to a boon in creation of low-fat, high-carbohydrate, and often high-sugar “diet” products that promote fat storage, prevent fat burning, increase cravings, and raise inflammation. Not only can diet foods make you fatter, they can also make you sicker.
Yet another new study shows low-fat diet foods lead to obesity. Rats given high-sugar, low-fat foods that mimic many diet products not only got fatter than the control rats, they also experienced liver damage and brain inflammation.
The sad thing about this study is that the low-fat rats didn’t eat more calories. They consumed the same amount of calories as their counterparts that were fed a balanced diet yet they still ended the study fatter and sicker.
Liver and brain damage from low-fat, high-sugar
The excess fat accumulated around the rats’ livers was similar to the liver damage caused by heavy alcohol use. This study and others similar to it show that brain-inflammation from the high-sugar, low-fat diet also impaired function of the vagus nerve. This is a nerve that runs between the brain and the gut and is vital to both healthy brain and gut function.
Diet foods skew hunger and satiety hormones
The impacts on the vagus nerve and the brain also alter hormone signaling around hunger and satiety. This explains why people on high-carbohydrate, high-sugar diets often feel hungry all the time despite how much they eat.
Dieting signals the body to store fat
The hormones that control hunger and satiety also play a role in fat burning and fat storage. When this system is dysregulated due to a high-sugar diet, this prompts the body to favor fat storing over fat burning.
The best way to reverse this process is to fuel the body with a lower carbohydrate diet that is adequate in proteins and fat, and abundant in vegetables. How many carbohydrates a person needs to consume depends on many factors and varies from person to person. Ask my office for advice.
Dieting makes the body efficient at fat storage
Add a low-calorie diet to the poor performance of mainstream diet products and you have a recipe for lifelong super-powered fat storing abilities. This means a person has to consume fewer and fewer calories simply to avoid gaining weight.
This was best evidenced among former contestants of the popular TV show The Biggest Loser Although contestants lost weight through a stringent regime of low-calorie dieting and intensive exercise, most contestants piled the weight back on after the show ended. They also had to consume 500–800 fewer calories below maintenance calories simply to avoid gaining weight. This is because the extreme dieting and exercise, though effective, had lowered their resting metabolic rate so that they were burning fewer calories each day compared to before participating in the show.
How to lose weight and stay healthy?
Often people lose weight simply by following a diet that lowers inflammation and removes foods to which they are intolerant, and by stabilizing blood sugar, repairing leaky gut, and addressing chronic inflammation. By focusing on a vegetable-dominant diet you also increase the proportion of gut bacteria that promote fat burning over fat storage.
The key is to gradually switch yourself over to a life-long way of eating you enjoy because it makes you feel better.
For more information on healthy weight loss, contact my office.
New research shows increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables can boost your well-being in as little as two weeks. Although the study didn’t explain why, previous studies show eating more vegetables impacts brain, immune, and gut health — all of which affect your mood.
The New Zealand study divided more than 170 young adults into three groups. The researchers personally gave one group two servings on fresh fruits and vegetables each day. The second group was given vouchers and text reminders to consume extra produce. The third group was not given any produce or vouchers.
The first group given the extra produce in person consumed an average of 3.7 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. After two weeks they reported feeling improvements in mood, vitality, motivation, as well as a flourishing of well-being.
The other two groups reported no change.
5 ways eating more produce makes you feel better
When you look at the effects of a plant-based diet on health, the results of this study are no surprise.
Here are five reasons why eating more fruits and vegetables can make you happier and more motivated:
Eating more vegetables increases the gut bacteria that promotes relaxation. Brain scans show healthy gut bacteria promotes relaxation.
Eating more vegetables increases the gut bacteria that lower brain inflammation. A Harvard-affiliated study found that healthy gut bacteria lowers brain inflammation, thus lowering the risk of dementia. Brain inflammation is also linked with depression, anxiety, and irritability.
Eating more vegetables increases the gut bacteria that lower depression, anxiety, eating disorders, autism symptoms, and obesity. By now you get the picture. Studies continue to find links between gut bacteria and a variety of mood and mental disorders. Eating a wide variety of plenty of produce is the best way to create a healthy diversity of gut bacteria.
Regular bowel movements from increased fiber of a high-vegetable diet improve your mood. It’s no mystery why constipated babies are so fussy. Research shows a higher prevalence of mood disorders in those with chronic constipation. Although myriad factors can cause constipation, often it’s as simple as too little plant fiber. Eating ample amounts of vegetables and fruits promotes regular, healthy bowel movements (unless you have a gut disorder that makes digesting produce difficult). Constipation increases circulating toxins in the body, which can inflame the brain and leads to bad moods.
What does a serving of vegetables look like?
The new recommendation from the American Institute for Cancer Research is to eat at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, but ideally you should eat seven to ten. Five of those servings should be vegetables and two to three fruit (to avoid consuming too much sugar). In other words, two-thirds of each meal should be vegetables.
A “serving” is a vague reference. Here are some ideas of what a serving looks like:
- ½ cup of fruit
- 1 medium piece of fruit
- ¼ cup of dried fruit
- 1 cup of leafy vegetables
- ½ cup of cooked or raw vegetables
Most Americans don’t eat near enough vegetables. It takes some practice and discipline to develop a vegetable habit (vegetable for breakfast, anyone?), but once you do you’ll be motivated by how much better you feel.
Pre-prep veggies for quick salads, and make big batches of veggie soups and stews to facilitate the transition.
Do you suffer from acid reflux, indigestion, slow gut transit time, or feeling like there’s a brick in your stomach after eating? Or perhaps you’re on a restricted diet for a chronic health condition but still react to an ever shrinking list of foods. If so, you need to work on restoring digestion.
Many factors affect digestion, including aging, poor brain function that affects gut function, poor diet, and more. Often the problem often isn’t the food itself, but a hyper sensitive immune system reacting to food proteins that are not broken down properly. Thankfully, you can improve your symptoms greatly with proper supplementation.
Breakdown of food proteins is key for good digestion
For good digestion, you need sufficient hydrochloric acid (HCl) and digestive enzyme activity in the gut. These both serve the important function of breaking down food proteins, which prevents the immune system from targeting them and causing symptoms.
HCl is naturally present in the stomach and is vital for digestion of proteins. Low HCl symptoms include:
- Not feeling well after eating meat
- Feeling like meat sits in their stomach too long
- Feeling like they ate a brick
- Acid reflux
It may sound contrary that low stomach acid can cause acid reflux. In fact, many people with acid reflux-like symptoms are mistakenly prescribed acid-blockers intended to cut stomach acid, when in fact it’s low stomach acid causing the problem — the low stomach acid results in undigested food becoming rancid and moving back up the esophagus to cause the pain and burning sensation. What these people need is additional HCl to improve digestion.
Many people with poor digestion also have poor pancreatic enzyme output. Similar to stomach acid, these enzymes are critical to break apart food proteins so the immune system doesn’t react to them, causing inflammation.
Supplement with HCl and digestive enzymes for healthy digestion
Supplementing with HCl and digestive enzymes can go a long way toward improving your digestion by supporting breakdown of food proteins as well as relieving symptoms.
Follow this advice when supplementing with HCl and digestive enzymes:
- HCl: Supplement with HCl when you eat meats to help break down the proteins better. This will not only improve your digestion but also bring you relief from uncomfortable symptoms.
- Digestive enzymes: Take these with all meals; include pepsin, bromelain and proteases. Look for a high-quality, broad-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement with a minimum of fillers.
Oral tolerance and digestive function
It’s particularly important for people with food sensitivities to support food protein breakdown with proper levels of HCl and digestive enzymes. At the root of this is the concept of oral tolerance Oral tolerance is how well a person’s immune system can tolerate acceptable foods while responding appropriately to bacteria or other harmful compounds.
While there are other factors that affect oral tolerance, it’s important for food proteins to be broken down small enough that the body accepts them and doesn’t mount an immune reaction causing symptoms.
You’ve heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” When we can’t digest food properly, it means our bodies aren’t getting the fuel to function at their best. If you suffer from symptoms of poor digestion or food sensitivities, contact my office.
When you’re starting on a new health journey, knowing what to eat can seem confusing. For starters, there is a ton of conflicting advice out there, with proponents of each diet insisting their diet is the healthiest.
The truth is, the best diet depends on which one works best for you. Factors that determine this include your individual food sensitivities, digestive health, blood sugar handling, and stress handling.
In functional medicine we follow general guidelines that focus on whole foods, removing foods to which you are intolerant, and stabilizing blood sugar. Beyond that, your history, lab tests, and current condition serve as guides in customizing your diet.
A custom diet plan starts with real food
With customization tips in mind, one basic rule still applies across the board: Eat whole foods.
When you eliminate foods that have been through processing (like breakfast cereal or chips), foods with artificial colorings, additives, and preservatives, and foods laden with industrialized fats and too much sugar, you are already on solid ground nutritionally.
This means sticking largely to the produce, meat, and nut sections in the grocery store. Use healthy, natural fats such as coconut oil and olive oil. Avoid vegetable oils, which are unstable and become inflammatory free radicals in your body.
Avoid hydrogenated oil as it has been shown to damage brain cells and raise heart disease risk.
You have to develop new habits to shop for and prep vegetables, cook healthy meats, and wean yourself off sodas, pizza pockets, chips, and other quick-grab items. But you’ll start feeling so much better you won’t mind. In fact, you’ll likely feel enthusiastic about it.
When eating real food is difficult
Some people favor processed food because they have trouble digesting real foods. This is a red flag digestion is seriously compromised.
For instance, if your stomach feels heavy after eating meat, as if it just sits there and does not digest, your stomach may be low in hydrochloric acid (HCl). HCl is necessary to digest meats and it’s a common deficiency.
In functional medicine, we know that a diet that consists primarily of produce is very beneficial. However, the dramatic increase in fiber from eating more fresh fruits and vegetables causes digestive problems in some people.
Factors that make eating produce difficult include an overgrowth of the wrong bacteria low HCl, insufficient output of pancreatic enzymes, inflammation of the gut lining, and other digestive issues.
These people need to work on restoring gut health and slowly ease into eating more vegetables.
Blood sugar and stress handling
Most Americans eat too many carbohydrates and sugars, which contributes significantly to inflammation and chronic disease. At the same time, not everyone fares well on a very low-carb diet.
People with chronically low blood sugar and adrenal fatigue need to eat smaller meals more frequently to protect their brain health, whereas others find eating three meals per day optimal.
Some people feel great on a very low-carb, or ketogenic, diet, while others develop anxiety and insomnia. Finding the right amount of carbohydrates to eat so that you keep blood sugar stable and lower inflammation, yet function optimally, can take some tweaking. Then, as blood sugar and stress handling improve, you may be able to readjust.