If you follow me for any length of time, you’re unlikely to hear me ever talk about a one size fits all diet or protocol. Why? Because we’re all very different! Now, are there some things that we all should generally avoid? Of course. Nobody ever got healthier by eating candy and sweets. But I see all too often that elimination diets become extreme, and they not only lead to nutrient deficiencies but also lead to lots of stress. The foods substituted in place of the ones eliminated are often less healthy too. These things can cause additional inflammation in the body and prevent healing.
So what SHOULD you be eating? I like to take the approach of focusing on what people should eat vs. what they should avoid. I learned this lesson way back when I took Bradley Method childbirth classes 13 years ago! We got a new sheet each week to fill in what we ate each day, and there were checkboxes at the bottom where we could check off the number of servings for each food group that we were to consume. Let’s just say that my craving for sweets FAR outweighed my craving for leafy greens. I asked our teacher if I could have any sweets at all. Her response? If you check off all the boxes (of healthy food) each day, then it’s ok if you have some treats every now and then.
The thing is, nobody likes to feel deprived. But if we start telling people that they “can’t” have entire categories of food, what do they focus on? What they can’t have of course! Think about it. If I tell you to cut out gluten, dairy, eggs, sugar, etc. What’s going to happen? All the foods and recipes that you eat that contain those ingredients are going to go running through your head. You might start panicking about what you’re going to eat, and you might even wonder if you’ll starve!
But what if I started talking to you about including 4-6 servings of vegetables in your diet each day and shared with you some ways to include them in each of your meals and for snacks? Then I might talk to you about healthy fats like olive oil and butter, and you might even get excited that I’m not taking those away from you! We could keep going through all the food groups. And at the end, you have lots of ideas of new recipes and snacks that you can’t wait to try out.
This way, even if you decide that you’d like to try doing an elimination diet by removing one or more food groups or ingredients, you will be focused on what you can have and will feel like you can accomplish it. I don’t think that elimination diets are necessarily right for all people, or sometimes it’s just not the right time for certain people.
I also don’t think that we ALL need to avoid dairy or gluten or eggs or any other food group. Some people absolutely do better without one or more food group or ingredient in their diet, and I will always advocate that people listen to their body. But I never want people to feel like they need to eliminate foods because they feel pressured into it or that they need to eliminate those foods forever.
If you are having digestive issues, it’s possible that your gut just needs a break – a chance to heal. And cutting out foods that more easily cause inflammation, for a time, can actually be really helpful! But if you find that you eliminate one type of food, which then causes you to start reacting to something new, and then removal of that food causes you to react to something else, or you don’t notice any difference at all, then I challenge you to start looking beyond just what you’re putting into your mouth and start looking at what else might be going on. That’s where it can be so beneficial to work with a health practitioner who can look at the big picture!
Gut issues almost always play a role in other health issues, so this is a fantastic first place to start. Between herbs and food, it is amazing how much healing can happen!