Changing your diet or what you eat can be the important first step in regaining your health.
Your diet can affect anxiety, depression, skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis, rashes), autoimmune diseases (Hashimoto Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis), joint and muscular pain (fibromyalgia & inflammation), fatigue, migraines, headaches, weight loss and of course the many direct gut related issues such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), SIBO, IBS, bloating, gut pain, diarrhoea and constipation.
Regardless of what other specific treatments may be needed dietary changes always set you up for less reactions and better longer term outcomes. It also starts to tell you if other intolerances are involved too – We are ‘Clearing the Muddy Waters’ and often are left with more obvious further direction to focus on.
What to do, how to choose and how to sequence it for best results.
Here are some easy steps to follow for getting the most out of any diet changes you choose.
Start with a brief liquid fast or 'modified' fast (2 – 4 days, depending on how you feel). A bone broth is one method we use. This will really calm down symptoms and allow your gut to heal more quickly. Then transition to a healthy gut healing diet. After this step you can often see a > 30% improvement in how you feel, and it can often be an even more dramatic improvement.
You must also transition back to whole foods slowly. Starting with smaller meals and opt for softer foods like steamed vegetables and soups rather than hard foods like raw vegetables and charred meats. When doing this transition it is a perfect time to listen to how your body reacts to certain foods so it is also best to limit the number of foods you eat all at once.
Eat a simple meal containing a minimal number of ingredients so its easier to tell if a foods react with you. An example would be some baked chicken seasoned with oregano and olive oil with a side of steamed broccoli (unlike a chicken tikka masala, i.e. having a sauce with many ingredients, and a heavily seasoned mix of vegetables).
So we are looking for an end diet that is:
- Low in allergens/ intolerances that can trigger inflammation.
- Eventually contains a suitable amount of prebiotics for beneficial bacteria
- Regulates or stabilizes blood glucose/ sugars
- Focuses on fresh, whole, unprocessed foods, organic and local foods.
‘Paleo’ type eating is a good starting place or foundation and it's important to identify gluten and other food intolerances. So you can start a 14 to 21 day trial and see how you feel, if you are happy with that stick with it. Another version that can be something to try is Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) Diet that you can trial for a 2 to 3 week trial and reassess and if you are happy stick with it.
If you are not seeing any improvements you can trial a low FODMAP diet – Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, Alcohol and Polyols.
A low-FODMAP diet is can be one of the most effective diets for gut related conditions but is also valuable in restructuring the bacteria living in your gut and body.
It may not be a great thing long term though as soluble fibers that can feed beneficial bacteria. While you should remove as many of the FODMAPs as possible to begin with you should also reintroduce as many as tolerated further down the track.
Insoluble fiber from skin of vegetables, fruits and nuts and seeds is sometimes also good to minimize and when reintroducing it’s good mixing them with more soluble fibers that have a soothing or modulating effect.
Soluble fiber can soothe and regulate the digestive tract, stabilize intestinal contractions therefore normalizing bowel function from either extremes of diarrhoea or constipation.
Examples of soluble fiber in order of tolerance:
- PHGG (partially hydrolysed guar gum) – methane gas decrease, inhibition of bacteria that produce methane. Both PHGG and glucomannan tend to support beneficial bacteria and not the more detrimental ones. (higher FODMAP but well tolerated)
- Glucomannan (konjac root) (soluble, hydrocolloids/ gums)
- Citrus pectin and Acacia (this is low FODMAP and only soluble fibre)
- Psyllium (partially soluble with a 2:1 ratio soluble to insoluble and is low fermentable and low FODMAP
The next steps in healing your health and restoring great digestive function is best done with a qualified practitioner to make sure nothing is missed and the right targeted approach is used for you.
Briefly they can include:
Probiotics and digestive enzymes and HCL/ acid - This can often be the necessary extra push needed from the diet changes that can resolve your issues.
Antimicrobials – Using antimicrobial herbs to rebalance the gut bacteria is a more clinical and is often used to corrected conditions like SIBO or SIFO (small intestine bacteria/ fungal overgrowth).
Rebalance - Rebalancing is about giving your digestion and gut some ongoing support to keep your gut bacteria and digestion heading in the right direction. This may include some continuing dietary restriction, the use of HCL and enzymes, occasional 24 hour modified fasts and some general probiotics.
Reintroduce Foods - This is about working out your dietary boundaries by reintroducing foods so that you have the fewest food restrictions as possible. For example dairy or not, higher carbs or do you have to be more conservative. With the lower FODMAP or even paleo type diet you tend to have less carbs and they are certainly not refined. So now it's about adding in a few more healthy carbs like sweet potato, may be some rice or potatoes
Beneficial Bacteria & Support Supplements – After rebalancing there is often a need for supporting the good bacteria. We can do this by actually feeding the good bacteria with healthy fibres. The other part of this is about reducing any supplemental support so you are still good with the minimum needed.
Maintenance – Health Set Backs and Flares - An important part of this is enjoying better health and not being overwhelmed or neurotic about everything. This doesn't mean going crazy with things you know effect you but it might mean testing the boundaries of what you tolerate. Also having 'fun' is an essential component of overall health too.
Another good thing to do is have a bit of a yearly check up, a bit of a tune up or service, change the oil, replace the air filter and measure and check the brakes, battery and coolant levels.
Also healing can take time, sometimes it can be quicker but other times we need to give our health and gut time to heal and recovery.
Tips for what to do if you have a set back or flare.
Firstly it is important to realize a flare of digestive symptoms does not necessarily mean anything’s wrong or broken but rather there’s an imbalance that can be rectified.
Checklist for getting back on track:
- Check in on your diet and lifestyle - If you have become too liberal with foods and are not getting enough sleep, you may want to revisit a cleaner paleo or lower FODMAP diet template or do a short modified fast and make sure you are resting well and keeping stress at bay.
- Probiotics - are probably the best foundational dietary help for balance of your health and gut. Try incorporating fermented foods
- You may want to consider antimicrobials herbs and foods such as garlic, oregano, thyme, olive leaf.
Other considerations - yep back to basics always works!
- Movement and Exercise
- Social interaction and contact