You’ve figured out that your digestive issues are related to what you eat. And you’re convinced that making some dietary changes will really move the needle on your health. You’re ready to:
✔ Start your day without worrying about how your digestion will get in the way of your plans.
✔ Wear the cute pants without worrying about afternoon bloating.
✔ Stop keeping a mental list of the closest bathrooms everywhere you go.
You know what you eat can change how you feel. But you’re not sure where to start.
There’s no shortage of dietary suggestions on social media. But how do you know which ones are right for you? How do you avoid falling victim to the latest fad diet?
There are lots of factors to consider before you dive into a new eating plan. Let’s look at a few…
Make Sure the Diet Meets Your Nutritional Needs
Many of the eating plans you’ll find today fall more into the category of fad diets than therapeutic eating plans. Sure, they make great promises — feel better, lose weight, improve your digestion, balance your hormones… But many of them are not sustainable, or even helpful.
Before you jump on the bandwagon for the latest trendy eating style, ask yourself this important question: will this diet meet my nutritional needs?
Our bodies need a wide variety of nutrients to function properly. So if the eating style you’re considering asks you to give up whole categories of food, then it’s unlikely to provide your body with all the nutrients it requires to function optimally.
But more specifically, you are a unique individual. Just because an article says that most people need more vitamin D (or any other nutrient), doesn’t mean that YOU need it. The only way to know for sure where you are deficient is to have lab testing done with a qualified practitioner.
Look Out For Diets That Cause Imbalances
Our bodies are always striving for a point of balance, called homeostasis. And it’s no simple task. There are a lot of factors involved in maintaining homeostasis including:
👍 Adequate nutrients
👍 Good hydration
👍 Hormonal balance
👍 Healthy sleep patterns
👍 Practices that encourage mental health
When you decide to try out a new eating style, it’s easy to throw off one or more of these factors. So before you try something new, make sure that the plan takes a sensible approach. If you radically change what you eat or how you live overnight, you are likely to throw your body out of balance.
Protect Your Gut Health
Over the past few decades, we’ve learned a ton about the importance of a balanced gut microbiome. Your microbiome is the colony of bacteria and other microscopic organisms that inhabit your large intestine. And yes, they are supposed to be there.
A healthy microbiome affects a wide variety of systems and processes in your body. Gut health is related to mood, immune function, digestion, and more. The microbes in your gut even help produce some of the nutrients your body needs.
In order to maintain a healthy microbiome, you need a wide variety of healthy bacteria and the means to feed them.
A healthy population can be maintained through probiotic foods and supplements. But in order to feed them, you also need to eat prebiotics. Without these specific carbohydrates, your microbiome will not thrive. But watch out — many of these prebiotic carbohydrates are absent from trendy fad diets.
Studies have confirmed that eliminating food groups or eating an imbalanced diet can adversely affect your gut health. For example, eating a low-carb diet can deprive you of prebiotics, and reduce the diversity in your microbiome.
Eating a high-fat diet like the keto diet can change the balance of the species in your microbiome, increasing the presence of Akkermansia — which has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Alzhemer’s.
This doesn’t mean that a low-carb or ketogenic diet is necessarily bad for you. But it’s important to be aware of the downsides and discuss them with your practitioner. And when considering keto, keep in mind that many people with IBS do not react well to a high-fat diet.
Keep Your Metabolism Healthy
Do you remember the show “The Biggest Loser”? In this reality TV series, contestants were put on extreme low-calorie diets and made to exercise for several hours per day. And while they did lose weight, they didn’t do their metabolism any favors in the long run.
Not only did their metabolism slow, they were not able to bring it back up to a normal level once they were off the show and eating more sensibly.
If you choose the wrong fad diet, or choose a diet to try to lose weight too quickly, you can do permanent damage to your metabolism. If you’ve seen any of the follow-up on the The Biggest Loser contestants, you know that permanent weight loss is all but unheard-of.
If you’re looking for a therapeutic diet to address your digestive issues or IBS, you may not be consciously looking to lose weight. But in our weight-obsessed culture, it’s hard not to go down that particular rabbit hole even if it’s not your primary motivation.
I caution you not to lose weight too quickly or go on a diet with severe caloric restriction. You may reach some weight loss goals in a hurry, but the long-term outlook is not generally favorable.
You can keep your metabolism healthy on a therapeutic or weight-loss diet by making sure you’re eating enough calories, eating nutrient-dense foods, and maintaining a sensible exercise routine. It’s also important to check with your practitioner to make sure you are sufficient in the nutrients that help balance your metabolism.
Work With a Practitioner
The best way to avoid getting pulled into a fad diet trend is to check with your practitioner. They should be able to help you determine the root cause of your digestive issues and your food sensitivities. A qualified and knowledgeable practitioner can also evaluate your nutrient balance and the health of your microbiome.
Choosing a therapeutic eating plan is a complex process. You’re always better off working with a professional who can help you pick the right plan that will not only be safe, but will accomplish your goals efficiently.
If you need some help, I’m here! I work with clients every day on using therapeutic diets and supplements to address the root cause of stomach issues.