“I’ve given up carbs!” my client announced proudly as he settled into my clinic office for his consult.
“Carbs?” I asked, looking a little puzzled.
“Yep! Not eating any of them.” I could see he wanted a high five but I was still confused, and a bit worried.
“So… you’re not consuming anything that comes from a plant? No fruits and vegetables at all?”
He looked at me as though I’d taken leave of my senses.
“No carbs…” he stressed, thinking perhaps I was hard of hearing. “You know, lollies and cakes and bread and pastry and soft drinks and stuff.”
I breathed a sigh of relief and happily gave him the high five he’d been waiting for. Then I took some time to make sure he understood the difference between healthy and unhealthy “carb” sources.
This conversation took place many years ago and it’s happened many times since. Some people gloat with saintly pride when they conquer those devilish carbs. Others declare shame-filled defeat at having been corrupted by evil incarnate. This irrational fear of carbohydrates is described in the Urban Dictionary as a current “source of great hysteria. Carbophobia has reached such levels it’s become its own religion.” From where I’m standing, carbophobia seems like an ever-expanding nutritional black hole that is sucking people in and making valuable nutrients disappear into thin air. When I ask people to define what they mean when they say “carbs”, the definition is different every time and it’s making less and less sense as each year rolls by. Continue reading →
Here are some basics to consider, as well as remembering to take a holistic approach (hint: it isn’t just about food choices!), but essentially the journey for each person is unique and the most important thing is to experiment and listen to your body.
Please recognise that it can be very confusing for your body if you are constantly chopping and changing with diets, especially if those changes are sudden and/or extreme. It takes time to build up gut the gut flora needed to digest (breakdown, ferment, transform) specific foods, if you haven’t been eating them (or much of them) previously. For this reason, there are times when making slower, more gradual changes can be kinder and more sensible that jumping from one therapeutic way of eating to the next every couple of months.
When testing out an approach to eating to see if it’s right for us, we need to be constantly listening for that sweet spot that sits half-way between really giving the therapy a decent chance to work its magic and really listening to what your body is telling you. And this can be confusing, because in the early stages, how do you tell the difference between ‘I feel uncomfortable because my body is still adjusting to the changes’ verses ‘this food/approach really doesn’t work for me’. This is why transitioning gradually can be wiser: your body struggles less and you can test the various elements of the new way of eating/living more slowly and effectively. As my husband says, reduce the variables: test one thing at a time.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to diets, because we are all so uniquely different. The true therapeutic diet that is going to work best for you is one that is probably a mish-mash of different approaches from different eating philosophies. Find what works for you by exploring and experimenting. I personally think cherry picking can be a smarter move than copying what someone else has found works for them. Because you are not them! It’s imperative that you listen to your body and find what works for you. Having said that, every nutrition/health teacher and therapeutic diet is going to teach you something. Keep a diary and note down what seems to work for you as an individual, rather than needing to subscribe to a particular ‘club’, no matter who that external authority happens to be.
Now that I’ve told you that, I’m going to share what I have learned about a healthy gut from my training, my personal experience, working with clients, research and so on. But my opinion is of course, just one more in a sea of clamouring voices and I hope I don’t add to the overwhelm! All I can do is share my take, but my personal and professional perspective is not The Truth, The Way…. you have to find your own truth, your own way (ie listen to your body while you experiment):
Taking a probiotic or fermented food can be helpful to our gut flora but only to an extent. They really don’t survive long if they aren’t being fed and the quantity of microbes in the tablets or fermented food compared to the the population in the gut itself…. well, think of it as being a bit like asking one doctor to service an entire hospital. A mere drop in the ocean so to speak!
Probiotics and fermented foods can add new strains (species) but they don’t do a lot to really boost numbers. What really makes a difference is your diet. Within days of changing what you eat, your gut flora changes too, because it’s your diet that boosts or starves each strain. And the healthiest bacterial populations in our gut feed on plant foods (indigestible fibre) so this is what we need in order to nurture and build a thriving healthy gut environment. Animal products don’t contribute to this healthy population because they don’t contain fibre. In fact, by having too much animal foods in your diet, you risk starving your healthy gut flora, and as I’ve pointed out previously, this can lead to inflammation both in the gut and the body as a whole. Continue reading →
Have you ever had a naturopath say “you need to keep your blood sugar steady”? There can be lots of reasons for doing this, such as improving energy levels, mental clarity and mood, and reduced cravings for unhealthy food options like refined sugar.
When your blood sugar drops, you can feel tired, foggy in the head, grumpy or anxious, and shaky. Our instinctive solution is to eat, which is perfect, but we tend to opt for fast-sugar (refined sugar) fixes, which just exacerbates the problem. And some people reach for other pick-me-ups like caffeine, cigarettes and drugs.
Why might blood sugar drop in the first place? Usually because you haven’t eaten enough, you’ve gone too long without eating, or your meal choices are making your blood sugar rise too high and too quickly, with a rebounding drop. Continue reading →