By Clara Barnett, ND,LAC
I’m asked daily by patients and colleagues whether I believe they should go “gluten-free”, “dairy-free”, “caffeine-free”, “vegan”, “raw” etc. Others wonder about the differences between “Paleo”, “Keto”, “FODMAP” and a host of other popular programs.
Let me start by saying that when there is a suspicion of food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances, individuals can be tested for these allergens, whether through blood tests or an elimination diet. My role is to support my patients in identifying individual sources of inflammation and to offer better alternatives. But with all of the widely varying information about a “healthful” diet in our society, people can become confused about what dietary decisions to make. Sometimes, a “-free” or highly restrictive diet misses the bigger mark.
Dietary habits are linked with our lifestyles. They involve social, emotional, economic and even philosophical elements. We know that food can affect our physical and mental well-being. Some cause inflammation while others can help fight it. Whether you’re trying to heal from a chronic condition or simply trying to improve your diet, it’s worthwhile to take a personalized approach in understanding what and why certain diets are best for you. Science has proven the role of vitamins and minerals which allows us to be “precise” but I also encourage you to look at what your ancestors ate and you’ll see how wise their traditional ways of cooking and eating were.
Whether one’s diet is “-free” or not, I tell my patients that it is just as important to maximize key nutrients in your diet, even when you are eliminating or reducing potentially inflammatory substances. For example, if you’re avoiding gluten-grains, simply replacing them with gluten-free grains without increasing your vegetable intake might short-change your system. And remember, one size doesn’t fit all. You’ll know when a healthful diet is “working” for you when you reach a good balance of feeling better and knowing that you are able to sustain the changes in a realistic and sensible manner.
If you have questions about how better to understand your health status in relation to the foods you consume, I highly recommend working with a professional who can help you identify the connections. Complimentary consultations can be made through our clinic.