- AN OVERVIEW
- SPECIAL APPROACHES
- WHEN TO EAT
YOU GOT THIS
If you are new to learning about nutrition and don’t know where to start, then I recommend avoiding:
- added sugar
- gluten + grains
- GMO food
THE WHOLE 30
If you want to learn as quickly as possible how to navigate modern food and learn about food quality and why to eat and avoid certain things, I can highly recommend The Whole 30. The entire program is available for free online and does an excellent job of explaining how to go through the 30 day reset as well as how to have a healthy relationship with food in the long-term.
I’ve had hundreds of patients go through the Whole 30 and always come out the other side with a MUCH better understanding of modern food quality and what to eat to support their health without going crazy. It’s really a missing piece of education for all modern people
Because it has been around so long and tens of thousands of people have gone through, there is a plethora of helpful resources including how to follow it:
- if you’re crunched for time
- if you’re on a tight food budget
- if you’re veggie or vegan
- using an Instant Pot or single pot meals
Home - The Whole30® Program
The Whole30 has been changing lives since 2009, when co-founder Melissa Hartwig Urban blogged about a 30-day dietary experiment that transformed her health, habits, and emotional relationship with food. Since then, millions of people have changed their lives* with the Whole30 program; eliminating cravings, improving energy and sleep, reporting an improvement in allergies, anxiety, chronic pain, digestive issues, skin conditions; and losing weight healthfully and sustainably.
It can be nice to eventually get to a place where select foods based on balancing your microbiome, but I think it’s helpfully for everyone to begin by looking at nutrition through the evolutionary lens first. Traditional approaches that balance seasonality with your constitution have a lot to offer us, but the ancients didn’t have to deal with GMOs, glyphosate, and supermarkets full of variations of wheat, soy and corn. So, I think it’s helpful to start with these principles first.
“I’ve finished a Whole 30: Now What?”
THE CYREX ARRAY 3X GLUTEN TESTING
Many people wonder if they should start their dietary modifications with a food sensitivity panel. My advice here is that these can be helpful for troubleshooting down the line but are usually an unhelpful place to start. Almost everyone with complex chronic health issues has an inflamed and leaky gut. This means that you are likely making antibodies to a lot of the foods you currently eat → not because the foods are ‘bad’ but because your gut is inflamed.
Generally, it’s a lot more helpful to do a Paleo-type of restriction diet, which removes the most inflammatory foods and gives your gut a chance to heal (along with the botanicals that will vastly speed up this process). I believe that food sensitivity testing comes into play when you’ve already switched to a whole foods pattern of eating but may still be trying to figure out if you’re sensitive to certain foods.
That said, it can be helpful to run a panel to test for antibodies to gluten + wheat for a number of reasons:
- if you suspect you have undiagonosed celiac disease (the Cyrex can pick this up when other tests miss it)
- to better understand how your body is currently responding to gluten
- for your own education and curiosity
- so that you have something tangible to point to if people around you are skeptical of what you’re doing
Regardless of antibody status, a gluten-free diet is recommended for everyone as gluten makes everyone’s gut leakier, whether you have a sensitivity to it or not. But the testing can be informative and supportive.
So the testing not required and if you’re on a limited budget, you’re likely better off investing resources elsewhere.
If you plan on running a Cyrex Array 3 Gluten + Wheat Proteome Sensitivity test, make sure you do it before you cut gluten out of your diet
You can order lab tests here.
This section explores how to figure out what to exclude while your immune system and gut are healing. The good news is that the program is designed in a way to take a lot of the burden off of having the exact perfect diet. What follows below are ways of thinking about dietary lenses to best figure out what to eat.
DIFFERENT LENSES FOR EXCLUDING INFLAMMATORY FOODS
HOW TO FIGURE OUT WHICH LENS TO TRY
THEY HAVE A LOT OF OVERLAP!!
BY DOING THE REST OF THE PROGRAM, IT TAKES THE BURDEN OFF OF SELECTING THE PERFECT DIET!
GAPS + THE CARNIVORE DIET
These approached quickly terraform the gut by cutting out most or all plant matter, which can irritate an inflamed gut. If you have a very leaky gut, IBD, autism, RA or other autoimmune illnesses and want to use an immersive dietary approach to heal and seal the gut, these approaches can be helpful.
The GAPS diet includes sauerkraut and other veg at different stages. The Carnivore diet is restricted to only animal products, which in some ways may make it simpler to follow if you don’t want to think too much about to eat or not eat.
Once digestion and other symptoms are improved, you can re-introduce healthy plants and begin re-diversifying your gut habitat. Microgard and Microgard+ can be particularly helpful here in speeding up this process as they help break down food debris that can build up in the gut over time, contributing to food sensitivities and gut smolder.
THE LOW FODMAP DIET
When the bacteria from large intestine come up into the small intestine and start fermenting carbohydrates, many people don’t feel so well and this is very common, especially with complex chronic illness.
By avoiding fermentable carbs, many people find that their symptoms improve. If you have severe digestive symptoms that you suspect are dietary, it can be helpful to look at the list of high FODMAP food to see if you consume a lot of any of these and whether you feel better without them.
I don’t recommend excluding everything on the High FODMAP list or following this plan long-term as it’s really more of a symptomatic band-aid. Most of the foods on here that are leading to digestive discomfort because they’re being fermented in the small intestine are important foods for the large intestine.
You’re better off doing a Carnivore or GAPS approach, which cuts all the FODMAPs out and allows your gut to reset and then carefully diversify your microbiome.
By going through the program and breaking down biofilms and bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine, you should be able to eat these same foods again with no problem.
If you have a tendency towards hives, migraines or suddenly getting a runny nose and itchy eyes or if you’ve been told you have MCAS (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome) it can be helpful to be familiar with which foods are high in histamine or block the breakdown of histamine. Histamine is an important part of our innate immune system and is also a neurotransmitter.
It can get over-triggered when we have chronic infections like gut parasites or Lyme, unresolved immune responses and chronic biofilms, and environmental exposures to mold and other toxins.
I don’t think it’s helpful for most people to go on a “low histamine diet” indefinitely, other than for symptom management while you are removing the triggers and restoring your microbiome health.
Rather, understanding which foods are high in histamine can help you resolve confusion about symptom triggers. The pattern I see most often is that someone shifts their diet from processed food towards a Paleo approach and increases their consumption of fermented foods like sauerkraut, cured meats and other high histamine foods. Their gut is not prepared for the shift and they suddenly develop a bunch of histamine-related symptoms.
So my advice is simply to glance over the list if you have any symptoms associated with histamine, just so you’re aware to see if anything of these may be triggering issues for you.
THE PLANT PARADOX
The Plant Paradox by Dr Gundry is a take on Paleo that focuses on eating a diet low in lectins. Lectins are sticky proteins that can bind to the lining of our guts, nerve synapses or brain barrier, causing chronic immune activation and autoimmunity.
If you’ve been Paleo for any length of time and still fill like your diet is messing you up, I think many people can learn something valuable by looking at this approach. I don’t think it’s the universal final answer on diet and it’s probably a bit finicky to follow long-term (which you shouldn’t need to because of the tools you’re learning to implement).
I consider this approach a little advanced. So if you’re new to learning about the role of modern diet in chronic illness, I suggest beginning with the Whole 30, which has a lot of overlap with this approach. But if you’d been at this for a while and would like to learn some nuance around different types of dairy and food prep to reduce lectins, then you may glean some useful insights here.
Like with everything, there are some aspects I find less helpful or arbitrary. But I have many patients for whom this approach helped them move forward after years of struggling. Again, you’ll notice a lot of overlap with the other exclusion diets, so don’t overthink it and keep it simple!
EATING TO SUPPORT HEALTHY CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS
CONTRAST AND AMPLITUDE: A KEY PRINCIPLE OF HEALING AND HEALTH!!
Here, Sachin Panda discusses work from his lab over the past couple of decades on the power of circadian optimization in reversing and preventing disease. He emphasizes the importance of Time Restricted Eating or Intermittent Fasting in reversing metabolic disease and improving health.
I want to emphasize that Time Restricted Eating or Intermittent Fasting are not special new diets. Having discrete feeding windows was the norm for over 99% of our evolution.
For most modern people, this is a very important area to optimize as modern life is so unaligned to circadian rhythms.