7 Ways Eating Healthy is Killing You

What is the ideal human diet?

Ask 10 different people and you’ll get 10 different answers.

The “perfect” human diet has been an age old debate since the meat diet in 1797 to help kick diabetes, and the “Banting” diet in 1863—the first low calorie, low carb diet to lose weight.

Fast forward to today, it seems like every week, there’s a new books, news story or research study about what we “should” or “shouldn’t” eat.

Popular “Health-Centric” Diets 

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  • Keto (high fat, low carb)
  • Carnivore (all meat)
  • Vegan (no meat)
  • Fasting & Intermittent Fasting
  • Low FODMAP
  • GAPS
  • Paleo
  • Specific Carbohydrate
  • Carb Backloading or Cycling

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  • Clean Eating
  • Elimination
  • Mediterranean
  • Food Guide Pyramid
  • 1200 Calories
  • Autoimmune Protocol
  • “All Foods Fit”

 

 

Unlike the fad low fat diets of the 1980’s and 90’s (which were heavily focused on weight loss) today’s top “diets” are “lifestyles”.

Diets of today don’t sell crappy SlimFast shakes or cheesy before-and-after photoshopped photos. Instead they are wrapped in promises of a “faster metabolism”, “shredded six pack”, “better digestion” and “no brain fog” all in the name of a better body.

However, are these diets really healthy?

Healthy Eating Statistics 

Statistics show 1 in 3 people are currently on a health-related diet. Of these, 50% of dieters follow a low carb lifestyle (1).

But Something is Not Working….

Nevertheless, chronic disease continues to rise with 60% of people having a chronic disease—more than 1 in 2 of you reading this article (2). In fact, globally, out of the 11 most developed nations, America ranks DEAD LAST in our healthcare and health outcomes due to the chronic disease epidemic (3). A “chronic disease” is defined as a chronic health condition that you’ve had for 3 months or longer.

Chronic Disease 

Chronic disease and chronic conditions do not just mean obesity or cancer either. They include conditions like:

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  • ADD/ADHD
  • Allergies
  • ALS
  • Alzheimer’s & Dementia
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • COPD
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Diabetes
  • Eating Disorders

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  • Endometriosis
  • Heart Disease
  • Hypertension
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lipid Disorders (high cholesterol)
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Mood Disorders (anxiety, depression, bipolar)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stroke

 

 

“Healthy Eating” Gone Wrong 

Even Millennials—often referred to as the “healthiest” generation due to their increasing interest in celery juice, monitoring ketones, CrossFit, yoga and Soul Cycle—are actually the unhealthiest generation in all human history.

 

According to a 2019 BlueCross BlueShield healthcare report (4), by age 27, Millennials are experiencing a sharper decline in their health than any generation before them. Additionally, the 6 of the top 10 diseases they are facing actually having nothing to do with physical health, but mental health instead including:

  1. Major Depression
  2. Substance use disorder
  3. Alcohol use disorder
  4. Hypertension
  5. Hyperactivity
  6. Psychotic conditions
  7. Crohn’s disease/Ulcerative colitis
  8. High cholesterol
  9. Tobacco use disorder
  10. Type II diabetes

Additionally, children born in the year 2000 and on are NOT expected to outlive their parents’ same life expectancy (5).

The “Cure”: Eat Even Healthier…Right? 

The answer to these rising health epidemics—“Eat healthier and exercise more…right?”

Bring on the 21 Day Keto Reset, Whole30, Medical Medium celery juice, GAPS or Specific Carbohydrate Diet!

We definitely do not have a LACK of information problem.

food preparation, eating healthy, avocado, eggs, mushroom, cucumber, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes

After all, we are exposed to upwards of 10,000 ads and messages every day—many related to things we should do to “be healthy” (6). We all know that vegetables, water, heart pumping aerobics and eating organic are good for us.

Moreover, 9 out of 10 Americans report turning to online sources first for health-related questions before consulting a healthcare professional, and equally report they trust online opinions just as much as the professionals themselves (7).

Nevertheless, 95% of all diets fail (8) and 80% of Americans also report feeling completely overwhelmed and confused about what “being healthy” actually means (9). Despite knowing what we need to do to be “healthy”…something is still not working…

Eating Healthy is Killing You 

Eating healthy is killing you. It’s killing us.

It’s a common dilemma I find many of my patients running into—doing “all the things” to be healthy, but feeling like they are hitting ceilings in their own health.

Check out these 7 Ways Eating Healthy is Killing—think of them as roadblocks to feeling your best. See if any of them ring a bell.

7 Ways Eating Healthy is Killing You

Roadblock #1: Takes Up Brain Space

Dieting is not doing our mental health any favors. The more we practice particular dieting techniques or deprive our body of food, researchers have found the more we think and obsess over food. As it is, we currently make about 200 decisions (10) on a daily basis involving food (from what we will eat or what we want to eat, to what sauce or sides to choose, etc.).

In addition, the average woman thinks about food every 30 minutes (11)—about the same amount of time that the average man thinks about sex (12). Men think about food every 60-90 minutes (11).

When we are deprived of food, restrict our food or miss out on certain nutrients in our diet for a long time (i.e. carbs, fats, protein, etc.), then our pre-occupation and anxiety over food goes up two fold.

Minnesota Starvation Study

The Minnesota Starvation Study is an excellent example of this (13).

In the study, 36 healthy men voluntarily ate a restricted nutrient diet so that researchers could learn about how to help people recover from starvation. Over the course of nearly 6 months, researchers studied the men before and during starvation, as well as during recovery and rehabilitation from starvation. The men were fed a normal, nutrient dense diet for the first 12 weeks, followed by a calorie and nutrient restricted diet for 24 weeks (about 1200 calories—half their body’s needs). Rehabilitation followed and slowly allowed the men to return to their previous healthy diet. Aside from weight loss, the primary findings were that hunger and nutrient deprivation made the men obsessed with food—both during the starvation period and rehabilitation afterwards.

The men would dream and fantasize about food, read and talk about food, and salivate for the two meals they were fed each day. They reported increased fatigue, irritability, depression and apathy. Interestingly, the men also reported decreases in their mental abilities, although mental testing did not support this as fact.

Even without an eating disorder, a nutrient deficient diet (where we miss out on balance or fall into the trap of under-eating) can make us more obsessed with food. When humans are energy and nutrient deficient, a complex interplay of physiological processes signal to the brain that food should be consumed—cuing us to think more about food.

These same applications don’t just apply to the Minnesota Starvation Study. People are also running into these same obsessive roadblocks in our hyper-focused health and diet restrictive society.

Roadblock #2: Comparison to Others

“Tray gazing” is a term coined by psychologists studying the eating behaviors of college women, a population whom make their eating and food choices largely determined by social influence and their peers.

Not surprisingly, psychologists have also found that  nearly 1 in 3 women in this population struggle with an eating disorder (14) and another 3 in 4 women as a whole will struggle with disordered eating in their lifetime (15).

Other People Influence Our Food Choices

Research (16) shows that humans are social eaters—often focusing more on what others are eating to determine what we too should eat rather than focusing on our own body’s needs instead. People use other humans’ diets to not only decide things like:

  1. What they should eat
  2. How much they should eat
  3. Whether they’ve eaten a normal amount or overeaten
  4. How they feel about what they’ve eaten
  5. How satisfied they are with themselves and their food intake

Social media is a perfect example of this. The majority of people looking at social media walk away from it feeling worse about themselves (17)—like they don’t measure up. So what do you think is going through our minds when we see someone else doing the “Keto thing” or the “Paleo thing” or the “Vegan thing” or the “Fasting thing”? (Answer: We compare and perhaps 7feel like we don’t measure up).

Social Eating Behavior

Other research shows how much others people’s opinions influence our own eating choices:

  • Women eat less when wanting to impress others (like on a date or with other women) (18)
  • Men tend to eat more food when they are with a woman they like (18)
  • People who pay full-price or invest in food—as opposed to getting “a deal”—also are more likely to eat more of that food. (18)
  • At restaurants, people are four times as likely to order dessert when their server had a high BMI than when their server had a low BMI (18)
  • Seeing diet messages about diets makes us under eat, likely driven by the positive reinforcement of working toward or even reaching their body weight goals. (19)
  • Kids are also influenced by group think and popular opinion—whether it’s veggies or “kid friendly foods”, kids eat fewer carrots and crackers when the foods are described as nutritious rather than tasty. (20)

We often eat what we think we should eat based on group think.

Roadblock #3: New Food Intolerances & Food Fears

After eating a restrictive diet for a long time, some people end up eating the same 5 to 10 foods—not because that’s all they want to eat, but it’s what they “can” eat. Food doesn’t feel good!

Food Doesn’t Feel Good 

  • Butternut squash and beets spike their blood sugar too high, followed by a crash
  • Strawberries and nuts trigger a Th1 immune cell response
  • Sweet potatoes cause heart palpitations
  • Red meat constipates them
  • Sparkling water and smoothies causes nausea
  • Broccoli and Brussels sprouts result in gas
  • Dairy makes them bloat
  • Spinach is too high in oxalates, causing histamine flares

You get the picture.

Food is Scary (ARFID) 

Food also becomes scary.

You begin living in fear of how food makes you feel—or how food may make you feel if you eat something out of the norm—to the point that you avoid discomfort at all cost, limiting you to summer squash, skinless chicken breast, ground turkey, blueberries, coconut oil and avocados. This is actually called ARFID—Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder—and unlike anorexia and bulimia, it has nothing to do with body image and everything to do with avoiding foods and situations that trigger discomfort.

Food Restriction Increases Intolerances & Decreases Metabolic Flexibility 

In addition, the more restricted you become in your diet, the more metabolically inflexible and food intolerant you also become.

“Metabolic flexibility” basically means your body’s ability to use a variety of nutrients for energy.  This isn’t just in your head either—biologically, the more restrictive you eat, the less healthy and less diverse gut bacteria you have.  Consequently, less bacterial diversity results in decreased metabolic and digestive function and increased food intolerances (21).

Think about it this way: Your GI tract contains more immune cells than any other organ—representing about 80% of our immune system (22). If our gut bacteria are healthy and thriving, our immune system is healthy and thriving—better able to digest different types of foods. However, if our gut bacteria are weak unhealthy or decreased, what do you think happens to our immune system’s ability to tolerate different foods?

Don’t Take My Word for It…. 

Mice without healthy gut bacteria (called sterile mice) have a number of problems with their immune systems.

Not only do they have a reduced number of immune system cells within the gut (which are important to protect from infections acquired through the gut), but sterile mice exhibit alterations in the immune cells circulating in the blood.

There are reduced numbers of immune cells, and many of these cells fail to develop and mature properly. Not only does this leave the animal more vulnerable to illness; it also leads to increased environmental and food sensitivities as well as the risk for autoimmunity, in which the immune system attacks the animal’s own cells. 

Perhaps the real way to increase our body’s ability to tolerate a variety of foods and overcome ARFID is actually to address our gut microbiome—“weeding” out (removing) the unhealthy pathogens, and “seeding” (adding) in plenty of healthy good guys both through pre-biotics, probiotics and a nutrient-dense diverse diet. 

Roadblock #4: Research Over Intuition

“Research shows…”

Diet culture eats, sleeps and breathes hard data science. Heck, this article even contains several research studies—all for good reason! Research and facts help us understand the “why” and take hypotheses and claims to facts and credibility.

That said, sometimes our reliance on research alone can go overboard.

  • If research shows low fat slashes cholesterol and blasts fat, we are in.
  • If research later shows that actually eating more fat and cutting carbs slashes cholesterol and blasts fat, we are in.
  • If studies reveal the plant-based eating busts inflammatory cytokines, we are sold.
  • If other studies then show that plants are actually toxic and we should eat more anti-inflammatory protein, we are sold.

Research is Exhausting! 

“Keeping up with the Joneses” in research is exhausting. One look at the history of diets shows that  “breaking news” and fads are constantly changing, and if you look hard enough, there really is a study for everything.

Research May Also Be Skewed  

Additionally, not all research is actually all its chalked up to be—for example, studies comparing whole grain diets to refined grain diets often do find that whole grains are less inflammatory…but rarely do these studies compare whole grains to real food carbs, like pre-biotic fibers and veggies. I wonder what research would show about the inflammatory factor then?

Other studies on omnivorous diets (meat included) vs. plant-based diets often times skew their conclusions—often times finding “meat causes cancer” or “causes inflammation”. However, rarely do these studies evaluate or discuss the food quality or meat quality they used. We all know there is a difference in the Grade-D served at McDonald’s vs. the grass-fed, pasture raised beef sold at the farmer’s market.

Research Messes with Our “Gut Brain Connection” 

Lastly, by focusing more on our head—over how we actually feel in our body and how certain foods make us feel—we become more disconnected with our own “gut intuition.” 

The gut-brain connection is a real thing. 

Your frontal lobe—the part of the brain that reads research— is directly connected to the top off your gut, and supplies your gut with more neurons (brain cells) than any other part of your peripheral nervous system.

Additionally, over 90% of your serotonin—your “feel good” brain chemicals. When our gut is healthy, we think more clearly and have a better mood, and vice versa: When our brain and thoughts are positive and healthy, our gut feels better—firing less inflammatory cytokines in the direction of our gut microbes.

Generally speaking, we tend to think of our bodies and minds as separate systems and believe they function, for the most part, independently.  Yet can you remember the last time you had an interview for a job, spoke in public, or went on a first date with someone you were really trying to impress?  In all instances, no doubt you wanted to appear calm and collected but at the same time you were feeling nervous and self-conscious. Can you recall how your body felt? Tight and tense? Heart fluttering? Shallow breathing? Sweating or slightly nauseas?

Our mental health and thoughts influence how we feel. So what do you think happens when we look to research and studies alone to decide what we should or shouldn’t eat?

When we solely make our nutrition and eating choices based on research, studies or “facts” about what we should or shouldn’t eat, we risk disconnecting with our own intuition—our natural born ability to recognize and know how our body actually feels.

Consider these scenarios:

  • The paleo diet says you cannot eat white potatoes, so you don’t (but in reality, you actually feel okay when you eat white potatoes)
  • The keto diet says you shouldn’t eat more than 20 net carbs, but your body can actually stay in ketosis at 50 to 70 carbs.

Your body actually does not need or like to be in ketosis at all—your digestion is suffering, you have lower energy, you’re not building muscle (however in the name of keto, you put pressure on yourself to “be keto” because it’s what research says you should do)

You follow a vegan diet to save the animals, but actually feel like you are treating your own body like an inhumanely treated animal—you’re bloated, constipated, fatigued, have brittle nails, hair and skin breakouts.

Sometimes our head gets in the way of how we actually feel.

Research Influence Our Food Choices & Health Outcomes 

Mind-body studies overwhelmingly reveal how our food choices and health outcomes are greatly determined by what we think. (And what we think is greatly determined by what we read or what we are told).

In other words: Our bodies respond how we think they should respond when we eat certain foods (23).

On two separate occasions, participants in one of study were given a 380-calorie milkshake under the pretense that it was either a 620-calorie “indulgent” shake or a 140-calorie “sensible” shake. When participants drank what they believed was an indulgent shake, they had a significantly steeper decline in ghrelin, a hunger-inducing hormone that regulates metabolism, than when they drank what they thought was a “sensible” shake. Their bodies responded as if they had actually consumed more calories (just like when we make our food choices based on the research and what that research-based diet should do for our body).

Another instance: People who perceived themselves as less active than others had up to a 72% higher mortality risk 21 years later than those who perceived themselves as more active, even though their activity levels were the exact same (24).In another example, describing vegetables using enticing adjectives traditionally reserved for unhealthy foods (25)—“rich buttery roasted sweet corn,” “slow roasted caramelized zucchini bites”—increased vegetable consumption by 41 percent compared to the standard approach of touting their health properties. (What do you think happens when we tell ourselves a particular diet or food will “increase our metabolism”, “boost our energy” or “cleanse our gut”?).

 

And one more: In an experiment (26) on overcoming food allergies, people who believed the re-introduction would be positive, experienced less food re-introduction symptoms and less stress than those who did not—(sort of like the people who go on a specific diet based on what research tell them are the positive outcomes, and “feel amazing”).

 

In the study, 50 kids with peanut allergies ate a small amount of peanut flour every day—gradually upping their intake every week until they reached 1 peanut. Researchers divided the subject sample size in half, and told one group of 25 parents and kids that “symptoms can be an unfortunate side effect of treatment”. For the other group of 25, researchers reframed the message on symptoms, saying, “symptoms could be a sign that the immune system is learning to desensitize — a positive signal that the treatment is working.” Parents in the “positive signals” group were also asked to come up with creative ways to reinforce this message with their children. For example, during the study when Lucy complained her mouth was itchy, her mom would remind her, ‘That’s OK, that’s your body getting stronger. We’re fighting this peanut allergy. Just remember, your body is ‘learning how to do the splits.”

 

Although ALL participants reached the goal of tolerating one peanut by the end of the study period, and no patient needed to use epinephrine in response to symptoms, who do you think experienced less stress and anxiety in the process? The kids and parents with positive reinforcement and messaging—not fear based research or negatively spun messaging!

 

These are all case examples of the mind-body connection at work—further supporting how our belief of the research impacts not only the diets we think we should eat, but how we feel on those diets.

 

Research is great for helping us understand our bodies better, but no research study can ultimately tell you what is completely best for you individual body.

 

Roadblock #5: Eating But Starving at a Cellular Level

Although America is typically known as one of the “most obese” countries in the world, we are a well-fed but undernourished society.

 

Yup, there’s no doubt, Americans are getting enough calories—the average American consumes a whopping 3,600 calories per day, a 24 percent increase from 1961 (27).

 

However, despite an abundant food supply, research indicates that Americans are significantly deficient in many critical nutrients. In other words: We are eating but starving at a cellular and bacterial level.

 

A recent study conducted as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicates that U.S. children and adults have high rates of deficiency of vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and folate, as well as the mineral iron (28).

 

Translation: Nutrient deficiencies are NOT just for under-developed countries.

 

Several factors are responsible for the “well fed but undernourished” epidemic sweeping the nation, including:

 

A high intake of processed foods

60% of Americans eating out instead of cooking on a regular basis

Declining levels of nutrients in our soils

A larger focus on calories and macros—rather than micronutrient intake on food labels

And restrictive popular “healthy” diets that exclude many nutrient-dense superfoods in even health conscious diets—from keto to carnivore to vegan restrictions…eating

 

“Healthy diets” don’t always include nutrient-density as a top value. We may be eating “healthy” according to rules, but missing out on essential nutrients. 

Roadblock #6: Identity Crisis

Pop question: Who are you?

  1. Are you Paleo?
  2. Vegan?
  3. Vegetarian?
  4. GAPS?
  5. Anorexic?
  6. Restrictive?
  7. A binger?
  8. Bulimic?
  9. A competitive athlete or dancer?
  10. Celiac?
  11. Hypothyroid?
  12. Asian?
  13. Indian?
  14. Constipated all the time?

Answer: In actuality, you are none of these things. Your diet or “food identity” does NOT define you. However, many of us have let it do so….

Identity Defined

An “identity” is defined as a “state of being; who you are.” Our identity relates to how we classify and define ourselves. We can have multiple “identities”

Common Identities 

Some common identities include:

  • Religion (Christian, Jewish, Muslim);
  • Culture (Asian American, Southerner, New Yorker)
  • Political affiliation (Democrat, Republican Environmentalist)
  • Our job (writer, artist, designer, doctor)
  • Our sorority
  • Our income (lower class, middle class, upper class)
  • Our abilities (creative, athletic, smart, musical, artistic, inventive, etc.)
  • Health conditions (autoimmune, cancer recovery, anorexic, anxiety, etc.)
  • Gender (male, female)
  • Blood type
  • Our life season (college age, retired, mom, a grand mother, etc.)
  • Fitness type (ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph)
  • Our relationship roles (mother, sister, friend, girl friend, aunt)
  • Highschool stereotypes (nerds, populars, jocks, book worms)
  • Our achievements and accomplishments (things you would put on a resume)
  • Our diet choices (Paleo, Vegan, Carnivore, etc.)

By nature, humans hunger for an identity and cling to labels. Our different identities provides us with a sense of self-esteem and a framework for socializing. They also influence our behavior, beliefs and habits.

Identity Gone Wrong with Our Food & Body 

Identities or labels are not necessarily a “bad” thing.

However if our identities keep us from listening to our body, our gut health, and our own intuition, it is then that we then run into roadblocks. Instead of tuning into our bodies, we cling to ideals, rules and norms of how we “should” and “shouldn’t” eat, be, look like, etc. Defining ourselves based on our Food or Body Identity can prevent us from truly finding peace and positive connections with our food, our body and fitness, as well as healing (inside and out).

Examples of Food & Body Identities 

Some examples of “Food & Body Identities gone wrong, include:

Identity: Celiac

Possible Unhealthy Beliefs & Behaviors: Living in fear of being “glutened” or cross-contaminated, isolated, may feel stuck or like healing is not possible

Identity: Female

Possible Unhealthy Beliefs & Behaviors: Falling for gender biases: “I should eat like a bird”; “I shouldn’t eat more than 1200 calories”; “I should order a salad.”

Identity: Marathon Runner

Possible Unhealthy Beliefs & Behaviors: Avoid fats or meat; Consume lots of goos and bars/shakes; Eat light before runs; Potential to overtrain

Identity: Dancer

Possible Unhealthy Beliefs & Behaviors: Eat light; Make weight; Intermittent fast during the day; Comparison to others

Identity: Gut Healing Diet

Possible Unhealthy Beliefs & Behaviors: Develop fears about inflammatory or non-gut healing foods; Obsession with how they feel when they eat; Laxative or colonic abuse; Over-supplementation; Constantly reading and researching articles on health

Identity: Anorexic

Possible Unhealthy Beliefs & Behaviors: Feeling like you need to live up to your identity—restriction, weight loss, counting calories, etc.

Identity: Body Builder

Possible Unhealthy Beliefs & Behaviors: Working out because you have to follow your plan; Viewing food as macros—not nourishment; Eating the same things every day; Drinking lots of protein drinks

Our food and body identities can trigger a strong need to stick to a particular way of being, living, eating or acting in order to “check off a box,” earn a gold star, live up to our identity, be “good” or moral, or keep our word (after all, we’ve told people we are Paleo or Vegan or Keto!).

 

The mere thought of eating chicken if you are Vegan, or some sushi with rice if you’re Keto? (Gasp)! It would NEVER happen.

Food & Body Identity Disorder: An Eating Disorder No One is Talking About It

 

Food & Body Identity Disorder—is a funky relationship with food that can occur when we base our identities upon the foods we eat, rules we follow and our health habits.

 

Unlike orthorexia (obsession with healthy eating alone), or other disorders like anorexia and bulimia (often times where a body image, weight and certain behaviors with food occur), Food & body Identity Disorder intertwines our personal self-esteem with the foods we eat, exercise we choose and health habits we follow.

 

Food & Body Identity issues prevent us from listening to our body and truly being able to be intuitive.

 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to diet or a “perfect diet.” You are NOT what you eat. Food is both fuel and freedom—it cannot hurt you, define you or lock you down. Diets, rules and food identities do. 

Roadblock #7: Wreck Your Gut in the Long Term

Your gut is the gateway to your health.

It is estimated that you have around 40 trillion bacterial cells and only 30 trillion human cells. Translation: you and I have more bacteria than cells.

 

Although the words “gut bacteria” sound kinda gross…they are actually the symphony of your body’s orchestra (ALL your body’s processes)—from your metabolism to your hormones, mindset, immune system and energy levels.

 

1 in 2 People Have “Gut Issues”

 

Unfortunately, approximately 1 in 2 people have a gut-related health condition considering the stats for chronic disease that are all modifiable lifestyle diseases that hold close relations to the gut.

 

Gut related pathologies don’t just include bloating or constipation, they also include things like:

 

  • Skin breakouts
  • Anxiety
  • High cholesterol
  • Infertility
  • PMS and Low T
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Allergies
  • Blood sugar imbalances
  • High blood pressure
  • And more

 

Most Diets Don’t Think About Your Gut Health (Long-term)

 

Unfortunately, many “healthy diets” do NOT always support a healthy gut—at least over the long term.

 

Why?  A healthy gut is a gut with diverse gut bacteria! How do we get “diverse gut bacteria”? Through a diverse diet!

 

This is actually a BIG reason why we may experience tremendous success or feel better when we initially start our diet or change our diet from foods we were eating that were not making us feel good prior.

 

Exhibit A: Low Carb

 

For example: Say you had Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) or leaky gut and foods like broccoli, salads and avocados always made you feel bloated. Then you went carnivore and discovered you felt amazing! (Hello, the diet is helping re-shift your gut microbiome)!

 

However if you go too long on the diet without feeding beneficial bacteria, you may find the diet is not sustainable, nor do you feel amazing in the long run.

 

Long term low carb diets like Keto or Carnivore do not feed or create an environment for healthy gut bacteria.

 

One study (29) revealed that switching from a balanced diet to a high-fat, no-carb diet increased strains of bacteria that metabolize fatty acids….BUT the switch also lowered healthy bacteria such as Bacteroides, Clostridium, and Roseburia, which are responsible for degrading proteins and carbs.

 

In turn, this reduced the production of short-chain fatty acids and antioxidants, which are chemical compounds that fight DNA damage and aging by countering the harmful effects of free radicals.

 

When gut bacteria metabolize carbs, they release short-chain fatty acids, which have positive health effects such as reducing inflammation and disease risks like cancer.

 

The result? In the long run feeling worse not better—slower results, less energy, constipation or just not optimal.

 

 

Exhibit B: Vegan

 

Meat free diets show similar results. Say you “go vegan”—a night and day difference from the SAD (Standard American Diet) you were eating. (Hello, no wonder you feel better! You ARE re-shifting your gut microbiome).

 

In research, a plant-based diet appears to be beneficial for human health by promoting the development of more diverse and stable microbial systems…at least at first (30).  Vegans and vegetarian diets often have significantly higher amounts of fiber resulting in higher counts of certain healthy bacteria. Polyphenols, also abundant in plant foods, increase Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, which provide anti-pathogenic and anti-inflammatory effects.

 

However, while they can feel really great at first—especially if transitioning from the Standard American Diet, non-organic protein sources, or more inflammatory habits as a whole—from smoking, to soda drinking and not working out—in the long run. In fact, long term vegan diets have been associated with IBS and gut related pathologies (31).

 

Gut bacteria also need essential amino acids—the building blocks of all living things— to survive and thrive. Amino Acids found in animal proteins act as precursors for numerous metabolic processes and gut functions.

 

Additionally, since amino acids are the building blocks of all our tissues, when the body is deprived of amino acids, our gut lining and tissue suffers setting us up for more of a leaky gut situation in the long run.

 

In the long term, research points to the fact that omnivorous diets with a plant emphasis but not exclusive to plants only like Mediterranean increase and sustain short chain fatty acids.

 

Exhibit C: “Gut Healing Diet”

 

One more example: Even “gut healing diets”—like Low FODMAP or anti-candida diets—can help support an unhealthy gut in the short term (32-34)…but over the long term, lack of balance can actually do your gut more harm than good (35, 36).

 

The idea with “gut healing” or “healthy diets” are NOT to just completely wipe out these species, because that’s not even necessarily desirable. The idea is to get things back into balance. That’s really the focus of any kind of treatment for fungal overgrowth.

 

Restrictive diets—especially lacking beneficial fibers and short chain fatty acids—can disrupt your gut microbiome just like an inflammatory diet—wiping out gut bacteria and beneficial yeasts. Research supports the fact that diets meant to improve or “reset” your gut actually may not take a long time at all.

 

In a recent study authored by Harvard researcher Lawrence David, the diets of 10 men and women, ages of 21 to 33, were manipulated in various ways (37).

 

The study subjects maintained a specific change in their diets for 4 days and researchers assessed their gut bacteria both during the diets and up to six days after. Findings revealed profound changes in the makeup of gut bacteria in as little as 3 days after a dietary change! In other words: Your gut microbiome can change fast!

 

Most “healthy” diets don’t fully address the importance of gut microbiome health and balance.

 

Share Your Thoughts

 

What is your relationship like with “eating healthy” and what roadblocks, if any, have you found yourself running into?

 

Share your thoughts to comments!

 

 

References

 

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