Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Oversight of Elimination Diets

Guys, I just listened to an absolutely fantastic podcast episode that I would like to share with you today. It was about elimination diets and also how ‘clean eating’ can be disguised as just another way of dieting (and obsessively controlling food). While there are certainly appropriate times to eliminate foods from one’s diet, this episode offered a really interesting alternative point of view – one which I believe holds a lot of validity.

Paige Smathers (RDN, CD) and Marci Evans (MS, CEDRD-S. LDN, cPT) discuss the fact that while “dieting” isn’t necessarily socially acceptable, “clean eating” and eliminating food groups in pursuit of curing sometimes nebulous symptoms is viewed as not only ok, but sometimes virtuous. Yet elimination diets for people with a history of disordered eating, long-term dieting, or a chaotic relationship with food can be really harmful. Not to mention, this can be another way to “control” eating.  

Elimination diets and “clean eating” are often entered into to improve one’s health, or undesirable symptoms such as “brain fog” or “stomach discomfort”. While this can be a good idea or tool to help solve such issues, it doesn’t take into account other very real factors that affect our health - and specifically our digestion. Paige and Marci talk about how we tend to place the blame on the literal pipeline going from our mouth to our stomach (and intestines). But how often do we give any consideration to the fact that our entire digestive system is innervated by our nervous system? This system feeds right into our gut! Literally, what happens to us mentally and emotionally is getting transferred to your stomach and your intestines and impacting your physical health. Yet how many of us spend much time considering this aspect? Some other factors that may have an effect on health and digestion (besides actual food itself) include frequency of eating; raw vs. cooked foods; balanced plates/meals; regulation of body movement; and stress management. Guess what else? Maybe if you’re experiencing a lot of GI issues, you’re simply eating too many vegetables or maybe you’re simply under-eating! The point is that before we jump to the conclusion that we need to do a massive elimination protocol…we need to also hold space for the reality that there are other factors involved in trying to sort out digestive and health issues.

Another thing I really appreciated hearing in this conversation was the fact that SOME gas, bloating and belching is normal. I mentioned before that during the course of my holistic nutrition education that I was pretty anxious – and it was largely due to worrying about things just like this. Every time I would burp after a meal I would conclude it was a much bigger issue than what it was. Every time my daughter farted, I was sure her gut flora was totally out of whack and I would start researching alternative brands of probiotics. As with anything, clean eating can be taken to extremes.

The last idea I will share here (you need to hear the whole episode yourself) is the idea that some people have a more delicate or sensitive digestive system than others. I must say that I think this is very true. “A stressed out person often has a stressed out gut”! Yes OMG Yes! And while (ironically) the “holistic” education I received stressed me out because of my own anxiety, the whole education was premised on the fact that nutrition includes body, mind and spirit. Quite often the medical community doesn’t acknowledge the fact that emotional and mental health play a large part in our physical health.

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