Food is many things. It’s about pleasure, connecting with friends and family, ritual, and even experiencing new cultures. Food is life. And eating well sets a solid foundation of health and healing that can set you apart from illness, fatigue, and the incredible number of pesky and painful symptoms caused by chronic nutrient deficiencies and inflammation.
Poor nutrition, inflammatory foods, infections, and physical or emotional stress can damage digestive organs, causing an inflammatory cascade throughout the body.
Restoring digestive function, nutrition, and nutrient absorption is the foundation for health. The state of our gut health and microbiome (the diverse population of microbes that live in our digestive tract and help us assimilate nutrients) affect our metabolism, immunity, hormones, and brain function.
A crucial step to resolving health problems and rebuilding health is creating a customized nutrition plan that includes gut-friendly, nutrient-dense foods and natural medicines that restore digestive function and nutrient absorption.
Tips For Improving Nutrition & Healing Digestive Organs
- Drink water. An approximate measure is half your bodyweight in ounces (a 150 pound person should drink approximately 75 ounces of water per day).
- Eat healthy fats such as grass-fed butter or ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil.
- Eat organic vegetables and fruit, in abundance, 6-9 cups of vegetables per day.
- Eat leafy greens every day.
- Eat a rainbow of vegetables and fruits. The colors represent the variety of nutrients.
Now, the truth is there is no one perfect diet. It’s very important to build a nutrition plan for each person that is customized to their state of health, nutrient requirements, and taste preferences. It’s also very important to identify problem foods or food sensitivities so you can stop guessing about which foods are helping you and which foods are not.
With my patients I recommend doing an elimination and reintroduction diet for 30 days. This means eliminating potential problem foods and focusing on an anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense diet.
During the elimination period patients often report relief of many of the symptoms they came to me for with a bonus of weight loss, resolved pain, improved energy, better mood, better sleep, and clearer thinking.
The nutrition plan during the elimination phase varies depending on the individual and their condition. However the most common elimination diet I recommend is The Whole30.
Below is a table outlining high energy, nutrient dense foods vs low energy nutrient poor foods to give you an idea of what an elimination diet might look like.
High Energy, Nutrient Dense
Vegetables: Eat a variety of vegetables, covering the color spectrum. Ideally organic and in season.
Healthy Fats: Pastured/grassfed butter or ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados/avocado oil.
Eggs: From chickens raised without antibiotics and hormones, ideally pasture raised.
Fish & Animal Protein: Raised without antibiotics and added hormones. Ideally wild caught or wild fish and pastured/grassfed chicken, beef, lamb, pork, or wild game.
Nuts & Nut Butters: Nuts ideally raw and unsalted. Nut butters made without hydrogenated oils or added sugar.
Fruit: Enjoy in season and in moderation. Think of them as desert vegetables.
Grassfed & Raw Dairy: Butter, cheese, and milk that’s made from the milk of pastured/grassfed cows, goats, or sheep is often nutrient rich.
Low Energy, Nutrient Poor
Processed Foods: Eat food from farms, not labs. If it wasn’t grown or raised, don’t eat it. If the ingredient list is long and difficult to pronounce, don’t eat it.
Rancid Oils: Seed oils like canola/rapeseed oil, vegetable/soybean oil, and safflower oil.
Grains: Grains such as wheat, corn, and gluten free grains.
Soy: Watch out for soy as an added ingredient in prepared foods, pre-made dressings, and sauces.
Legumes: Beans, peanuts, and peanut butter.
Conventional Dairy: Butter, cheese, and milk that’s made from the milk of conventional (unhealthy grain, hormone, and antibiotic, eating) cows is often nutrient poor and tends to cause inflammation in many people, especially those with asthma or allergies.
At the end of the 30 days we systematically reintroduce potential inflammatory foods in isolation to find out if they are a problem. If old symptoms return with the reintroduction of a particular food then we know it’s a problem.
This is the beginning of intuitive eating. First, we have to clear the slate by improving nutrient status and healing the digestive organs. Then the question is: how flexible can you be and still feel great?
The answer is different for everyone and your nutrition requirements will change as you move through different phases of your health, life, and even seasons of the year. This isn’t about restricting foods or calories. This is about getting answers. Your answers.
At our clinic after completing this initial phase of healing and identifying food sensitivities we continue to customize the nutrition plan based on which areas of health we most want to support. In addition we may also order advanced digestive health testing to screen for inflammatory and absorption markers; gut infections such as candida, bacteria, and parasites; and the health of the microbiome.