Which Diet Works Best?
As we have seen, from earlier segments of this series, diet plays a vital role in immune system health and autoimmunity. As diet-awareness increases, more and more diets are being promoted as the “cure-all” for whatever ails you. Documentaries are popping up on a regular basis, each claiming to have the “ideal” diet for mankind. The problem is, many of these diets contradict each other. Some say that plant-based is the way to go while others claim high animal protein and fats are better. Others focus on how the food is digested (or not digested) and yet others claim that your blood type (O,A,B…) holds the answer. All of these diets have worked for some people, but they do not work for all of us…obviously. There is NOT a single diet that is appropriate for everyone.
Listed below are some of the most popular diets being promoted today:
- Autoimmune paleo (AIP)
- Low FODMAP
- Low histamine
Diet does play a significant role in managing autoimmune disease. I do not however believe there is a single diet that is appropriate for everyone with an autoimmune disease. Everyone has a different immune system and it is reacting to food differently. I have found that creating a diet based on food sensitivity blood testing can be very beneficial and more appropriate to the individual. With this information a specific diet or combination of diets can be utilized. If you are going to go through the trouble trying to change your diet, wouldn’t you want to start with some objective information that can help guide you?
While it is true that there is not a “perfect” food-test available today, with the help of a functional medicine doctor (who understands how to interpret food testing) you can save yourself a lot of time and frustration. Unfortunately, many people who have had food sensitivity or food allergy testing performed, have not been instructed how to interpret and utilize the information these tests can provide. Most of the time, they have simply been instructed to avoid the foods that came up as “positive” on the test. There is more information that can be gleaned from food testing. Some of the factors that must be considered are how many foods came up positive, how often are these foods eaten and how are the “positive” food related to each one another. These are just a few of the variables that must be incorporated into food testing interpretation. With this information, an appropriate diet plan can be created for you.
There are many good diets out there and they are often based on sound principles; however, there is nothing “cookie cutter” about managing autoimmune disease and that goes for diet as well.
Microbiome (Gut Flora)
In this section we will briefly discuss the importance of the microorganisms living in your digestive tract…and there are a lot of them!
We don’t know exactly how many types of organisms live in the digestive tract but there are believed to be more than 500 different bacteria, yeast and viruses living in our bowels. Not only are there many different types of organisms, they exist in very large numbers! You have more of these organisms living in your bowels than cells in our entire body! The organisms living in your bowels have their own genetic material and they create all kinds of chemicals that interact with your body. These chemicals can improve or harm our digestive tract. These chemicals can also help or harm the overall function of your immune system. Your unique microbiome plays a significant role in your immune and overall health. There are many factors that will influence your unique microbiome including diet, medications, stress levels, nutrient status, detoxification capacity, etc.
The health and balance of your gut flora is significantly impacted by several variables including:
- Stomach acid production
- Digestive enzyme production
- Gut motility (loose stool or constipation)
- Consuming beneficial microbes
- The foods you are eating and fiber content
- Medications, including antacids
- Stress levels
Many people are currently taking probiotics and or consuming fermented foods. This can be helpful for some, but cause problems for others. For example, if you have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) probiotics can increase gas and bloating. If you have problems regulating histamine levels in the digestive tract, fermented foods can more digestion problems than it helps. These are just of couple examples of “good things” that may not actually be good for you.
When working with autoimmune patients I will often order stool tests. The results can provide information about the different microbes in the gut, how well food is being digested and absorbed, gut inflammation levels and if harmful bacteria or parasites are present. Having objective information regarding your digestive health leads to more appropriate treatment plans and outcomes. Quality functional medicine healthcare should be based on information, not assumptions.
In Part 4 of the Women’s Autoimmune Series, we will look at immune system nutrition and nutrients for gut healing.
If you would like more information about autoimmunity, functional medicine or Dr. Sexton contact our Naperville office or go to www.napervilleintegratedwelness.com
Do your own research, inform yourself and ask lots of questions. When collecting information, you MUST consider the source. There is no shortage of false, misleading, outdated, profit-driven and utterly biased information in healthcare today; even from the most respected sources and organizations.