Healing the Gut by Removing Offending Foods

Posted on 12/26/2013 by Dr. Adrian den Boer
Categories: detoxification, gut flora, immune system, inflammation, leaky gut, probiotics

Food is more than a calorie. Fundamentally, it is the fuel of life that signals your body to create good or bad hormones, energy versus fatigue, positive moods versus negative moods, and repair versus inflammation and destruction. The quality of food you choose is paramount to the impact it has on your health - for better or for worse!
You probably know that blueberries are very good for you, especially for the brain. Yet, a healthy food like blueberries can be altered to a harmful food simply by being grown in artificial conditions and sprayed with pesticides, making it less nutrient dense and creating harmful signals within your body. These blueberries may even contribute to the development of cancer rather than its prevention, all because of the environment they were grown in.
What are some of the ways to ensure quality food that sends signals of health and healing to your body?  
1) Eat real, whole foods that have not been altered by man.
Be extremely suspicious of food in boxes. When buying food with labels, always check them for artificial ingredients, food dyes, preservatives, and toxic chemicals.
Pretend your great-grandmother is shopping with you. If she doesn’t recognize the food, it’s probably not good for you.
2) Eat mostly organic foods.
Foods that are natural and not genetically modified, nor grown without the use of pesticides and chemicals, are best suited for optimum health. Because it may not always be possible to buy organic, check out the Environmental Working Group's Guide to Pesticides in Produce for those foods most heavily contaminated. 

You can also learn more about DBC’s food philosophy here.
Health Status: An Indicator of Food Needs
Another key component of using food as medicine is paying careful attention to your health status, which should guide your biochemical individual food needs. Unfortunately, even certain organic whole foods can be offensive to some, due to our “Westernized guts,” which have become leaky, inflamed, and incapable of properly breaking down food.
Such a compromised gut can take a perfectly fine food, and instead of digesting it into components we can use, break food down into toxic, pro-cancerous, and inflammatory particles that further irritate the gut wall. These components directly pass into the bloodstream and even cross the blood-brain barrier, causing inflammation in all areas of the body.
It’s been determined that most mood disorders and numerous other health conditions mentioned in my post here are really gut-related problems directly connected to our reaction to foods and how we break it down (Carptenter, 2012).
Though this list is very general, the following foods are most suspicious for causing this cascade of events:
-       Dairy
-       Gluten
-       Soy
-       Corn
-       Nuts
-       Citrus fruits
Because each person’s offending foods are unique, I find the elimination diet used at DBC to be one of the most effective ways in discovering these offending foods.
The Elimination Diet: A Powerful Tool for Healing
The elimination diet is a procedure used to identify foods that a person is intolerant of, and includes the elimination of all suspected foods for a certain amount of time, followed by reintroduction one at a time. Typically, we have patients abide for a minimum of 10 days. However, for foods like gluten, it usually takes at least 6 weeks to start seeing results. Therefore, it is often the last thing we reintroduce.
Foods allowed on the elimination diet are mostly plant-based foods across a spectrum of colors. Sufficient fiber and protein are absolutely critical to the healing process as wellFoods to be avoided include most of the common foods mentioned prior (eggs, gluten, etc.), hydrogenated oils, processed and genetically modified foods, and sugar, which is a very inflammatory agent.

If there is a complex case, we use food allergy and sensitivity testing as a backup to get to the root of the issue. However, these tests are typically limited to certain antibodies. They do not test for food intolerances, the inability to digest food, or other kinds of reactions with undiscovered antibodies.  Finally, a stool analysis is another tool that we use in complex situations that can reveal inflammation of the gut, and helps indicate a reaction to foods, though not specific to which kinds of foods.

Because everyone has different needs and responses to detoxification, I always recommend that patients undergo a program under the guidance of a medical professional. At DBC, we have health coaches that are available to implement an elimination diet with both patients and non-patients. If and when they see something unusual, they can seek guidance from our doctors. 
Folks, don’t underestimate the power of using food as medicine. By eating mostly plant-based, nutrient dense whole foods and removing processed foods and offending agents specific to you, it’s possible to significantly improve your health!
Carpenter, Siri. (2012). That Gut Feeling. American Psychological Association. Vol. 43, No. 8. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling.aspx.

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