Nutrition: Who knows best?
Nutrition is such a passionate topic. If you think about how much emotions are wrapped around that box of ice cream, you can pound in record time. Or the repetitive nervous eating of popcorn during a horror flick. My crutch is chocolate, a lot of chocolate. After the emotional rollercoaster settles, then you have a considerable amount of guilt that arises from the few minutes of weakness that happened a few minutes earlier. That quilt usually leads to thoughts like you are never going to do that again, which we all know is not valid. Ideas of dieting often surface, and there is a thought of countering the bad habit.
Patients will ask me what they should eat and what they should not eat frequently. I am very open that I enjoy the field of nutrition, so they feel welcomed to field questions. I am apparent upfront that I am not a nutritionist, and in many ways, I am happy that I am not bound to the governmental restrictions on what is considered nutrition. I do care about health and wellness, and I do not feel that you can adequately care for a patient without talking at some level about their diet. Some will tell me that they are great and don’t need help, others it is a shock. They have not had another practitioner talk to them about nutrition before. The floodgates open.
I had a great example of a nutritional diet that has gone wrong. I spoke to a friend today that owns an organic, locally-sourced vegetarian cafe. This sounds like the ultimate in healthiness and in a lot of ways it is. She shows great care in choosing the food she serves. She is vegan. Vegan is a little more strict than the standard vegetarian. There are absolutely no animal products in any form. She reached out to me because she had some bad blood work and feels that she has to make changes to her stress levels. She is currently diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and Hashimoto's(Thyroid), both of which can be signs of autoimmune disease. She also is starting to have high blood pressure and is overweight. I questioned her about why she is vegan, and it was not solely based on ethical reasons. She chose to do this diet due to the healthiness that is present with so much sacrifice, or so she thinks.
I am not going to say any diet is right or wrong. There are diets that make sense, and I recommend frequently, but they don’t always work for everyone. Like my friend, she has been vegan for six years. She is now starting to show signs of autoimmunity. There is something wrong there. It does not have to be all diet-related, but diet is highly correlated with autoimmune diseases. She is on an improper diet for her. She is inflamed, overweight, now presenting with autoimmunity, all while having one of the most restrictive diets out there. In theory, she should be glowing, thin, and problem-free.
When giving nutritional advice, always know that there is not a one for all diet. Each person is unique and will respond differently. The best way that I know to test a diet is trial and error according to the problem list you are trying to address. I usually recommend removing the big hitters that are known to cause problems, i.e., sugar, gluten. Then we see if there has been a change, change usually will take at least two weeks. After that, then there is trying to find the small stuff. The reactions of a minor headache every time you drink a glass of wine, increased congestion every time you drink milk, indigestion every time you drink coffee. All of these are examples of little things that could be a cause of more significant problems in the body.
So just know, nutrition is unique. Unique as every person.