If you haven’t had someone recommend their diet to you, you probably haven’t left the house in the last year. Paleo, gluten free, sugar free, fasting… there are a ton of theories about what’s optimal (for your health for your weight, etc.). But how do you navigate? Food is important, and a diet change is a big commitment.
First: know how to evaluate.
Some people have severe symptoms to address—chronic IBS, severe abdominal discomfort following meals, or other GI problems they haven’t been able to cure. Others just want to fine tune—they have mild or occasional GI symptoms, want to be healthier, or want to lose weight.
But how do you know a specific diet is working for you? Unless you’re working with a doctor and dietician, you’re going to have to track your symptoms. That means writing down what you eat, and how you feel after (including how your bowel movements go).
Here’s a rule of thumb: if you feel better after a week, you’re probably feeling the effects of eating healthier—more fruits and veggies, leaner meat, more complex carbs. Any sort of elimination diet or other dramatic change will almost always lead to this sort of healthier eating, if only because it forces you to pay attention to what you’re eating.
For the results of an elimination diet, expect to see results in weeks to months. For example, giving up meat can cause a transitional discomfort for a few weeks, and adding it back in might take a month or two before eating “feels right” again. This is mostly because your body is used to making specific enzymes for you, but is probably also due, at least a little, to adjustments in eating (eliminating sugar and gluten can take some work learning to read labels and ask restaurant servers).
So which is right for you? The safest, easiest bet is to just eat healthier, and go from there. If you loooove onions, but eat three times as much food as you need each time they’re present (and it’s often fried or fatty), you probably aren’t allergic or intolerant, you just need a bit of moderation.
If you have more severe problems or eating healthier isn’t enough, try an elimination diet. But rather than guess what you’re intolerant to (or even get a test, which is often positive for everything) go the traditional route: eat a very simple diet for two weeks. Eliminate everything. Then, pick one food and add it back in for two weeks, and record how you feel. Decide whether it needs to be permanently eliminated, or can be added back. Then add another food back in, and repeat.
As far as any diet that requires fasting, this can be dangerous, so you should always consult a doctor. Personally, the occasional fast—tied to cleansing—is ok in my book, as long as it’s short. But lots of biologists have taken to writing against doing it for other reasons, particularly “historical”.
With any dietary changes, make sure you take a multivitamin. Otherwise, you risk being short many key nutrients while you figure out what you can and can’t eat. Welltrients offers a great multivitamin line since it’s free of fillers—many vitamins found at the grocery store have sugar and even gluten and can mess up your diet!
Have you tried any of the new diets this year?