When writing My LIVE IT Philosophy: A Doctor’s Simple Guide to Thriving, I found that I had so much information to share about the food we eat that it was filling up several pages alone. Good food sense is found everywhere; and yet I still get asked regularly what the truth about food is.
Is gluten poison?
Should I never, ever eat sugar?
A few things to consider
You may have heard “if a food has more than four ingredients or has ingredients that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize, it’s probably not something you should eat.” This is pretty wise thinking.
The truth is – most processed foods when eaten in excess can hurt our bodies. Chemical manipulation of food to increase shelf life, for instance, can directly impact our bodies at a cellular level and can cause a cascade of reactions with our gut bacteria and our immune systems. Our bodies can handle only so much. That threshold is different for all of us, but it makes sense to give our bodies the best building blocks we can.
Some of the biggest culprits in processed food are partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup and certain food dyes. Most of us know this, but we forget with the pretty package is right in front of us rushing through the grocery store with kids in tow. Or when asking for “just one pump” of that pumpkin flavored coffee syrup in your Starbucks latte. It’s also surprisingly hidden in things we often don’t expect, like ketchup and cereals.
And yes, gluten is not what it used to be. With changes in hybridization and modern wheat production wheat gluten has become a trigger for many people. Ingesting it can cause an impressive inflammatory cluster of symptoms. Other subtle changes in our food supply due to genetic modification can interact with your body chemistry in complex ways.
If you are having gut or immune symptoms, taking gluten out of your diet should seriously be considered. Keep in mind that gluten problems may not manifest as GI symptoms, but as other issues, such as problems with your immune system.
Dairy also is a complex protein that can be a trigger for some people, sometimes without obvious symptoms. Autoimmune issues can often be related to a cross reactivity between the proteins in our own bodies and the proteins in dairy, gluten and other foods.
The relationship between sugar and inflammation
Refined carbohydrates like sugar, and in particular fructose, can cause damage in our bodies when we eat too much. It’s so easy to get carried away and eat sugar in excess because of the dopamine surge and brief high that it brings. And over time it can cause so many problems.
Our liver needs to process sugar and help us make energy from it. It can only handle so much. The liver is our metabolic assembly line and while we need some sugar for energy, in general most Americans are taking in at least double what we need for energy.
This extra sugar overwhelms the system. Many reactions occur, including the release of free radicals and cells damage. This cascade reaction also make something called AGE’s (advanced glycation end products). These make our cells and proteins more sticky and our metabolic assembly line clogged or inefficient.
Yes, it can be about being overweight, but it’s more than that. It’s about giving your engine good fuel and not letting it rust.
So just what can we eat and still feed good about what we’re doing for our bodies?
My LIVE IT Eating Tips
- Drink more water every day and less caffeine and sugar-sweetened drinks.
- Don’t “drive through” if at all possible!
- Get smaller plates and eat smaller portions.
- “Eat (real) food, mostly vegetables, not too much.” Author Michael Pollen coined this phrase and it’s a great one.
- Eat mostly foods of plant origin. Eat at least 5 portions of non-starchy vegetables and fruits per day.
- Limit processed foods. Real food tends to be on the outer edges of the grocery store close to the cool storage and loading docks.
- Limit processed grains.
- Eat organic when possible.
If your body seems to need a reset, sometimes a few weeks of eliminating the more irritable foods described at the top of this post can help you feel better. This can also help you identify what may be aggravating your condition.
We don’t need to fear our foods, yet it’s important to know that what we put into our bodies is a huge part of how they stay healthy. On the other hand, stress about food is potentially more harmful than some so called “bad” foods.
But remember – it’s not about being perfect. It’s about adopting these and other common sense habits and getting right back on the horse after days that you stray.