Find Your Foods
Figure out which foods currently digest best.
One person can know which foods digest best for you, right now — you. In cases of chronic illness, food intolerance is often high.
What About Tests?
There are some upstart, obscure laboratory tests that claim to tell you what you can and cannot eat.
However, many of these tests are very new, take months to complete, are filled with inaccuracies and false results, and require loads of work and commitment to participate in. They can also be quite expensive.
Furthermore, all test results are only a snapshot in time. Food sensitivities are reversed frequently — especially when gut health is addressed from a holistic standpoint. No test should represent a final say about your digestion.
Do It Yourself
It doesn’t have to be very hard to determine which foods work best right now.
It’s this simple: eliminate a few food groups for a while (one at a time) and monitor your symptoms.
With a few simple suggestions, you may find that no practitioner, doctor, or test can determine your “right now diet” better than you can.
Food Doesn’t Truly Fix Gut Problems
Above all, remember: Food is important, but it likely won’t fix gut dysbiosis alone. The first step — to remove irritating foods — is temporary.
Restrictive diets often lead to ever-increasing dietary restriction as gut health worsens further.
The GOAL: To improve gut health, so that you can digest more foods, well — not fewer foods, worse.
Your Current Diet
Test Any Questionable Foods — Temporarily
Test Foods By Subtracting Them
Spend several days and weeks becoming as aware as possible about how each food affects you.
Pay attention to each meal, what’s eaten and how you feel afterward.
If necessary, keep a journal noting food and the results, rating symptoms on a scale of 1-10.
Remove Foods For 5-10 Days
If you suspect a food is giving you problems, remove it for a few days and see if you feel any better.
For most foods, you should be able to tell within a few days or a week if removing helped. It should be clear and easy to know whether removing the food helped you feel better. With only a few exceptions, it should not take a full month.
If you don’t clearly see an improvement, this food is most likely not your biggest issue.
Every now and then, people will have multiple foods causing problems. You may need to test a food more than once to fully evaluate it.
After 5-10 days, reintroduce the food in a small amount and watch. To work the food back in slowly, try a small amount every other day. Take a week or more, if necessary, slowly increasing the amount you eat each time.
Any time we change our diet, we cause our gut microbiome to shift. Don’t let the small bumps in the road inform your entire verdict about how foods affect you.
Avoid Food: 5-10 Days
Reintroduce: Off/On (1-2 weeks)
Virtually any food can cause problems. The long-term solution is not just to avoid all irritating foods forever.
The goal is some measure of a real, true recovery — of the gut, of the digestive process, of the immune system, of the circadian rhythm (with its incredible effect on gut health), of nutritional balance.
A Food Sensitivity Do Not Mean That A Food Is Unhealthy
Whether a food gives you issues (or not) has little correlation with how healthy a food is.
So long as we are talking about whole or minimally-processed natural foods, how a person responds to that food is not indicative of its health effects for the entire population. Most whole natural foods are very healthy, with very few exceptions.
Monitor Your Stress
Elevated stress can absolutely derail your digestion.
If you have chronically elevated stress, anxiety, or negative emotions your gut can completely lock up for hours, long after the threat passes. This can make you believe you’re not digesting particular foods very well — when in reality, your stress is the real factor.
To improve your gut health, it’s important to develop your stress-reduction skillset.
Nobody can avoid stress (nor should we, it facilitates growth when we respond well), but we must learn to make our stress acute instead of chronic.
Somatic experiencing methods can help calm your stress response. Daily movement can use up excess glutamate — a byproduct of dysbiosis in the gut.
If we can open and receive our difficult experiences, powerful emotions can pass through us instead of taking residence in our gut. If stagnant and repressed, these emotions can reside in our tissues as tight muscles, tension, and diarrhea/constipation.
Dysbiosis of the gut is so often a result of stress and difficult emotions that need to be acknowledged, respected, and cared for — and then allowed to release from us. If you don’t have someone who can help you care for your deep emotions, you may need to become that person for yourself for a while, until you find someone else who can hold space for you.
The role of other people in our stress levels is powerful. We can’t fix our relationships overnight, but we can learn to see how others bring us down — whether they mean to or not — and stop blaming ourselves for the poor energy we receive from someone else. We can also walk away from situations and people that don’t serve our health.
Stress Disrupts Digestion
The reason it’s so important to understand our stress level is because of its real impact on our digestion. If we’re trying to figure out how each food affects us, it’s important that unmanaged stress doesn’t muddy the waters, and our ability to observe each food’s impact on us.
~Find Your Diet~
Find what works now. Expand the diet later, as possible.
First, Figure Out Your:
Which carbohydrate do you digest best?
Whole Grains -vs- Refined Grains & Starch
Whole grains are not always what you need.
Popular digestion advice recommends low-glycemic whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. This could be fine for you — but it very well could be a disaster for a compromised GI tract, with all that insoluble fiber.
If you don’t know already, you’ll need to spend a little time testing these two types of carbs: whole grains vs refined grains/starch.
You may find that you digest: both, one, none, or “only in small amounts.”
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat
- Whole grain ancient grains (millet, barley, buckwheat, etc).
You don’t need to try ALL of these! Just a few, and you should have an idea about how well you digest them.
- White rice
- Sourdough bread/toast
- Regular pasta
***Two reasons wheat may cause problems that have little to do with an allergic response: Added iron (enrichment), and glyphosate (from Round-Up applied before harvest). To avoid both, only eat organic wheat.
The Various Types Of Sugar
Not all sugar sources are equal. Each person responds differently to different types of sugar.
Fruit is an extremely healthy food — unless you have digestive issues.
In dysbiosis, fruit can be terrible for digestion — especially if you’ve eaten too much fruit in the past. It’s possible the sugar feeds pathogenic microbes in the gut… and eating fruit feeds that pathogen.
You may also have liver issues, and fructose may not be converting well to glucose. Also, roughly a quarter of fructose converts to lactate in the liver (which might make you feel a little tired or crampy). For folks with hypoglycemia, fruit may not raise blood sugar levels the way other sugars/carbs will.
Raw honey is perhaps the most healthy food on the planet. Packed with minerals, vitamins, enzymes, prebiotics, anti-microbial chemicals, and other beneficial compounds, it is a staple for long-term gut health. I highly recommend you figure out a way to work in 1-2 spoonfuls of raw honey per day.
White sugar is almost universally recognized as unhealthy — however — in smallish amounts, it can actually provide some energy to your body.
Further, the stress induced by trying to avoid all white sugar can be harmful to your health, too.
So, figure out how white sugar affects you. Many people avoid white sugar when a little wouldn’t hurt them at all. It’s possible, even likely, that a sugary food makes you feel bad due to: fillers and gums, artificial sweeteners/flavors/colors, terrible fats & oils, MSG, and other ingredients that are much worse than sugar.
And again, if your gut health is poor, sugar is unlikely to be tolerated until things improve.
It is possible to improve your gut’s ability to tolerate and digest all forms of sugar. When gut health improves, this becomes possible — it happened for me.
Figure Out Your:
Which protein do you digest best?
Notice: Meat vs Non-Meat
Most people respond best to at least some meat consumption.
If you can digest meat, you almost certainly should — especially if the meat is of high quality.
Try smaller servings versus larger servings — compare how you feel.
Sometimes eating more meat over several days can create a cumulative negative effect, after which a day or two with less meat is a good idea. You don’t need to avoid meat completely to receive the benefits of less meat consumption. Maybe just reduce it for a time.
If Meat Digests Poorly…
If meat doesn’t suit you, you’ll need to figure out other options for protein.
- Does dairy work for you? If so, it gives you many choices: cheese, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, etc.
- If eggs digest well, this is a valuable source of protein. Eggs are healthy and should not be limited if you tolerate them.
If NO Animal Proteins Work…
If no animal protein works for you (due to digestion or personal choice), you’ll have a harder way to go.
Plant protein powders are known to be high in heavy metals, so be selective about those products. Protein deficiency is laughingly derided in vegan circles, but it’s a serious issue — especially for folks who have poor digestion: Their protein isn’t being absorbed, and a diet low in protein is guaranteed to lead to deficiency — on top of other deficiencies, most likely.
Figure Out Your
Which fats do you digest best?
How Much Fat Do You Need?
Some people can’t tolerate fat! They will do best on a very low-fat diet. This can be caused by poor bile flow and other issues that cause fat to not be broken down and absorbed well.
Others do MUCH better on moderate-to-high fat! This might be because of general fat deficiency (due to a low-fat diet?) or because fat is generally anti-microbial in the gut. When we have bad flora inhabiting our gut, fat discourages proliferation and fermentation. This can result in the relief of symptoms. Some fats (animal fats) contain butyric acid, cholesterol, and fat-soluble vitamins which can improve energy, digestion, and hormone production. Do not be surprised or hesitant if you feel better on moderate-to-high fat, embrace it. This often balances out over time — as we become more healthy, our diet often normalizes.
Don’t be afraid of saturated fat: Butter, animal fats, coconut oil are healthy.
Some olive oil is great, too — when high quality (from California, not Italy) and not heated too much.
Figure Out Your
Find fibers you can tolerate.
Insoluble Fiber Can Be Harsh
Insoluble fiber does not breakdown in the gut — it is indigestible. As such, it will survive intact until it reaches the colon where colonic flora will “feast” on it — and grow in numbers.
If you’ve got unfriendly microbes in your gut, these flora will love insoluble fiber. This fiber will increase the numbers of bad flora — which is a bad thing for your gut health.
Only people with healthy digestion should consume insoluble fiber.
Instead, Stick To Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and breaks down better in the gut. These fibers are more gentle in a weakened digestive state.
Sources of soluble fiber are vegetables. Cook vegetables to break them down further, especially if you have trouble digesting them raw.
Keep Foods Digestible
A more limited diet may be necessary for a while.
Eating foods that are maldigested makes no sense. Poorly-digested food causes endotoxin to be produced when “bad microbes” ferment the food.
Balance Your Macros
If you’re eating carbs, balance it with protein (and vice versa). Don’t go low-carb.
Be sure to get fiber every day — if not every meal — even if only a small amount.
Eat Enough Food
You simply cannot eat fewer calories than your body needs.
The thyroid needs to be supported, and you’ll have a hard time healing your gut if your thyroid is underperforming. Under-eating is a proven way to slow your metabolism and your thyroid function.
You also need ample nutrients and calories to rebuild tissues, build new cells, make new blood, build up the immune system, and detox old metabolic waste, dead cells, and even toxins from the environment (or from bad digestion: endotoxin).
Restrict Diet (if necessary), Then Expand Your Approach
Get your diet pared down to what works best for you — then turn your attention to the next steps:
- Critical lifestyle habits (light, sleep, movement, nutrients, your environment).
- Gut supplements.
Then, increase your dietary variety later.