The many iterations of food sensitivities in the “national eating disorder” community never cease to amaze me! While the topic of non celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) has occupied the headlines for several years now, and has resulted in millions of people demonizing gluten containing food, the latest research study from Norwegian investigators is challenging the myth that a myriad of digestive, mental and non specific symptoms are due to the consumption of grains and food products containing even traces of gluten. Admittedly, the findings were observed in a small study (which needs to be replicated), and future research may identify a biological mechanism explaining why some people have an intolerance for gluten.
However, considering that there is now a multibillion dollar industry of gluten free foods (a great benefit for people suffering from celiac disease!), and considering that even some respected scientists are considering gluten sensitivity a real phenomenon and write review articles about it), it may be nearly impossible to return to an anxiety free attitude towards food, and to a rational view of the benefits of fiber rich grains in bread and cereals. But will we now see a new wave of social media frenzy and diet books demonizing fructans, the molecule identified in the Norwegian study as the culprit of digestive symptoms?
In this world of never ending advices from nutrition gurus of which foods to avoid, how do you select a diet that is optimal for you, and which doesn’t contain foods that really don’t agree with you?
Lesson #1: Don’t unnecessarily restrict your diet if you are healthy and have minor digestive symptoms. Eat the universally accepted largely plant based diet which provides lots of fiber, is high in fruits and vegetables, and is low in animal fats, red meat, and sugar. Your gut microbes will thrive, your gut wont be “leaky” and you protect yourself against all kinds of chronic diseases. I call this the default diet.
Lesson #2: If you are obese, try a limited period of a ketogenic diet (avoiding all carbohydrates), and when you have reached your target weight, go back on the default diet.
Lesson #3: If you have symptoms of IBS which you believe are triggered by food, such as bloating or indigestion go on an elimination diet which helps you to identify the food component(s) that reproducible cause your symptoms. Once you find the offending food item (which can include dairy products, onions, tomatoes or broccoli), stay away from it, or better, reduce its intake, but otherwise stay on the default diet. You can use the app Selectivor to help you keep track of the foods that you tolerate and which you don’t, and share this information with friends and family. In the future, you will be able to identify diets that are custom tailored to your gut microbiome and your genetic make up, using such program as offered by Viome , Ubiome or Day Two.