I hear clients say all the time “But I eat so healthy” in regards to their digestive complaints. It can seem unfair and defeating, I get it. I’ve been there.
The problem here however is that there is little information or education on the fact that a healthy diet and a healing diet are quite different in nature. Many of us are coming from a lifetime of destructive processed foods, preservatives and chemicals which have quite literally torn up our digestive system, resulting in less than optimal function. Years of this kind of detriment has led our stomach and intestinal tracts to be overly sensitive, in fact sensitive enough where so called “healthy foods” are actually creating reactions.
So just like a wound or a broken bone, we need to give our gut a chance to heal. This is why so many people experience symptoms and reactions even with a healthy diet. They need to give their insides a chance to truly heal first!
So what does a healing diet entail?
A healing diet identifies and eliminates food sensitivities, triggers and allergies (this doesn’t mean these foods will never be reintroduced back into your diet), incorporates large quantities of nutrient dense whole-foods such as bone broths, organ meats, high-quality animal proteins, high-quality fats and organic vegetables (best when cooked, especially when digestion is overly compromised), supplements specific to gut healing such as L-Glutamine, and reduces toxic exposure (filtering water, eliminating toxins in foods and cleaning products).
This type of diet eliminates all fillers, preservatives, sweeteners, and gums. The common unhealthy “health foods” are not allowed on this type of diet. This diet is meant to be taken very strictly, there are no real 80/20 rules when it comes to really allowing your digestive system to heal. This type of diet usually always follows an elimination/reintroduction type layout and generally looks something like the AIP Protocol, GAPS, keto, low-FODMAP, or SCD. Which particular diet you should follow will be dependent on your particular circumstance, symptoms and goals. Working with an FNTP can be very helpful in helping you identify the correct diet and protocol for your underlying condition, as well as following the right approach later on during reintroduction.
While a healing diet is strict, it is also very necessary, especially if you wish to resolve your digestive dysfunction. It is also important to remember that digestive dysfunction does not always express itself as stomach pains and gas, it can manifest in all kinds of ways such as joint pain, headaches and low energy.
With all this in mind however it is important to understand that this is not a forever thing. Healing diets are meant to only be used during the healing process. The time frame here will be different for each person. Some may need a few months while some may need a couple years. Whatever your time frame is, it is important not to get stuck in this phase. While being very healing, it also eliminates many food groups and can make life inconvenient in many ways, especially when it comes to socializing.
The whole goal here and always is to make our bodies as resilient as possible. When we support our digestion and allow for gut healing, we decrease our food sensitivities and allow space for our bodies to also tolerate the foods which are neither healthy or unhealthy.
Life doesn’t need to be all about extremes.
Remember, emotional health and mindset around food are huge when it comes to overall health and well being. During my days of eating a healing diet, I was strict about everything and never allowed for any type of slip up. That was great because it allowed for me to heal. But now that my digestion is so much stronger and I know how to read my body, I play it by ear. If eating something will make me happy, I’ll eat it. If getting to socialize with people who feed my soul means eating something I wouldn’t necessarily count as a nutrient dense whole food, well then guess what? I am going to choose the socializing and so-so food! However, if I am having an off day and feel my digestion isn’t top of it’s game then I will avoid the foods I know won’t serve me. Me eating “whatever I want” is still “too healthy” according to many people. Remember, it’s all a spectrum, so you just have to listen to what your own body is telling you.
When we educate ourselves on the effects that foods have on our body, we empower ourselves to make the choice that fits best for us. Once we have healed our gut, we can choose whether this unhealthy “health food” will serve us in this moment. Or whether this one occasion it’s okay to eat the dish at the restaurant because the socialization aspect of the experience outweighs the bit of canola oil that has snuck its way into your fajitas.
It’s all about judgement. And when you give yourself that knowledge, you give yourself that power to discern what is best for you in that moment. As long as you aren’t reacting to any food, you are fine. If you begin to notice any reactions, take that as a sign and learn from it. It’s all an experiment. Intuition really is key.
One of the main points I want to express here though is that it’s okay to be educated on these things and still make decisions that conflict with your knowledge. It really is all about context. Educating yourself and others on the harmful effects of vegetable oils, guar and xantham gums, sweeteners, natural flavors, processed foods and grains and legumes is extremely important. But it also doesn’t make you a hypocrite if you then go and eat those foods every now and then! It just means you have made an educated decision based on your body and your circumstance. Everyone has their own battles they get to pick and choose, that’s the beauty of agency.
We should never feel trapped in any one way of eating. Different times call for different measures and you should go with the ebbs and flows of it all. Be intuitive, listen to what your body has to tell you at any certain time. If you are feeling great, having great digestion and energy and tolerating foods well then it’s okay to loosen up a bit and experiment with new foods. Just because your diet isn’t “perfect” doesn’t mean that it’s not healthy!
With that being said, it’s also important to not feel trapped into eating a “healthy diet” because you feel that is more balanced and anything else is too restrictive. If you are feeling off kilter even when following an otherwise healthy diet, you may need to give yourself permission, space and love to move more towards a healing diet, at least until you start feeling better and can tolerate more foods.
A healthy diet and a healing diet are not always the same thing. There are plenty of foods that can fit into a healthy diet that don’t fit into a healing diet. Just because you’ve been on a healing diet for a long time, doesn’t mean you can’t ever transition to a less strict but still healthy diet. And if you want to eat a “healthy diet,” that doesn’t mean you have to eat a healing diet. Do what feels right for you and aligns with your needs and biology. Each person is different. Don’t let yourself get swept up into categories or boxes.
Your health journey will always be unique to you.