Which IBS Diet is right for you? Part two: Go grain-free
Grain-free diets are the first set of diets I will cover in my “Diet for IBS” series.
Grain-free diets, like the Paleo diet, have been gaining in popularity because they are effective in helping people lose weight, gain energy and clear up health problems, particularly immune and digestive issues.
The grain-free approach removes many of the foods (sugars and grains) that can cause inflammation, bloating and permeable gut lining (leaky gut). I will write more about how this happens below.
While there’s no ideal healing diet for everyone, the grain-free approach is one of the most promising I’ve come across because it also eliminates sugar, common food allergens like dairy, wheat, corn, and soy and processed foods.
However, sometimes even effective diets need additional tweaking and personalization to increase their efficacy. For example, if you are sensitive to nuts, eating them, even if they are allowed on the diet, can prevent your body from healing completely.
This was my personal experience: The Paleo diet worked wonders from me, but I had to remove a few of the “legal” foods, including nuts, mushrooms and pork, to feel the full healing effect.
If a diet is only partially working, you can experiment with taking a few things out and see how you feel. Start with removing foods that are known for cause allergies and immune issues in some.
These foods are eggs, fruit, shell fish, night shade veggies (tomatoes, eggplant and peppers) and cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, brusel sprouts, kale), garlic and onions.
The Paleo diet excludes sugar, all grains, beans, soy, corn and dairy.
What’s allowed: fruit, veggies, animal protein and nuts (I would avoid peanuts because of their high allergen status.)
Some people are surprised that this diet is reparative for the organs, including the liver. Animal protein helps rebuild and heal organ lining and stabilize blood sugar.
When I started the Paleo diet I thought it would be hard to digest animal protein because I could barely digest lettuce.
But I didn’t have a problem because I took hydrochloric acid for the first two weeks and eventually my body could produce it’s own stomach acid. Warning: Please consult a health professional before taking hydrochloric acid because this can be a dangerous supplement if taken incorrectly.
The fact that the Paleo diet is popular is good news. It means it’s easier than ever to find recipes online, join support forums and meetups and befriend fellow Paleo peeps. Support while making this change can make a huge difference.
But one problem with the Paleo diet for gut repair is that there are a few different versions of it. For example, some Paleo folks use maple syrup as a sweetener because it’s a complex carb that doesn’t spike insulin as much as table sugar.
Maple syrup might be fine for a maintenance diet but when you’re healing the gut, maple syrup is not a good idea. It’s still high in sugar and relatively low in fiber compared to fruit. It’s also easy to overuse maple syrup because it’s so tasty.
Sugar is food for bad bacteria, and even though fruit is allowed on this diet, it’s allowed in moderation if you’re using it for digestive healing.
Other Paleo people eat pork and bacon. Naturally raised bacon without nitrates, won’t hurt a healthy person but people who suffer with digestive issues should stay away from pork because of its tendency to carry parasites and other infectious bugs.
Always listen to your body’s reaction after eating a certain food. Your body knows best about what it should and shouldn’t be eating.
What’s the problem with grains?
The plant proteins found in grains, such as gluten and lectin, are sticky and thought to damage or weaken gut lining, which can lead to leaky gut, and autoimmune problems.
Paleo fan say we evolved to eat a pre-agricultural diet, and doing so can limit exposure to pesticides, genetically engineered crops and and many of the toxins in processed food.
Not everyone has a metabolic body type designed for eating a meat-centric diet, but it might be a helpful short term tool to heal digestion. The diet eliminates major gut irritants like sugar, casein and lactose (from dairy), gluten, hard to digest fibers in beans, and many processed foods.
The Paleo diet also encourages the consumption of healthy fats like olive and coconut oil and rejects unhealthy fats like corn oil, canola oil, soy oil, etc.
Who this diet could be a problem for…
People who are sensitive to garlic, onions, fructose (from fruit) or insoluble fiber from cruciferous veggies would not do well on this diet. For them, I would suggest trying the FODMAPS diet, which I will write about next week.
To learn more about the Paleo diet, check out Mark’s Daily Apple.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet:
The seminal book for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), is Breaking the Viscous Cycle. This diet was developed in the 1950s by a progressive doctor name Sidney Valentine. He successfully used it to reverse a patient’s ulcerative colitis. The patient’s mother then wrote this book and dedicated her life to researching and studying this diet.
The viscous cycle occurs when someone with compromised digestion eats food that damages intestinal walls and throws flora out of balance. According to the book, some people have compromised digestion due to damaged microvili in their intestines.
Because sugar and certain carbohydrates take extra steps to digest, these foods leave undigested food particles in their intestines. These undigested food particles begin to ferment and become food for pathogenic bacteria and yeast, causing an overgrowth in the intestinal tract.
The cycle continues when bad bacteria excrete toxins, mucus and acids that further break down and damage the intestinal wall. This causes food absorption issues, a further weakening of digestive function and cravings for more sugar and simple carbs. The cycle persists.
The SCD diet stops the cycle with food that’s easier to digest. SCD approved food feeds the good bacteria and starves the bad guys in order to calms intestinal inflammation.
One of the foods that SCD is known for is it’s homemade 24 hours fermented yogurt, which supports the build up of probiotics in the gut.
The SCD diet eliminates processed foods, refined sugar, grains and starch from the diet. But it allows fruit and raw honey.My two cents: SCD folks say that honey has a similar effect on the body as fruit, but I disagree. Honey has no fiber to slow down the insulin response and shouldn’t have a place in a serious, gut-healing diet.
Unlike the Paleo diet, certain beans are allowed on the SCD. Soy of course is banned, but peanuts, white beans, navy beans, lentils, split peas, lima beans, and kidney beans are ok.
Nuts can also be eaten freely on the SCD diet, except for macadamia nuts.My three cents: Nuts are often allowed on most diets, so people overlook the fact that they can be problematic for digestion, particularly constipation. My healing diet was nut free. Also, people with advanced candida might not tolerate nuts because they are often slightly moldy from long storage.
Lastly SCD restricts complex carbs that are allowed on the Paleo diet, like sweet potatoes, yams, carob, parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes. Chocolate is also banned on SCD.
Curiously, the SCD diet permits dairy products that are lactose-free like yogurt, dry curd cottage cheese and natural cheese that has been aged for 30 days.
That’s another thing I disagree with.
Dairy is tough for people to digest because of a protein called casein. Fermented dairy may make it easier to tolerate but I believe non-fermented dairy should be avoided for digestive healing.
Here is a more detailed link to foods you can and can’t eat on SCD. A great resource to learn more about this diet is SCDlifestyle.com where you can get a free download of an SCD introductory diet. An SCD intro diet includes easy to digest foods like bone broth, and pureed veggies and well cooked meat.
GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome)
This diet was created by neurologist and nutritionist Natasha Campbell-Mcbride to help her son heal from autism. In her book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia, Natasha theorizes that psychological conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, depression and even schizophrenia result from an unhealthy gut and imbalanced gut bacteria.
While created to treat neurological issues, the diet has been adopted by the digestive health community to treat conditions like IBS and ulcerative colitis.
The foods allowed and prohibited on the GAPS diet is based largely on the SCD diet, with one major difference around dairy consumption.
The GAPs diet does not allow any dairy in it’s introduction phases. Eventually fermented dairy, like yogurt and kefir can be added back in . And then in later stages, clarified butter and regular butter. Milk is always avoided on the diet.
The GAPS approach is famous for promoting the consumption of homemade meat or fish broth. Not only is bone broth easily digestible, it’s also packed with minerals and amino acids. But it’s the gelatin in bone broth that helps heal the irritated or broken lining of the digestive tract.
I’ve heard people complain that GAPS is labor intensive, probably due to the constant production of bone broth. It is recommended that you consume broth daily, even with each meal.
Like the Paleo diet, the GAPS diet emphasizes the healing properties of natural, unprocessed fat, particularly from animals. Duck fat is considered quite healthy on the GAPS diet. Coconut oil is also prized for it’s antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, are used to build up the body’s bacterial balance. The combination of fermented foods and fish/meat stock is the GAPS method for restoring stomach acid production and rebalancing the gut.
Also the GAPS diet suggests that fruit is never be eaten at the same time as other foods. Only alone. I’ll discussing more about food combining below.
To learn more about GAPS check out the detailed description of what is and isn’t allowed on the GAPS intro diet.
Proper food combining
Food combining is a controversial topic in the nutrition field because it has an equal amount of supporters and doubters! Aside from mixed review of if this really works, the principles of food combining can be broken down into two major rules:
Rule #1) Proteins and grains should not be eaten together because they need different enzymes and digestive speeds to be properly digested.
The theory behind food combining is that improperly combined food will not get fully digested (which leads to the fermentation, bacterial overgrowth and inflammation described above in the SCD viscous cycle).
Rule #2) Fruit should always be eaten alone. The GAPS diet adheres to this rule. But, personally I ate fruit right after my meals. Sometimes I would mix fruit and meat in my dishes and I never had a problem. However some people swear by food combining so it is definitely worth a mention. And might be worth experimenting with.
The food combining benefits of the Paleo, GAPS and SCD diet is that food combining is much easier when grains are prohibited. If you are curious you can play around with not combining starchy carbs like pumpkin or yam with a protein. Or just notice if you feel better when you eat meat with non starchy carbs like spinach?
Why these diets make the most sense to me
The grain-free, bean-free, diary-free, sugar-free approach make a lot of sense to me because of my personal success with it.
I believe that sugar is the most destructive food for the gut and most grains break down into sugar after they are eaten. Sugar greatly depresses the immune system for hours after it is eaten. And since most of the immune system is in the gut and powered by beneficial bacteria, sugar is the gut’s worst enemy.
I believe that naturally raised meat can be extremely strengthening to the system. People think of burgers as unhealthy, but could it be the combination of bad quality beef, bread, cheese, fatty mayo and sugary ketchup? The same beef patty could be better tolerated and digested if it is raised organically and eaten with a salad?
I believe that eating meat can prevent vitamin B12 deficiency, which is an under diagnosed problem that can mimic the same type of symptoms as IBS. Most vitamin B12 sources come from animal products so vegetarians and vegans are at risk for this deficiency.
I believe that whole food diets are the healthiest. Cooking from scratch with whole, real foods can eliminate strange food additive like annato, carrageenan, xylitol, aspartame from your diet. Sensitivities to these substances have been known to cause digestive issues in some people.
I believe that you DON’T need to eat a ton of meat on these grain-free diets. Mostly veggies with a moderate amount of meat is the preferable approach.
Reversing food allergies
Because these diets focus on rebuilding gut bacteria they have the greatest potential for real healing. I am talking about “miraculous” results like reversing food allergies.
The cause of some food allergies are suspected to be caused by a lack of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The folks at SCDlifestyle believe that Celiac disease can be reversed. And here’s another website devoted to the topic of reversing food allergies.
My grain-free, sugar-free, bean-free, nut-free, dairy-free, caffeine-free, chocolate-free diet reversed my food allergies. I am able to eat anything now.
And since my gut was fully healed, I’ve been enjoying the results of my healing program for the last 8 years. That’s why I feel like a Superhealer.
And that’s why I’m spreading this message of health through nutritional power!