You have heard it from me time and time again that the gut has a huge influence on the rest of our body, especially our immunity, our hormones, our mental health and skin health. Many common symptoms that I see in my practice start in the gut. Whether you have an issue with depression, eczema, an autoimmune condition or simply been diagnosed with IBS, this system to treat the gut is a great place to start.
With the colours changing on the trees, it is time to take advantage of those last good trips to the famers market and stock up on delicious, nutritious fall foods. There are several reasons to eat foods that are abundant at this time of year. We want to eat a seasonal and varied plant-rich diet to support our body and its natural processes. Michael Pollen says “eat foods, mostly plants, not too much.” I would add (among many things) to eat seasonal foods, mostly plants, not too much because of their benefits.
It is so easy to forget about seasonal eating with modern day food processing and worldwide distribution. The lines have gotten blurred as to what foods are appropriate when, creating a monotone diet that was not possible in the past. Here are a few reasons why eating seasonally is important:
Most flavour and nutritional value:
Foods travelling less km will lose less nutrients and therefore provide greater freshness, flavour and health benefits. Plants get their nourishment from the sun and soil so when that changes so do their nutrients. Have you ever eaten a spaghetti squash in the spring and realized it is much harder to shred and tastes bland? Or a peach in the winter that tastes nothing like the fresh ripe juicy peach from the summer? This is exactly what I am talking about. Nutritional changes in food have been studied often for example a Japan study found 3 times more vitamin C in spinach harvested in the summer versus winter.
Eating seasonally supports our health-promoting microbiome:
What is your microbiome you ask? It is the abundance of good bacteria that resides in our digestive system (and all over actually) that help your overall health including immune health, digestive health, skin health, blood sugar balance, weight management and so much more! Our gut bacteria is ever changing for the good and eating seasonally contributes to this. Fall foods contain things like resistant starch (in foods such as onions, leeks, garlic) which feed the good bacteria, as well as polyphenols providing antioxidant support. A highly processed diet with sugar, unhealthy fats and carbs can negatively shift the microbiome within 24 hours! Luckily with can remain calm in knowing it can shift back within that time frame by eating a plant-rich healthy diet. So you can forgive yourself for indulging over the weekend. One idea is that in the fall we want to limit fruit that we indulged in in the summer as too much fructose-rich fruit and a more sedentary life may cause a yeast overgrowth leading to feeling bloated, moody and with skin changes.
Due to an abundance of produce that is easier to grow prices usually drop.
Decrease carbon footprint:
I am all for outsourcing foods such as avocado, superfoods such as matcha or acai berries, and cold pressed coconut and olive oils but we should take advantage of what we have close to us to reduce our food mileage.
Finally there are many studies on the benefits of building a community around you to live longer and feel happier and what better way to do that than around food! Take advantage of those friendly faces at the farmers market stalls or CSA pickups while getting your seasonal foods, but why not build a community around cooking those foods as well. It could be with family on the weekend prepping meals for the week, or with friends one evening during the week to break up the mundane work work. Get creative :)
Check out a list of seasonal foods below. These foods are rich in phytonutrients and fibre, along with delicious resistant-starch options:
- Acorn Squash
- Brussel Sprouts
- Butternut Squash
- Delicata Squash
- Spaghetti Squash
- Sweet Potatoes
- Sunchokes/Jerusalem Artichokes
Seasons should form the natural backdrop for eating and in Canada we have wonderful seasons to take advantage of for our overall health.
In heath & happiness,
More and more digestive patients of mine tell me that it has been suggested they go on a low-FODMAP diet (easily fermentable foods) to help/cure their IBS symptoms. Sometimes they are even told to stay on it longterm despite not seeing a big benefit. Unfortunately this is not the best suggestion and can actually cause some long-term side effects leading to worse digestive issues. The only digestive condition that warrants a low-FODMAP diet is something called SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and only for a short amount of time. To simplify, SIBO basically means that bacteria have ascending up from the large intestine into the small intestine where they are not suppose to be and cause symptoms such as bloating, gas, and pain. Yes, many patients with IBS do have SIBO, however it is important to accurately test and properly treat, instead of staying on a restricted diet long-term.
A low-FODMAP diet keeps symptoms of SIBO under control simply by starving the bacteria in your small intestines. When they don’t have food, they aren’t able to ferment that food and produce unwanted gas. It doesn’t actually get rid of them. Longterm, this can starve the bacteria in your large intestines that have a beneficial role in our gut and overall health as well as potentially set patients up for reoccurrence of SIBO. Studies have shown that a long-term low-FODMAP diet can reduce the diversity and quality of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine.
Yes this diet can reduce symptoms IF you have SIBO however dietary changes alone are often not enough to treat. We want to actually kill the bacteria vs starve them into a dormant state. A low FODMAP diet (or similar low carbohydrate diet) is only one portion of my SIBO protocol and should only be used for about 6-8 weeks in the final phase. As mentioned, my main goal is to kill the unwanted microbes with antimicrobials, while actually feeding them with FODMAP foods to make sure they are active and easier to kill. This phase does not happen for long as well, only about 6 weeks.
In the long term, we want to eat FODMAP foods to feed the beneficial bacteria in the large intestines. We also want to keep our diet as diverse as possible to allow greater nutrient density and get a wider variety of nutrients.
My last point is that SIBO is often a symptom of a deeper digestive problem therefore, after properly treating this condition we then address the root cause, which could be low stomach acid, gallbladder issues, intestinal motility issues, stress and so on.
Therefore if you have been advised to start a low FODMAP diet, or have been on it for even a few months already, please consider seeing a Naturopathic Doctor like myself to consult on whether this is the right treatment path for you, to get tested for SIBO or to help get to the root cause of your digestive concerns.
Any questions? I'm happy to help!
In health & happiness,
At the end of last year I did a talk to local Holistic Nutritionists and it was mentioned that one of the top trends of 2017 was going to be probiotics. Not just those good gut bugs in general, but adding them to all different types of foods. So I was curious to see what the commercial industry was going to come up with next. What I am seeing lately is probiotics in orange juice! FYI - probiotics are not naturally found in juice. To see a benefit you also want a lot more than the 1 billion found in that cup of juice they are marketing.
I want to shed a little light on probiotics so you have a little more information when those marketing gurus try to direct their product your way.
Benefits of probiotics:
There are so many strains of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that reside mostly in the large intestine of your gut. More and more research is coming out showing the importance of probiotics on a wide variety of conditions, including all digestive disorders, immune health, anxiety, skin health and even weight loss. In Naturopathic Medicine research is trying to get even more specific in terms of subtypes of strains to treat even more individually. In my practice I prescribe either specific probiotic strains or higher doses of probiotics - 11 billion, 50 billion or even up to 300 billion for issues such as crohns and colitis. Once we have established a healthy community of those good bugs the focus then turns more to food forms of probiotics. These would be naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt or even sourdough. Naturally fermented I say...not orange juice.
What to look for:
While I am not saying a little fresh juice is bad, it is actually quite delicious at times, it just shouldn't be your primary way of getting probiotics. Therefore when companies claim their products contain probiotics, ask yourself if it is a naturally fermented food and how many billion are actually in a serving. Focus on adding a tbsp or two of naturally fermented foods as mentioned above to your meals, or for a higher dose look for a probiotic containing 10 billion or more with more than 2 strains.
If you are having digestive concerns that don't seem to be improving with over the counter probiotics or fermented foods consider coming in for a visit to discuss a more specific treatment plan for you! I am always happy to help.
In health & happiness,