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Beyond the Plate

Looking to food as the tip of the iceberg for chronic condition recovery.

Beyond the Plate

Do you feel like you are making all the right healthy food choices and are still suffering from chronic symptoms? 

This can be a frustrating common theme. I’ve been here, too. Maybe you've eliminated your triggering foods and felt better for a moment. However, now your symptoms are coming back or not totally resolved and you're still dealing with persistent joint issues, brain fog, digestive distress, skin flare-ups, or perhaps even worse. 

What gives?!

Sometimes, when making changes, we can swing our pendulum from one extreme to another, inadvertently backing ourselves into a very strict, very "clean" corner, which could backfire in different ways. For example, let’s say you’ve eliminated gluten and now eat almond products several times a day, you could now be unintentionally overloading yourself with oxalates. Or you've been eating a certain "health food" frequently for a while, like coconut or flaxseed, and are now intolerant to it to the point that it no longer is beneficial but instead inflammatory to your system. 

Beyond the Plate

If you’re in that “what gives!” state of mind, it’s time to check-in. Get curious about what you’re consuming. Are you drinking your green juice every morning and feeling energized and vibrant? Maybe! It could be working great for you, and that is fantastic. But maybe you're not, maybe you’re feeling sluggish, dismayed, and confused about why your super-clean diet isn’t working for you like it has in the past. This could apply to lots of things that you think are beneficial to your health - whether it be vegan protein shakes, switching from milk to dark chocolate, soaking your beans, nuts, and seeds, the list goes on. If this is you, and you’re still struggling, look deeper.

Certain diet practices can be so wonderful for one person at a particular time in their lives, and detrimental and inflammatory to another depending on their unique state of health at the time. Yes, even gluten-free, plant-based, colorful vibrant foods can be problematic for some in a state of inflammation and poor digestion. A wide array of foods have their time and place when your body is balanced and ready to welcome them. So it can be helpful to simplify the diet for a short time to give the body some space to breathe so it can work on healing. More on that in a minute.

Beyond the Plate

But first, where does the inflammation come from? We live in an interesting time. Our modern world is more toxic than it has ever been before, and it has become that way at an exponentially faster rate than our bodies are evolved to handle. And even so, our bodily systems are generally doing a truly incredible job with the onslaught. If you’re looking for a root cause of your condition, consider toxins. Food intolerances, bacteria imbalances, yeast overgrowth, hormone imbalances, autoimmune diseases…these are not the root. The root is what’s causing them. Any condition that arises is the body’s alarm system saying “Hey, we need a little help here”. It’s responding in a completely logical way to an onslaught of daily poison exposures like mold, heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, plastics, household chemicals, EMFs, the resulting infections, and the parasites that come in to mop all of it up.

It’s not all gloom and doom. The good news is, we all can achieve vibrant, radiant health, even in this modern day onslaught. No matter your history or your genes, there is something that can be done to help you achieve the optimal version of you that you were meant to be. In fact, “Only 5-10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90-95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle” (source PubMed). Being sick does not have to be your forever default. Dream big! Our bodies are absolutely brilliant and know exactly what to do to be well (they’re healing and regenerating all the time!), we just have to catch up, be diligent, and provide them with a little extra help.

So which foods should you eliminate or emphasize as you walk your own health journey? I'll never say this food is bad or this food is good, besides maybe the highly processed stuff. Because the truth is, we are all going to react to foods differently based on a few factors: 

1) our genetic defaults (they’re influenceable!)

2) our unique history of environmental exposures and traumas

3) our current lifestyles

4) our stress levels

Sorry to say, it’s not easy. We cannot get healthy doing exactly what some other person's regimen is, even if they are the “picture of health” because we don’t share the same shoes. We all have different bodies and different histories. There’s no “plug-and-play” in true healing, it takes a lot of experimentation and adjustment along the way.

Forget the mainstream wellness media for a moment. There is no recipe for perfect health that is applicable to everyone because our recipe is unique to us at different stages of our lives. We have to be our own investigators and advocates and test even “healthy” foods with an open mind in our own bodies.

Beyond the Plate

With all of this said, my challenge to you is this:

Look at your daily food staples with curiosity. What are you eating on a regular basis? Write these things down along with any symptoms you experience after meals, even up to a few days later. If you’re into research, look up foods high in histamines, lectins, and oxalates and see if any on those lists resonate with you. Maybe you conduct your own elimination diet experiment with a few foods you’re suspicious of for several weeks before “testing” them again. Better yet, work with a professional, like a practitioner or coach, who can walk beside you as you navigate this stuff, because it's helpful to have access to additional tools and testing, accountability, and support when feeling lost and overwhelmed.

Figure out your green-light foods (ones your body feels non-reactionary and strong with) while you do the deeper work alongside a practitioner to clean out the toxic gunk, and look forward to being able to enjoy a wider variety of foods again without symptoms and more freedom. When you get to that place, that is the sign of a healthy functioning body. And it's possible for all of us.

Robyn DeVoe is a Bozeman, Montana-based board-certified Functional Medicine Health Coach working in the realm of complex chronic conditions. Learn more about her here.


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