customized diet

Healing Hypothesis Introduction

You’re ready to change your life. You can reclaim your health.

There is a set of concepts we use to help you change your life. Together, they make up our Healing Hypothesis. Everyone is unique and has a unique protocol. Applying these concepts to your case is what guides me in developing that protocol.

I want to share them with you so that you understand what you need to consider in order to finally get your health on track.

They are:

  • Health begins in the gut

  • Your body is built to heal itself

  • One size doesn’t fit all

  • Food isn’t always enough

  • Your unique biochemistry

  • A holistic approach

  • Your custom supplement protocol

  • Your custom diet

These concepts form our Healing Hypothesis, and they are the outline of the roadmap we use to bring you relief from your health problems, feel better, and help you meet your health and wellness goals.

Each concept helps us move the needle forward, and together they form the powerful, and holistic approach you need.

I know this because these concepts represent the lessons I learned along my healing journey, and are the things I did to get myself, and my health, back on track.

Here’s the deal. Chronic and complex health conditions have root causes. Finding these root causes is where we have opportunities to improve, and possibly even resolve them. My Healing Hypothesis guides us through identifying and addressing these root cause issues.

As a functional and clinical nutritionist I do not diagnose, or treat any condition. My job is to teach you what you can do to heal, feel better, and to help you identify root causes of the health problems you have. The kind of root causes I’m talking about lead to imbalances in your body, and long-standing ones can cause chronic and complex health problems. We can address imbalances with natural means like diet, supplements, and lifestyle interventions, and prevent long-term consequences.

The Problem (Part 2)

Here’s that second part of the issue, your labs are not normal and you are prescribed medication.

How many medications have you been prescribed because of your health problems?

I spent some time on a SSRI (antidepressant medication) in my mid-20s after I had a breakdown. The stress from graduate school, feeling my life was out of control, I was in a severe dietary restriction phase at the time (one of my lowest weights, about 98lbs, and I’m 5’6” by the way), and I’m sure OCD, PTSD and the depression of course didn’t help the situation.

I didn’t stay on the medication long. It did help, but it numbed me and I wasn’t myself. It did get rid of the OCD. I would clean a lot, and when I was on the meds, let’s just say things became very different. Not in a good way, it was gross to be honest.

I still deal with OCD, PTSD and depression, however I’ve found lifestyle strategies to help manage it (I do read self help, motivational books and blogs for example), and so does nourishing my body rather than starving it. Our neurotransmitters that regulate our moods are built from amino acids, and the pathways that make them need vitamins and minerals to do it. We need to put the fuel in, and the best way to do that is with whole, real foods.

Back to my take on medications, what do they do? They help with symptoms, if you’re lucky.

There are medications that save lives, and of course we need them from time to time. Antibiotics do save lives, when they are used appropriately. My issue with many medications that are commonly prescribed is that they mask symptoms. The symptoms you are having are your body’s cries for help, that there is, or are, underlying root cause(s) creating imbalances in your body, that over time, result in chronic and complex health problems.

If you mask symptoms with medications, root cause imbalances are still there, and they can continue to wreak havoc on your body. Now that you don’t have symptoms, you don’t know this is happening so root causes and imbalances are left unchecked and unaddressed. Before you know it, you have more symptoms. Something new and different starts to occur. Your doctor gives you another prescription. And the cycle continues.

Many of these medications mask symptoms by interrupting, altering, and shutting down biochemical pathways in your body. This is a problem because all systems are connected, so when you interfere with one pathway, others will be affected.

My favorite example is the use of statin medications for cholesterol. Statins are one of the most prescribed medications today, and they are one of the biggest money-makers ever for pharmaceutical companies.

Research shows that for some people, statins can be beneficial. They may help reduce blood pressure, and may be useful for secondary prevention of heart attack and stroke (meaning if you’ve already had a heart attack or stroke, statins may help prevent it from happening again), however, research also shows that they can be very harmful for others, and lead to rhabdomyolysis, cognitive loss, neuropathy, pancreatic and hepatic dysfunction, and sexual dysfunction.

Statins work by shutting off a step in the pathway that makes cholesterol in your body. The problem is that we need cholesterol, and that pathway does other things, including make CoQ10, an essential nutrient needed for energy production in your body.

 What do we need cholesterol for? Just for example, it is necessary for making steroid hormones including your stress hormone cortisol, and your sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen), and cholesterol makes up a good part of the structure of cell membranes in your body. If your body can’t function at the cellular level, you certainly won’t be able to.

I’m not saying to stop taking your prescription medications (statins or others), I am saying make sure you ask your doctor questions, and educate yourself. Often there are natural ways to better manage your health issues that have no risk of adverse side effects.

You can start by exploring the root cause(s) of why you are having symptoms in the first place. Remember, symptoms are tied to systems and all systems in your body are connected.

If you’ve been struggling with health issues, you need a different approach to resolve them. Our Healing Hypothesis is that approach, and what I used on my own health journey.

One-Size Doesn't Fit All

There is no one-size-fits-all plan. I can’t begin to tell you how often I hear “I tried the XYZ diet because my best friend did it and lost 10lbs”, “I’m fasting because Jimmy Fallon does and he swears by it” or “I want to go on a cleanse because Gwyneth Paltrow did.” The list goes on. 
 
I’ve put myself on just about every diet out there, and fell victim to so many of the fads. The one I was most entrenched in was the fat free, low fat craze that grabbed me in the early 90s, as I was starting college. I was constantly starving, had frequent hypoglycemic episodes, and felt like crap all the time. Around this time my disordered eating habits were really taking off.
 
Coincidence? No.
 
The media and advertisers are very good at what they do. For someone like me with tendencies to want to control things, I found the perfect outlet for them. The only foods I ate were fat free, which means I was living on sugar. That’s it, just sugar, and a little protein because I would eat chicken breasts and tuna since there was basically no fat in them. No wonder I felt like crap.
 
This is a reason why it’s important to track your diet in a journal. You may not realize how much is missing otherwise. I realized I was eating fat free, but had I written it out and seen the make up of what I was eating, it would have been a wake up call, one I needed sooner than I got.
 
Back to the problem about these one-size-fits-all plans. It’s been said that 95% of people fail at their diet attempts.
 
If you resonate with this 95%, what do you think went wrong?
 
I’ll give you a hint. This is where your individual biochemistry is involved. It can dictate what diet, lifestyle and even supplements work best for your body to help you meet your health and wellness goals, and heal from chronic and complex illnesses.
 
Think about it, if your biochemistry is different from anyone else’s how can a cookie cutter diet, supplement regimen or cleanse program give you the results you want? It can’t, especially not long-term.
 
This means you haven’t failed. The truth is that these diet plans fail you because they promote a one-size-fits-all approach that does not account for your biochemical individuality.
 
In order for you to feel better, you have to consider your unique biochemistry. If you haven’t gotten results from the same plan your best friend or favorite celebrity has, you haven’t failed. The system has failed you because it has neglected your individual needs.
 
Rather than labeling a diet as keto, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, Atkins, Weston Price, blood type diet, etc. we have to look at your biochemical needs and develop a plan to meet them. This is a customized approach, and it’s how we get results to address your health problems, and optimize your overall health and wellness.
 
When developing a customized plan, something else to keep in mind is that food isn’t always enough.

Your Unique Biochemistry

Diving deeper into your unique biochemistry is a component of our Healing Hypothesis, and it is necessary for developing your customized protocol.

Here’s the scenario: You feel awful yet all your lab work looks fine. Your doctor tells you you’re fine, sends you on your way, maybe with a prescription for something to help with some symptoms, and you are otherwise led to believe your health problems are all in your head. Sound familiar?

 It does to me. When I decided to finally see a doctor about my GI issues, I had all the necessary testing done, including a colonoscopy. Everything about my gut came back normal. Nothing about my gut was even remotely normal.

Standard, conventional labs do not take into account functional status. Many imbalances can precede abnormal findings on standard, conventional labs. This is why we need to explore the functional needs of your body, and why you don’t feel well even with normal looking labs.

We can use functional testing to identify these imbalances and resolve them to help you feel better.

As an example, some of the testing I use often in my practice evaluates overall functional nutritional status to determine personalized supplementation needs for a variety of nutrients including antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids, digestive support and others. With this testing, we can:

  • Identify imbalances that may precede abnormal findings on standard lab panels.

  • Identify functional needs for specific nutrients, diet changes, antioxidants, and detoxification, and other interventions.

  • Determine personalized nutrient recommendations based on biochemical individuality.

This functional testing uses a combination of direct and functional markers in order to arrive at your nutrient needs. Some nutrients are directly assessed and others are assessed based on markers found in biochemical pathways that are associated with nutrient needs (functional status).

What does this mean? Basically, standard, conventional labs tend to look for example at blood levels of certain nutrients. You can have adequate levels of nutrients in your blood, but that doesn’t show us if your body is using those nutrients. By looking at markers found in biochemical pathways, we can identify if those nutrients are actually functioning.

Do you see the difference? Just because the nutrient is there, doesn’t mean it is working, or functional. This is particularly pertinent if you suffer with chronic and complex health problems, yet your lab work routinely looks in range.

Remember that nutrient imbalances and insufficiencies adversely impact a wide range of body functions and can produce an even wider range of symptoms. Identification of and targeted interventions for these problems can improve your health, combat chronic health issues, and prevent additional health issues in the future.

Another functional test I use in my practice is a poopy test. This is different from standard, conventional stool testing. The latter looks for particular infections, which of course is helpful. Often, these infections are ruled out (you don’t have any), however you still are sick.  

The stool testing I use takes things a few steps further, and helps to identify the root cause of many gastrointestinal symptoms including gas, bloating, indigestion, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation, among others, and it can be used to evaluate folks with a clinical history that suggests a gastrointestinal infection or dysbiosis (abnormal gut bacteria).

Research associates a dysbiotic, or imbalanced gut microbiome with multiple disease states both within and outside of the GI tract. That means you can have impaired gut health and not even have gut related symptoms.

Functional stool testing gives us insight into your digestive function, intestinal inflammation, and the intestinal microbiome. It allows us to assess multiple functional areas that may be contributing to the symptoms you have, and the information the testing provides can be used to develop and guide targeted interventions to address your health issues.

Your symptoms will improve as functional imbalances and insufficiencies we identify become normalized through targeted diet, lifestyle, and supplementation interventions.

There are countless other functional tests we can use to appropriately assess your health status. Based on our work together, we will determine which will give us the information we need to develop your unique plan.

For you to heal, we need to address your health holistically. This concept of our Healing Hypothesis takes us out of the gut for a bit and into the rest of your life.

Your Custom Diet

Our Healing Hypothesis is personal to me because it helped me feel better and heal. This concept however, this one is big for me. 

This isn’t about implementing the latest fad diet to get results.

I have personally fallen victim to this practice, and because of it, my health has suffered and I ended up in urgent care.

Your biochemistry is as unique as your fingerprint. That means your roadmap to better health will be as unique as you are, and your diet plan needs to be customized for the needs of your body, rather than worrying about if you are paleo, keto, vegetarian, vegan, or what your blood type is.
 
Any diet that restricts any food group long-term has the ability to cause nutrient deficiencies, and health problems. I don’t consider processed foods, fast food, and the like food groups by the way, but I think you know this.

Let’s address calorie counting too. There is WAY more involved in maintaining a healthy body composition than calories in versus calories out, and not all calories are created equal. Calorie counting and obsessing about it can lead to disordered eating habits and eating disorders. Calorically depriving your body also can backfire and actually prevent you from losing weight. You cannot outsmart biochemistry. Trust me, I’ve tried.

I want to share my take on some popular diet trends, and some standards, based on my personal and professional experience, and the research I’ve done on these subjects.

Gluten: Some people of course (most I believe, if not everyone) should not consume gluten. Gluten has no health benefits, is inflammatory, and there are much better options when it comes to healthy carbohydrates you can eat.

Dairy: Dairy is also inflammatory. If you do eat dairy, sparingly is best.

Vegan/plant-based diets: Diets that are 100% plant-based often lack important nutrients including B12, iron, zinc, essential amino acids, and a range of other nutrients. Plant-based diets tend to be higher in carbs, and depending on your source of carbs, this can put you at greater risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems.

If you are on a 100% plant-based diet, it is important to supplement appropriately to make sure your nutrient needs are met.

Plant based diets are often recommended for cancer, where research shows a diet that’s high fiber, low fat and includes lots of fruits and vegetables may be preventative.

Ketogenic diet: This is the latest craze. A standard ketogenic diet is high fat (75%), moderate protein (%20), and very low carb (%5).

Research has shown benefits of keto for neurological disorders (epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), weight loss, diabetes and pre-diabetes, among other conditions. In these cases, the diet is used for therapeutic reasons and should be implemented under the supervision of a qualified professional.

A keto diet may have some cons. For weight loss, or because it’s the latest fad, we really don’t know what the effects of it long-term are. Based on what I know about biochemistry and how the body works, I’m going to defer to my earlier comment, that any diet that restricts any food group long-term has the ability to cause nutrient deficiencies, and health problems.

Mediterranean diet: A Mediterranean diet is the only one that has been scientifically validated, again and again, with benefits for health. The diet includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains (non gluten is best in my opinion), legumes and nuts, and healthy fats like olive oil. The only downside may be the recommendation to include red wine, which may not be advised if you are on certain medications, or have certain health conditions.

There are so many more, and not enough time for me to touch on them all here. These examples represent the ones I am asked about most often.

If you’re wondering what I eat, my diet consists of whole, real foods, from all food sources. I don’t define it any other way, nor do I wish to categorize it to fit under a particular fad or trend. I prefer to spend my time living and enjoying my life, rather than obsessing about what I am going to eat, and if it’s ‘ok’ for my diet. I’ve spent most of my life obsessing over what I ate, and suffered because of it.  Food is necessary to fuel our bodies so that they work. Restricting fuel leads to functional impairments, and poor health. I’ve been there. It happened to me. It doesn’t have to happen to you too.