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Diversity in Your Diet is like Dancing with your Digestion

By Katherine Brooke-MacKenzie, Jul 8 2019 04:00AM

I was giving a talk recently and was asked, as I often am in these situations, what is an optimum diet. I don't believe that such a thing exists and feel strongly that we all must do our own research to find out what works for us and what doesn't, but this sounds like an unhelpful response to a commonly posed question. Our bodies will always give us feedback, but oftentimes it is difficult to interpret the information, and of course nearly impossible when looking at diet, to isolate one food item from another when we're looking for the causative culprit to any presenting symptom.

Our microbiome, the bacterial environment of our bodies, is unique to each and everyone of us, so it really is impossible to accurately pin point any single dietary regime that will suit all people optimally and equally. The most important thing that you can do to support a healthy microbiome is to eat a diverse and varied range of foods. It seems many of us have ingrained habits when it comes to food choices and meal planning, and we can easily become stuck in a rut.

This was highlighted to me very recently in a chat with my own father. He is not very well and has several health problems, many of which might be alleviated if he made some different choices. I tried introducing the idea that food can either harm us or heal us but, much as he grasps the broad principle of that, he wasn't about to take on board any specifics! For example, I suggested he try a different breakfast - something like scrambled eggs or porridge - but this was his response. "I've had two Weetabix with milk and sugar everyday for the past 50 years and it's never done me any harm." Hmmm... and yet his body is riddled with inflammation and pain. I'm not looking to make Weetabix and milk the root of all evil here. I seek only to highlight that sometimes our dogged adherence to a plan which we once believed was a good one, can often be a part of the problem.

I've understood from many sources that wheat is one of the most inflammatory foods in our modern diet, so the fact that my dad has eaten a bowl full of it every day for 50 years might very well be the cause of some of his problems. You see, if we persistently ingest something that damages us, we never give ourselves the time to heal, and the damage will worsen as our health weakens, which unfortunately becomes a vicious circle. With the knowledge that our bodies know how to heal given the right environment, a little of a "bad" thing now and again won't be a problem, but on a daily basis, it probably will.

Many of us lead busy lives and the thought of investing extra time in sourcing new recipes, shopping for ingredients and then finding the time to bring the meal to the table can be enough of a deterrent to keep us repeating old patterns and choosing the same old same old. Why not make a commitment to introduce a new dish once a fortnight so it's not an overwhelming prospect. Your microbiome will love you for it, you'll probably poo better and your immune system will be doing a merry dance - so many reasons to implement a small change.

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