Do you struggle with any of these symptoms: frequent bloating, stomach pain, acid reflux, indigestion, heartburn, constipation, or diarrhea? Have you seen various doctors, tried a number of medications, or had invasive procedures done, yet you’re still suffering without relief? If you answered yes, you may feel hopeless at this point. But, I’m here to tell you that healing is possible, and one of the most effective, natural ways to heal is through dietary changes.
What you put in your body has a direct impact on your health. Every food and drink you have can either optimize or deter the function of your organs, which is why it makes sense that majority of health issues can be traced back to a poor diet. Common dietary factors that contribute to health issues include:
Unbalanced diets high in refined carbohydrates
Excess processed foods & sugar
Overconsumption of alcohol
These factors create imbalances in the body, such as: sluggish digestion, leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth, liver burden, poor detoxification, and more, which then cause the symptoms you experience. This also helps us understand why medications don’t help. No medication can overpower a poor diet. This is why I consider conventional medications to be “band-aids” or quick fixes. They can cover up or temporarily manage symptoms, but don’t promote true healing. You can take all the medications in the world, but if you don’t address the underlying or root cause of your symptoms, you will end up stuck in a vicious cycle of chasing symptoms without ever actually feeling better.
So, the burning question is: what diet is best for improving stomach issues?
There are a variety of diets out there which are commonly recommended to improve stomach issues. Two of the most common diets which you can find information about on the internet are low FODMAP and elimination diet. While people can have success with these diets, based on my own personal experience, I don’t find them to be the most effective.
As someone who suffered from numerous digestive disorders including, acid reflux, GERD, gastritis, ulcers, and SIBO, I tried virtually every diet out there. I found these diets complicated, overwhelming, stressful, and difficult to stick with. These diets were also very restrictive which lead me to develop a fear of food, increased nutrient deficiencies, high stress, depression, anxiety, low energy, and more!
This is why in my practice, I don’t believe in specific “diets” to address health issues. A diet is another “temporary”, quick fix which is why it's not sustainable or effective oftentimes. When I think of the word “diet”, I automatically think of something that is restrictive and unenjoyable. When something is restrictive and unenjoyable, it’s typically not maintainable long-term, which is the #1 reason diets don’t work.
When it comes to improving health issues, our society is lead to believe that we need to be restrictive in order to achieve our goals. For example, when it comes to weight loss people will believe they need to cut out all foods they love and restrict calories to see results. Or, when it comes to healing digestive issues, we think we need to eliminate everything and anything to feel better. Truthfully, it’s just the opposite. This restrictive thinking leads to nutrient deficiencies, more stress on the mind and body, disordered eating, and an unhealthy, unmanageable way of living without actually ever seeing results.
I find that when people come to me, they’ve already tried restrictive diets without success or are still attempting to stay on said diet for way too long. Because diets can be restrictive, they are only meant for a short period of time, not long-term. Long-term they create nutrient deficiencies leading to plenty of other health issues. As a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, when I work with clients, rather than start off as restrictive as possible, I work in tiers, only eliminating what is necessary. Most often, it’s not that people need less food, it’s that people need more of the right, nourishing foods with a balance in their nutrition! I’ve found that people do well just by making a few simple changes, shifting towards a more balanced, nutrient-dense, whole foods diet without needing to be extremely restrictive. This allows them to actually adopt a new lifestyle which is sustainable, enjoyable, and promotes healing of their current health issues.
Another reason, I don’t prefer diets is because each person is different bio-individually based on their health history, nutritional intake, lifestyle, needs, and current circumstances. For this reason, I believe that there is no one-size-fits all diet that works for everyone. Instead of applying a one-size-fits-all diet to each client, I take into account each person’s bio-individuality and recommend specific actionable dietary changes they can make to address their concerns. This tends to be less stressful and more easily adapted, allowing them to feel better faster!
The key to really improving digestive issues is to support your body’s natural ability to heal with a nutritious and balanced way of eating. When we focus on what we can eat and filling our plates with more nourishing foods which support optimal organ function, and less processed foods and junk which does just the opposite, we can feel good without being overly restrictive.
If you’re looking to improve your own stomach issues, some dietary recommendations to take into consideration are:
Focus on eating nutrient-dense foods with a balance among protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. There is a wide variety of foods rich in vitamins and minerals which support optimal health including: poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, meat, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Including a balance of each of these macronutrients in every meal promotes good digestion, balanced blood sugar, energy, mood, and more.
Increase your vegetable intake & eat the rainbow. Most of us don't eat enough vegetables, but vegetables are nutrient-dense and high in fiber which is why they help support regular bowel movements and a healthy gut ecosystem. Eating more of them means you get more nutrients in every day which promote optimal organ function and your body's natural ability to heal. Don't skimp on your veggies! If you notice your plates are mostly brown and white, try to get a color in there! Aim for 4-6 servings per day or 1-2 handfuls with every meal.
Eat foods that are easier to digest (soups, stews, smoothies). Excess amounts of raw salads and raw veggies will only stress your digestive system further if you already have issues. This is because they are more difficult to breakdown and can be harsh to the digestive tract. Instead, try eating gut healing foods that take stress off of the digestive system and give it a "break." Bone broth is an amazing gut healing food. It is rich in nutrients and its gelatinous quality helps heal the intestinal lining. Try sipping on some throughout the day or replacing regular broth with it in soups, stews, and sauces.
Eliminate gluten and dairy for a minimum of 30 days. Gluten and dairy are two of the top allergens and are known for causing inflammation and inhibiting healing. Even if you don’t have a true allergen to either one, most people have an intolerance or sensitivity, which is why eliminating them for at least 30 days can reduce inflammation and allow healing to take place. Gluten is a big culprit in causing "leaky gut syndrome" which mostly anyone with digestive issues suffers from. Healing leaky gut is an important step in improving digestive issues long-term which is why this is one of the top recommendations I provide to my clients. It can be challenging to adjust at first, but by focusing on simple meal with real, whole foods, you can worry less about gluten or dairy.
Healthy, balanced nutrition is crucial to the healing process. More importantly, finding a way of eating that works for you is even more important because it has to be something you can stick with and maintain long-term in order to achieve lasting change. If you need guidance finding what works for you and your body’s needs, let’s chat! I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation to discuss your health concerns and how my 1:1 Nutritional Therapy program works. If you’re interested in setting up a consultation, click here to book your slot.
*Disclaimer: This is not intended as medical advice. As mentioned, always consult with your doctor.
Jenn Horowitz, FNTP, CPT, CES is a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified Personal Trainer, and Corrective Exercise Specialist who works to address the root cause of illness. Jenn is the founder of JTH Wellness, a holistic nutrition and wellness practice, specializing in helping people with stomach issues, disordered eating, and weight management problems, take back control of their health through 1:1 nutrition and lifestyle counseling. Jenn works to teach others how to live a balanced lifestyle that allows them to achieve their goals while enjoying life. Learn more about Jenn’s nutrition counseling services and schedule a free 15-minute discovery session by visiting her website, http://www.JTHwellness.com.