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Do we need diets?

Do we need diets? | Mr Vitamins

So many diet choices... do we need them?

The idea of a 'diet' means different things to everyone. In this article, I don't want to discuss any particular diet, or any particular food choices, for any particular condition. Rather, I'd like to briefly explore the implications that dieting has for many people.

Why are there so many different diets?

Most of us probably know someone who has followed a certain diet only to put the weight back on again or found it too restrictive and abandoned it. Needles to say, there are many many diets out there, each one claiming to offer unique or superior health benefits to other diets. Of course, diets are also big business, so the motivation of the inventors of these diets to get you on their diet isn't all about getting you healthy! Indeed much of the world seems obsessed by diets.

Symptoms of food intolerance can be subtle

Clearly your food choices have a major impact on your health. The ultimate goal of a naturopath is to ascertain the root causes of a their clients health issues and then address these root causes. Consideration of the person’s food choices plays a very important part in this process. Food allergy and food intolerance can cause a seemingly endless number of symptoms of greatly varying severity and almost always contribute to a client's symptom picture in some way.

Symptoms of food intolerance can be mild and include:

  • Skin rashes
  • Itchy skin
  • Mood changes
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Flatulence
  • Headaches
  • Fluid retention
  • Post nasal drip
  • Energy slumps
Symptoms of food allergy can be severe and include life threatening anaphylactic reactions. Clearly in the above examples it is essential to avoid the offending foods. It is the naturopath or nutritionist’s job to identify any foods that you may be sensitive to and to suggest appropriate alterations to your eating habits as part of an overall program.

What I am finding in practice

However I am seeing more and more people who have been put on restrictive eating plans and various diets, for no apparent good reason, as a results of advice from a variety of health professionals, the Internet and also from well meaning friends and family. In addition, many people are very confused about what food choices are right for them due to the enormous amount of conflicting advice and information readily available. As a result of all this, mealtimes seem to have become for many people quite stressful occasions. Feelings of guilt, anxiety and uncertainty can linger for many people after a meal. This is obviously not good. In practice, when I begin to ask about my client's daily food choices, often they visibly tense up or show signs of anxiety or discomfort at the mere mention of the subject. When I say that I'm not going to suggest changes to their eating habits unless absolutely necessary, there is often a look or other expression of relief!

We are meant to enjoy eating!

The enjoyment and pleasure that we should be deriving from our food becomes diminished when eating becomes an intellectual exercise or if our food tastes like paper or cardboard. We are meant to experience a range of flavours for reasons that I will not go into here. When you enjoy a meal, complex chemical responses occur in your brain that are beneficial to your well being. On the other hand, if choosing your food is stressful or a source of anxiety due to too many dietary restrictions, then we trigger a stress response which reduces our digestive efficiency. Obviously, if you know you are allergic or intolerant to a food, you must avoid it or reduce it, depending on the nature and severity of the allergy or intolerance.

Always ask WHY!

So my advice is to ask ‘WHY’ when a health practitioner or anyone else suggests that you eliminate any food or food group. If you don't get a good scientifically valid reason then do your own research or get a second opinion. Happy eating.

Peter Radi – Naturopath and Nutritionist

Peter Radi is a naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist and has been in clinical practice since 2000. He is available for private consultations at the Mr Vitamins Clinic where he can provide you with more information to help you with your Diet (eating plan) as well as personalised health improvement programs. Learn more about Peter here