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Best Diet for You

Best Diet for You

Finding the right diet to support your body can be a challenge—I know first-hand. And when you struggle with certain conditions like Hashimoto’s or autoimmunity, there are certain things you need to avoid to stimulate healing.

Whatever you struggle with—be it anxiety, brain fog, autoimmunity, weight management, skin issues, or more—this article is here to guide you towards the diet best suited for your needs. 

The importance of finding a diet that works for you 

HOT TAKE: I don’t believe diet is the most important natural tool to achieve health and well-being. It is something you have to pay reverence to, but it’s not going to solve all your troubles. There are so many other avenues that need attention to enable deep healing, and diet is just one piece of the puzzle…albeit, a very important piece.   

Our food is our fuel. It provides the building blocks for ALL the life processes in our bodies. If we give our bodies garbage building blocks, all it can do is build garbage structures. So be mindful of the quality of things you put in your body and on your mind.

Choosing diets wisely can help create structure and routines for you to consistently get the nutrient building blocks you need to achieve your goals. If you are trying to heal something like autoimmunity or anxiety or depression or chronic fatigue, you’re not going to see much prolonged success without making any changes to the diet. As The Sensitive Doctor, my approach with food and healing diets is to find what works for you—your body, your constitution, your goals, your mental health, and your lifestyle.

Getting rid of “trigger” foods that cause inflammation is always my priority for clients. Once we find a baseline of foods that work well for you, we can tailor your diet to your body’s specific needs. Honestly, there is no one-size-fits-all diet for people. For example, some people will do better with more or less carbs, fats, proteins, veggies, etc. It’s about finding a balance that works for you. (P.S. As your body heals and changes, so will this “ideal” diet. So don’t ever think that there’s only one diet that will always work for you either.) Now, let’s get learning!

The most popular approaches to eating

Gluten-free, dairy-free (GF/DF)

Gluten-free and dairy-free is the most basic diet I like to see my clients on because it’s the least restrictive, offers the most benefits, is relatively “mainstream” and accessible, and still allows for some food flexibility. GF and DF is based on the idea of avoiding the most common inflammatory foods – gluten and dairy.  Because a lot of people are sensitive to gluten and dairy on some level, they can cause or exacerbate a number of health conditions.

GF/DF is best for:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Improving digestion and gut health
  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Increasing energy
  • Improving insulin and glucose control
  • Stabilizing hormones
  • Improving skin issues
  • Weight management

Associated risks:

  • Potential for nutrient deficiencies
  • Constipation (mild) due to insufficient fiber intake

Includes

All fruits, vegetables (starchy and non-starchy), non-glutinous grains (like rice), plant and animal proteins, nut and seeds, beans and legumes

Excludes

Gluten-containing products (grains: barley, bulger, couscous, kamut, non-GF oats, rye, semolina, spelt, wheat, wheat germ); hidden sources of gluten (dressing, sauces, spices, cheese, instant beverages, canned foods, burgers, etc.); dairy products (butter, cheese, chocolate, ice cream, sour cream, milk, protein powders, yogurt); dairy-containing foods (whey powder, skim milk solids, lactose, curds, milk protein, rennet, etc.)

Recommended for:

  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Digestive or gut issues
  • Mood and cognitive disorders
  • Depression, anxiety, or brain fog
  • Skin issues (acne, eczema, rashes, hives)
  • Intolerance/Sensitivity (Celiac disease, gluten, dairy, lactose)
  • IBS/IBD

Paleo

The idea behind paleo is to return to our roots of eating; it promotes eating foods that our ancestors could have accessed by hunting and gathering. Research suggests that the human body is genetically mismatched to the modern diet that emerged with farming practices, which has caused the development of many chronic health conditions we experienced in modern day society. By returning to our ancestral roots and species-appropriate diet, we can reduce prevalence of disease.

The paleo diet emphasizes moderate-high protein intake, moderate fat, and low-moderate carbohydrate intake restricted to mostly low-glycemic carbohydrates.

The paleo diet is best for:

  • Weight loss
  • Better glucose and insulin regulation
  • Improving blood pressure
  • Improving lipid profiles
  • Better gut and digestive health
  • Increasing nutrient density
  • More stable energy
  • Reducing cravings

Risks of paleo:

  • Potential for nutrient deficiencies
  • Higher cost
  • More food exclusions
  • Requires planning ahead

Includes

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Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean meats (emphasis on grass-fed, pastured), fatty/oily fish and seafood (wild-caught, sustainable), plant oils (olive, walnut, avocado)

Excludes

Grains (wheat, oat, barley, etc.), beans and legumes (including peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, nightshades (peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant), added salt, industrial seed oils (cottonseed, canola, corn, vegetable, safflower, sunflower), other highly processed foods

Recommended for:

  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Digestive or gut issues
  • Celiac disease/gluten intolerance or sensitivity
  • IBS/IBD
  • Dairy intolerances/sensitivities
  • Weight management (overweight or obese)
  • Hormonal imbalances

Not recommended for:

  • People who avoid animal products

Variations of paleo:

Primal

Primal and paleo share the same footprint, but primal tends to be slightly less restrictive on excluded foods. Both paleo and primal recommend limiting carb intake (especially grains) to only as many as required for optimal performance, while focusing on more protein, healthy fat, and lots of vegetables. 

However, primal also includes:

  • Dairy (preferably raw)
  • Nightshades
  • Coffee
  • Legumes 

Whole 30

The Whole30 is another variation of the paleo diet that advocates for eating real food. It follows the same guidelines as paleo, but after a 30-day period becomes substantially less restrictive as foods are reintroduced.

For 30 days you are to avoid:

  • Added sugar (real or refined)
  • Alcohol
  • Grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains, and all gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat)
  • Beans and legumes
  • Dairy
  • Carrageenan, MSG, sulfites
  • Baked goods, junk food, or “approved” goods
  • And do not step on the scale at all during your 30 days

AIP (Autoimmune Paleo or Autoimmune Protocol)

AIP strongly resembles the paleo footprint both in terms of what to eat and what to avoid, but is slightly more restrictive, as it is tailored to healing people with autoimmune conditions. As well, the general approach to AIP differs from any form of paleo. Generally, it takes on two stages: elimination and reintroduction. The first phase involves eliminating all foods that could be causing sensitivities, while the second phase involves reintroducing foods one at a time after a specified duration to note any reactions.

AIP is best for:

  • Reducing inflammation and symptoms of autoimmunity
  • Improving energy levels
  • Reducing pain
  • Improving immune function
  • Boosting mental clarity
  • Improving neurological health
  • Better gut and digestive function

Risks of AIP:

  • Restrictive
  • Potential for nutrient deficiencies
  • Cost
  • Planning required
  • Difficulty finding foods at restaurants or while traveling
  • Social stress around eating with others

Includes

Vegetables, fresh fruit, tubers, meat and seafood (emphasis on grass-fed, pastured, wild), fermented foods, minimally processed oils (coconut, olive, avocado), herbs and spices, vinegar, natural sweeteners, tea, bone broth

Excludes

Grains, beans and legumes, nightshades, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds, alcohol, coffee, industrial seed oils, refined or processed sugars, food additives and artificial sweeteners

* Note: some AIP protocols will suggest avoiding all fruit, while others will allow anywhere from 10-40g of fructose per day.

Recommended for:

  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Digestive or gut issues
  • Celiac disease/gluten intolerance or sensitivity
  • IBS/IBD
  • Dairy intolerances/sensitivities
  • Weight management (overweight or obese)
  • Hormonal imbalances

Not recommended for:

  • People who avoid animal products
  • Long-term use

Keto/LCHF/Atkins 

Low-carb diets are all the rage lately and touted as some of the best diets for weight loss. The ketogenic diet was originally designed to control episodes in people with epilepsy, but more recently has been shown to improve a number of health conditions ranging from diabetes and obesity to heart disease, neurological conditions, post-concussion syndrome, and even acne. The Atkins diet was one of the first popularized versions of the ketogenic diet, but has now transitioned into what we know as low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) and the associated variations.

Low-carb/high-fat is best for:

Associated risks:

  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Kidney stones
  • Lack of fiber
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Highly restrictive
  • Requires planning

Includes

Meat (organic, pastured, grass-fed), fish and seafood (wild-caught or organic), eggs, low-glycemic (low-sugar) fruits, non-starchy vegetables, high-fat dairy (if tolerable), healthy fats, nuts and seeds (low-carb only)

 

Excludes

Grains, high-starch vegetables, sugar (of any kind), beans and legumes, alcohol, high-sugar fruit, industrial seed oils, keto-friendly processed foods

 

Recommended for:

 

  • Metabolic dysfunction
  • Weight management
  • Some mental health disorders
  • Post-concussion syndrome
  • Certain hormonal conditions (PCOS)
  • Endurance athletes

 

Not recommended for:

 

  • Thyroid or adrenal disorders
  • Severe hormonal imbalances (especially for women)
  • Pregnancy
  • Pre-existing liver, gallbladder, or pancreatic issues
  • High risk for cardiovascular disease
  • People who avoid animal products

 

Mediterranean/Blue zone 

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional diet that was consumed in the Mediterranean countries where prevalence of lifestyle-based diseases was incredibly low. It’s based around a high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs and spices, fish and seafood, and extra virgin olive oil—foods you’ll typically find in abundance in the Mediterranean countries.

 

Mediterranean is best for:

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  • Improving heart health and lipid profile
  • Reducing inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Weight management
  • Improving blood sugar regulation
  • Enhancing cognitive function

 

Includes

Vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, whole grains, tubers, fish and seafood, healthy fats (especially olive oil/avocado oil), herbs and spices

 

  • Poultry, eggs, and dairy should be consumed in moderation
  • Red meat should be consumed sparingly

 

Excludes

Refined grains, processed meat, added sugar, industrial seed oils/refined oils, trans fat

 

 

The Blue zone diet, on the other hand, describes the diet of the countries that have the longest lifespan. The graphic below outlines the basics of the Blue zone diet.

Recommended for:

 

  • Chronic disease prevention
  • People with increased with of CVD
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Glucose dysfunction/diabetics
  • Neurological disorders

 

Not recommended for:

 

  • Pre-existing liver, gallbladder, or pancreatic issues

 

Vegetarian/Vegan

Veganism and vegetarianism have grown rapidly in the last few decades. People choose to avoid consuming animal products for a number of reasons including health, ethical, religious, and environmental. Vegans avoid all animal product and animal by-products and abstain from wearing clothing derived from animals (like leather). Vegetarians, on the other hand, are slightly more flexible with dietary restrictions.

 

These are the six main types of vegetarianism/veganism:

 

  1. Vegan – consumes no animal products of any kind (eggs, dairy, fish oils, animal-derived or animal by-products); most vegans will also abstain from eating things like honey, gelatin, and collagen
  2. Lacto-ovo vegetarian – avoids meat but will consume dairy and eggs
  3. Lacto-vegetarian – avoids meat and eggs but includes dairy products
  4. Ovo-vegetarian – avoids meat and dairy products but will consume eggs
  5. Vegetarian – abstains from meat but includes both dairy and eggs; very similar to a lacto-ovo vegetarian but may also choose to include certain animal by-products like honey, gelatin, and collagen; a vegetarian simply does not eat meat
  6. Pescatarian – eats fish and seafood, dairy, and eggs but avoids poultry and red meat; this option is considered semi-vegetarian

 

Best for:

  • Improving nutrient density

Recommended for: 

  • Ethical concerns around animal byproducts and the meat/dairy industry

Not recommended for:

  • Severe nutrient deficiencies (amino acids, B12, zinc)
  • Underlying hormonal imbalances
  • IBS/IBD
  • Digestive issues
  • Anemia or low-iron levels
  • People with depression or other mental health disorders

 

My final thoughts 

Choosing a diet that works for you isn’t going to be as black and white as simply picking and doing. While you may find that eliminating certain foods and increasing the intake of others improves your physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual health, as I said before there are other factors you have to consider. 

Far too often Western culture focuses on foods as a “yes” or “no” when it comes to balance and health. But from a functional medicine perspective, we consider other systems of medicine like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda that look more in-depth to the individual and what their body’s needs based on specific constitutional factors.

While on paper it may look as though someone is eating the perfect diet to heal, from the Eastern medicine perspective they’re actually eating all the wrong foods. Every person has their own constitution, and that constitution may go against what the most recommended diet is to treat a specific condition.

You have to remember that the diet you’re following now–whether it’s to treat a specific condition, lose weight, balance hormones, or what have you–is not the diet you have to follow for the rest of your life. Ideally, your body will rebalance and realign itself and you can start to reintroduce foods you enjoy back in.

Eating shouldn’t have to be a chore; it shouldn’t be something you stress about, and it definitely shouldn’t be something you dread. Eating brings people together. Food is powerful and it has the ability to heal. So, finding the diet that works for you now may not be the diet that works for you in six months or in two years. Your body changes and it learns to grow and adapt. It’s a powerful machine that does magical things when you provide it with what it needs.

Dr. Natasha F
[email protected]

Dr. Natasha F is a Doctor, Designer, Speaker and Artist. She specializes in healing autoimmunity through integrative chiropractic, functional neurology, functional medicine, nutrition, homeopathy and narrative medicine.

2 Comments
  • Giselle Alice Moreau
    Posted at 16:48h, 11 July Reply

    I agree choosing a deit to suit you is hard! If I took the advice of many well meaning friends, I d be no further ahead, discouaraged, and broke! I seem to be happier and content when I work toward my likes and dislikes with food and stop stressing out about weight loose. I try to be careful and notice what changes I make that help me to feel better,for example, my sleep has improved so much since I focused on just that , I’ve reduced thewrong foods, sudstituded foods when cravings try to over power me, stayed away from restaurant foods(mostly) and watch for ways to help my physical well being but the struggles remain! Oh how hard it is, the effort is placed on feeling less bad and being happy for it!!

    • Dr. Natasha F
      Posted at 14:53h, 23 July Reply

      Thanks for sharing your story Giselle! I agree – nothing better than feeling great in our Mind Body and Spirit!

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