MYTH #1 - I SHOULD EAT A LOT OF FIBRE!
There is a lot of truth to this statement, but not everyone should be eating a lot of fibre. The benefits of fibre are well documented and include pooping regularly, feeding your gut microbiome, and helping to clear debris and toxins out of your digestive tract. But fibre can be very irritating to a damaged gut, especially insoluble fibre like that found in bran, whole grains, flax seed and legumes.
There are people who should actually be aiming for a low fibre diet. If you struggle with frequent diarrhea, then you should be eating a low fibre diet. Some conditions that can involve diarrhea include Celiac disease, diarrhea-dominant IBS, diarrhea-dominant SIBO, Crohn's, or colitis. Other reasons might include the removal of your gallbladder, a parasitic infection, lactose intolerance, or colon cancer.
If you have ongoing problems with diarrhea, then it is important that you visit your healthcare practitioner to dig into the root cause.
A dietary approach to address diarrhea includes eating low fibre foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and a lot of meat stock or bone broth. Fermented dairy or coconut products like yogurt and kefir are also good choices. Low fibre vegetables include squash, carrots, beets, and turnips. You can make other vegetables like broccoli, lower in fibre by removing fibrous stems.
Once diarrhea subsides, then you can slowly add fibre back into your diet, and reap all of its benefits!
MYTH #2 - RAW FOODS ARE BEST!
Raw foods can be great, because they contain a lot of enzymes that can facilitate metabolic processes in the body. Nutrients can be hard to extract from raw foods though, especially when your gut health is compromised. You need optimal digestive function for the nutrients to be extracted from foods, and you need a healthy gut lining to absorb those nutrients.
Leaky gut has been correlated to numerous chronic health conditions such as autoimmune conditions and systemic inflammation (Source), as well as many neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease (Source). When your gut is leaky, then the function of your intestinal cells becomes compromised, altering their ability to digest and absorb nutrients. Given that leaky gut is correlated to many chronic health conditions, it becomes important to consume foods in an easily digestible format, and cooked foods allow for easier digestibility.
Cooking vegetables can break down cell walls making it easier for your body to extract many nutrients. While some nutritional value is lost during cooking, it is important to consider the state of digestive function overall. When digestive function is compromised, such as when leaky gut is present, then cooking foods ensures that nutrients can be extracted from foods.
Raw foods that are still easy to digest include soaked or sprouted nuts and seeds, fermented vegetables, and fermented raw dairy.
Once a leaky gut is repaired, and digestive function is optimal, then slowly adding raw vegetables and fruit back into your diet will allow you to benefit from all those great enzymes!
MYTH #3 - A VEGAN DIET IS THE HEALTHIEST DIET!
A vegan or vegetarian diet is a great way to detoxify your body, and to bring down inflammation. It can work well for some people, but not if you are dealing with a microbial imbalance in your gut, or if you have leaky gut.
Vegan diets rely on a combination of grains with legumes, nuts or seeds to meet protein requirements. The problem with grains and legumes is that they are also high in carbohydrates that will feed pathogenic species in your gut microbiome, and can perpetuate dysbiosis (an imbalanced microbiome). In my clinical practice, I have seen the vast majority of my clients having IgG food sensitivity reactions to a variety of grains, which indicates that the proteins in them aren't being digested properly and are leaking through the gut barrier (leaky gut).
Additionally, phytates in grains (Source) and legumes (Source) bind to minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium making them unavailable for absorption, so a vegan diet will not optimize mineral intake into your body. Soaking, sprouting or fermentation will make minerals more available, but you will still be left with the high carbohydrate content.
You can still have a plant-strong diet that is low in carbohydrates, and that includes animal proteins. Think plant-strong instead of plant-based. If you are vegan or vegetarian for ethical reasons, but suffer from chronic health conditions, then it might be time to switch to an ethically sourced plant-strong diet without grains and legumes.
I hope that you are starting to recognize that some of our commonly held ideas about food don't apply to everyone, and may not be right for you. Availability of nutrients is largely dependent on a food's matrix, which is a combination of a food's nutrients, and non-nutrients, along with their molecular relationship to one another (such as the way phytates bind to minerals). This is a growing area of study, and is helping us to bust common food myths. It's important that you eat in a way that supports your health and that is customized to what is going on in your body, especially your digestive function and gut health.
Happy Healthy (and customized) Eating!