I honestly can't tell you whether going plant-based is the best of the best nutrition plans. Nobody can. But people will. Quite possibly it is an excellent plan. People have differing views and reactions to everything. In my life I've eaten my fair share of ice cream, pizza, edamame, milk, spinach, burgers, bacon, mushrooms, fish, peanut butter, eggs, cheese, bread, cookies, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Most of my friends would call that one big list of allergens and no-way foods. Extra pounds and all, my body has always permitted a pretty broad range of foods to travel through my digestive system. But I have always relied on moderation for most things. This helps me to not have pizza, beer, and ice cream most nights of the week. So, here we are in 2020, a time when it seems acceptable that nothing is normal and things can't get more ludicrous. My gastrointestinal system decided to go insane and revolt on me. At first, I ignored the signs and symptoms hoping for a quick resolution. Two weeks in, I was peaking with intestinal cramps and (forgive my grossness) bloody diarrhea. I went to my doctor and underwent blood tests, poop tests, and a colonoscopy. My medical people were trying to rule out infections versus irritable bowel disease. And that is my very basic story about why I have been studying what it means to eat plant-based versus vegan versus vegetarian versus gluten free versus whatever the hell I feel like eating. Without any clear diagnosis at this point, I really prefer the moderation (eat what I want, when I want) diet. But through this long medical diagnosis time frame, I figured I could help diagnose myself by learning about what foods might be pissing off my system. Dr. Internet has told me it could very well be eggs, cow's milk, soy, and gluten. I live on this stuff so I ordered an at-home food sensitivity test, which didn't confirm any of that or anything else. At any rate, I know many of my smart friends and colleagues have always declared that healing the gut is the best and only way to stay healthy. To this point, I have learned very little in the way of facts that pertain to my condition. But I do now certainly realize what a clusterfuck having GI issues can be. It's honestly a helpless and fatiguing place to be. It alters all daily routines and provides nightmares of unknown health consequences running through the headspace. My empathy goes out to long-term sufferers. I hope to get myself on a clearer and healthier path for the future. I'm working on it.
I am definitely not an expert in gut health so don't take this as a gut health advice blog. My personal research has left me more confused but more aware. Thankfully my symptoms have been slowly improving during this time of medical visits and tests and awaiting next steps. Here are some of the things I have learned:
1. If you are trying to eliminate certain foods that may be responsible for gut un-health, it seems near impossible to know where to begin and how to evaluate your success. I could promote some form of functional medicine evaluation, but I will refrain. Many people swear by functional medicine with its extensive food sensitivity testing, the elimination diets, and supplements geared to the 'root cause' of digestive health and other problems. Many people call it expensive quackery. You can decide that for yourself based on your issues, budget, beliefs, and timeline for a 'cure'. I have not gone down that road for myself. I believe there may be some merit to functional medicine process and expense. At the very least, cleaning out GI system through the elimination diet process for a reset, would be a huge bonus. Personally, I am more comfortable going the more traditional path with consult and diagnosis process being done through my medical doctors. Either way, nothing beats gaining a little education.
2. Once you begin the search for a cure to what ails you, marketing algorithms will haunt every bit of your browsing on Google and social media. I see an ad for gut healing remedies, videos, pills, and diets every few minutes while I'm on my computer. Bottom line is that you decide what to spend money on, whose concepts to believe, what advertising to be swayed by, what research to trust, and ultimately what food to cook for dinner.
3. I believe in the use of Dr. Internet. Dr. Internet can give answers of unknown correctness much faster than getting in to see a doctor. I also believe in urgent care and doctor visits when I really have problems. When bodily systems are running smoothly (no pain, no stomach upset, suffering minimal stress & anxiety, adequate sleep, no headache, being at an ideal or acceptable body weight, having zero hot flashes, having normal bowel and bladder output, and having great libido, etc.) most of us generally don't seek new answers. When any of these bodily systems become impaired is when we high-tail it to Dr. Internet for answers. For heaven's sake, somebody else must have gone through what I am going through and have a great answers to my questions! Sorry, this blog will not give you any answers.
4. When our bodies send alarms, it is scary. You may be fine one moment then researching the 10 best diets to decrease inflammation in the next moment. You may have walked 3 miles without incident one day, then researching cures for low back pain the next day. You may interconnect things enough to realize that if you can decrease your inflammation, you can also reduce your low back pain concurrently. Keeping our bodies in check is certainly trial and error. The most rigorously tested and researched gold standard medicine for migraines may just cause itching and diarrhea for you.
5. Gastrointestinal symptoms are frustrating beyond belief and trying to find 'cure-alls' is just impossible. Do you go gluten reduced, strictly gluten free, corn free, dairy free, nut free, soy free, sugar-free, animal product free, egg free, lactose free, anti-inflammatory, FODMAP, protein free, protein full, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, omnivarian, paleo, blood-type diet, south beach diet, mediterranean diet, raw food diet, low carb, intermittent fasting? The options are endless. So, start with a goal (like weight-loss, decrease inflammation, decrease inflammatory bowel symptoms, anti-cancer, athletic performance, or brain health) then do your research on what specifically might be a good nutrient-rich plan for you.
Disclaimer: J. Schumann Physical Therapy/PinPoint Wellness has an affiliate marketing relationship with various companies. This blog contains affiliate links through which, if you shop, J. Schumann/Pinpoint Wellness will receive a small commission at no cost to you the consumer. All questions about specific products, uses, and dosages should be directed to the maker of the product. Statements regarding CBD have not been evaluated by The Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.