In this new age of health and wellbeing, personalised nutrition is becoming a formidable phenomenon. However, many of the theories behind it have been around for centuries. It’s all about catering for the individual: metabolism, body type, family history (or genetics), environmental influences and current state of health. In fact, for most naturopaths and nutritionists, personalised nutrition is rule of thumb.
For many years now, mainstream health advice has subjected us to a ‘one size fits all’ approach, primarily because it makes it easier to sort everyone into generalised boxes. It’s abundantly clear that this is doing more harm than good. A prime example of this is the advice that was and still is, being given by many health professionals in regards to low fat, high carbohydrate diets to lower blood pressure, cholesterol or weight. Not everyone is the same, nor is their absorption and utilisation of macronutrients. As a result, we have a whole generation of people who are prediabetic or already suffering from type 2 diabetes, with obesity more of a problem than ever.
While food can either harm or heal, tailoring food choices to suit individual health challenges & environmental interactions (think stress, city living vs country living, physical work vs office work, etc) can truly provide personalised nutrition, optimising wellbeing in ways you never thought possible.
….there’s a food for that.
Throw a health condition at me, and I’ll tell you “There’s a food for that!”. For example, if you have hypertension, increase your intake of magnesium and potassium rich foods such as leafy greens, nuts or bananas (check with your doctor first if you’re taking potassium sparing medication). Fish and walnuts are rich sources of omega 3 that can help to prevent build up of atherosclerotic plaques and reduce arterial endothelial inflammation and oxidative stress (1).
Struggling with hormonal imbalances? Reduce or preferably cut out altogether processed foods and sugar, and increase your intake of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts to conjugate and remove excess oestrogen from the body (2). Sugar cravings towards the end of the menstrual cycle can be eradicated by making sure you get adequate protein, and adding some cinnamon to meals or shakes.
I recently had someone ask me about supplements to support liver health, and I immediately responded by asking what their daily intake of leafy greens and bitter foods was. Far be it for me to not sing the many praises of the many liver supportive supplements I prescribe, the first line of defence against disease should always be nutritionally based. All the supplements in the world simply cannot replace good personalised eating habits.
Food provides our bodies with energy and nutrition, but equally as important, food provides our body with information. This information then tells our genes what to do and what not to do (3). The right foods will switch on antioxidant production, slow ageing, regulate immunity and reduce inflammation. The wrong foods will increase blood sugar levels, increase oxidative stress, store fat, disrupt metabolism and cause inflammation.
For treating health conditions, the nutrients that provide the vital compounds needed for repair and maintenance are often depleted; this is why particular foods high in specific nutrients are needed for healing. Take for example, dermatitis. Many people experience a flare-up of this condition in winter, which is often put down to the effects of heating and climate control. However, evidence suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be strongly implicated in both acute and chronic dermatitis (4). It is difficult to maintain our vitamin D stores in the colder months, even with supplementation. In my clinical experience, it is not uncommon for my clients to see an improvement in their symptoms using foods that contain vitamin D along with daily sensible sun exposure. Eggs and fatty fish are two such sources of this important vitamin; incidentally they also contain EFA’s, another nutrient vital for skin integrity and healing. Can you see the synchronicity between the nutrients we consume and how it impacts health? It’s not just coincidence.
How do I know what foods are right for my health type?
Good question. You can certainly do your own research, but if you decide to take advice from books or Dr Google, it can be a dangerous minefield. Unfortunately, there is plenty of information out there that is not evidence-based, so make sure you look for references to recent research within the source. If you decide to run the gauntlet, be careful that the advice you acquire isn’t just putting you into a box…remember that everyone is different.
The best way to discover which healing foods are right for you is to ask a qualified naturopath, nutritionist or dietician. These people have very specific training and know which foods will be best taking into account your personal challenges, goals and also any allergies, intolerances, or contraindications. These professionals can provide you with the best possible information directly related to your circumstances, and provide advice to help YOU make educated decisions regarding your nutritional intake going forward.
For further information on personalised nutrition and how it can support your health, or to make an appointment, please contact us.
(1) Swanson, D, Block, R., & Mousa, S.A. (2012). Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Advanced Nutrition, 3(1): 1-7