In the recent years, there have been many new food intolerances, but there could be more to it than we know. RESCU talked to Dr Libby Weaver author of Food Frustrations: What Am I Supposed To Eat. She shares how you can find the best diet together and how we can all listen to our own body.
RESCU: I think one of the most interesting conundrums as you call it in your book, is the confusion around what’s helpful, what’s nutritious, reading food labels but one of the thing that’s become very hot is elimination diets and I would really love you to do some myth busting around elimination in whole food groups when assessing your own nutrition and putting together a diet?
Dr Libby Weaver: The first thing I would say Bahar is there’s no one way for everybody to eat and your body is your best barometer but your heritage plays an enormous role in the foods that you are able to tolerate and not. For example, when I was at university we were taught that everybody needed to follow the Australian dietary pyramid and across the middle of that pyramid, it says everyone needs three serves of diary products a day. It’s so well documented in the major medical journals around the world that 98% of Asian heritage are lactose intolerant. So, why would I say everyone needs to follow that pyramid when there’s a whole group in the world who has no enzymes to actually break those milk products down?
Your heritage plays a role in the foods that you tolerate, and handle. In 1845, the major source of starch for Irish people was potatoes then the potato famine hit, so they grew grains. If we think back to 1845 it’s only seven generations of people ago and as a species we don’t evolve that quickly. If someone’s sitting in front of me going they have gut problems that they cant resolve, they have autoimmune conditions. The first question I’ll ask is if they have Irish heritage, because that gives me some clues as to what their digestive system has predominately been used to dealing with.
Heritage can guide us if we’re suffering but what I want to wrap this first comment up with is, a lot of people blame food for a bloated stomach. Now, process food, the artificial flavours, colour, preservatives, and sweeteners all the artificial substances that are so very new in our food supply. All those things can be playing a role in a digestive system that’s not working properly of course. But so does stress.
RESCU: But I think more than blaming bloated stomach every second person seems to claim some kind of intolerance and then they’re eliminating a whole food group, you touched on dairy and gluten. But there seems to be an enormous movement about eliminating all sugar, and then it was popular to eliminate all fat. So I’m curious as a scientist, as a professional and leading voice in nutrition and wellbeing what happens when you eliminate a whole food group if your genetics for example doesn’t require you to do it?
Dr Libby Weaver: There’s no way other than elimination to determine if you’re going to benefit from something or not because the blood tests we currently have are for allergies. Blood tests for an anaphylactic reaction to something is highly accurate and give great insight. There’s no blood test for intolerance, which is why we find ourselves currently in these very murky waters of people blaming foods for symptoms in their body that might not be caused by foods. When we pause to think about it, if someone cuts out of a whole group of food and its unnecessary for them then they’re going to be potentially be missing out on vitamins and minerals that they would otherwise benefit from.
I’m not denying for a second, food can cause all sorts of problems for people but so can stress. When we’re running on adrenaline, when we’re in the fight or flight response, the body gets the message our body is in danger and it diverts the blood supply that is normally so fantastic to the digestive system away from digestion to the periphery, to the arms and the legs cause that’s what’s going to power us to get out of danger. Now when you don’t have a great blood supply to the digestive system, your all-digestive processes are compromised. That can lead to the systems that a lot of people link to food intolerances as well. I’m not denying for a second that they aren’t foods playing a role in gut challenges and other body symptoms but stress is also playing a major role.
RESCU: Where would we go to today, where is a trusted source of advice because there seems to be so many sources? Where do you turn to?
Dr Libby Weaver: You want someone who is very grounded in science, so an integrative GP is someone whose trained in conventional medicine as well as nutritional and environmental medicine typically. That can be a fantastic place to go. I also think it’s about the person understanding science and how the body works because you can fall prey to nutrition marketing.
There are a lot of people out there who are so well intentioned, they care deeply but all they’re telling you is what worked for them. If someone doesn’t ask you an hours worth of questions, about what your life is like, what your symptoms are like, did you get sinus problems, headaches, do you use your bowels everyday, what’s your menstrual cycles like, what’s your menopause is like. If people aren’t asking you those questions, they can’t really advise you about a way to eat. So finding someone I think who is science trained, who understands how the body works, who then has studied nutrition and understands that we cant fight our biological need for B vitamins, for vitamins calcium, magnesium, for iron for example is essential.
But as far as labeling that person right now, it’s really tricky. The ground is shifting though, and I’m always very hopeful that we’ll evolve to find a new group of professionals that is it out there making a difference, giving people really accurate information.
Just before I finish though, I can’t help myself. I do think that so many people have handed responsibility for their nutrition over to other people. I honestly believe we can’t all be nutrition experts but as far as our own body goes, we are. There’s a voice inside us that knows exactly what we need to eat. I think there’s a voice inside of us that knows when we need to go to bed, when we need to get off our emails, so I do think we need to tune into that voice inside of us. We might not always like what that voice says but I do think we have an instinct to what really is right for us to eat.
RESCU: Thank you so much and of course we can get your book online and all book stores coming very soon.
Dr Libby Weaver’s What Am I Supposed To Eat is now available.