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Listening to your body can tell you a lot

In her weekly column, Bradford West Gwillimbury licensed nutritionist Nonie De Long shares how to test nutrition science for yourself
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Dear Nutritionist,

I am confused about some things I read about keto. Fat is high in calories right? How is that healthy? And for vegetarian diets. Some people say they feel much better but others say they don’t get enough protein. And you talk about eating meat as healthy but some nutritionists claim it’s not. Help! How do I know what is correct?

Thank you!

Dear Joan,

Yours is actually the most important nutrition question. I could go on all day about the science behind the keto diet. Or for more protein intake. Others can spew the science behind a vegan diet in their sleep. Your eyes would glaze. You would eventually fall into that coma state we all know and which I have come to call zooming out. And nobody would be any better for all my blathering. The real question is how do we really know the nutrition information we’ve been given is correct? The answer may shock you, but it’s actually very simple.

Listen to your body.

Unthinkable, I know. In an age when we have fallen in love with data as a society, I would advocate for looking inside and not to PubMed for the answer!  But I do. That is exactly what I suggest as a litmus for any scientific ‘data’ we come across. You see, listening to our bodies rarely fails to tell us what is true.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-science. But I am opposed to how it is wielded as a weapon today to bash people into submission with this or that new finding. The scientific method was developed to be a perfect tool for each of us to use. To help test of what is true for ourselves - to empower us, not to overwhelm us. If the hypothesis is correct, replication of the test should produce the same outcome every time. That is the beauty of the scientific method.

For example: let’s take the hypothesis that eating more vegetables is good for you If that is scientifically true, you should feel better when you do it consistently for a good period of time. And then you should be able to observe that if other people do it, they experience the same or similar benefit a large percentage of the time. In cases where people don’t experience benefit most of the time you can say, “Oh, that hypothesis is not true.” You could publish it if you were a big company. You could say science shows eating veggies does not make most people feel better. You would, in this experiment given, be 100 per cent correct. And that is why we have so much conflicting science.

You see, it’s good science to look deeper, but when science is used for an agenda (to promote a product or poo-poo another), that doesn’t happen. But in good science we ask ourselves, are there any other variables we can control for? Is that person eating lots of veggies that are canned? Are they eating veggies while drinking 10 gallons of soda a day? Are they eating veggies fried in canola oil? Are they eating veggies with another food product that may be keeping them from experiencing the benefit? Are they washing the veggies down with vodka? Are all their veggies sprayed with glyphosate? Are they GMO? Is the person in a very poor state of health, having just gone through a tremendous crisis? All of this comes into play.

Essentially, we need to ask what else they are eating or doing that could impact their outcome? When we approach science like this it engages us and we become invested in the outcome. We benefit from discoveries that we can say with any certainty. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with whitecoats in a sealed lab somewhere.

Of course that science is important, too. But in nutrition, which is what we’re concerned with here, the best science is the stuff we can test ourselves to be true or false.

I would argue that science has become the new religion. People follow it blindly, even if it doesn’t make any sense at all when scrutinized. They argue it on forums and end relations with family members over disagreements about it. To me that is a religion in the worst sense of the word.

It’s human nature to become passionate about our convictions. To be religious even. We get excited when we encounter truths we find particularly compelling. But this doesn’t mean it’s necessarily accurate. We have to remember that food products are big business today. There are millions and millions of money to be made by promoting products and influencing health policy. It is a very political arena. We already know Ancel Keyes was bribed by the sugar industry to demonize saturated fat and meat products to influence public health policy. And we still suffer misinformation about saturated fat from this today. How much of this is still going on in food policy that we don’t yet know about?

So testing nutrition science for ourselves is imperative. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results. The first year I was instructed to do this by the guy at the supplement store I cured my chronic hayfever and have never had it since. Even after reinitiating the food that I removed to cure it!

Are you achy in the mornings? Try removing caffeine for an entire 10 days to see if it improves. In all forms. Next try removing all grains. Next try removing all sugar. If you’re feeling particularly motivated, try removing all of these plus all alcohol at the same time. If you want to go hog wild with it, remove all processed foods and just eat meat and veggies for two weeks. What were your findings?

You see, all of these can contribute to inflammation, especially if we have hidden sensitivities. But often it’s one or two that are triggering us. And trying this kind of experiment at home can shed a lot of light on what is happening in your body.

Let’s create an experiment we could do for any inflammation in the body. This could be anything that ends with ‘itis’ or any aches and pains. Think rhinitis - your seasonal allergies. Think arthritis - those stiff fingers. Think tendonitis - those aching heels. Think bursitis - that pain in your elbow. Think colitis - that urgency and cramping. Think conjunctivitis - those itchy, inflamed eyes.

We have been told by “science” that we need drugs or even surgery for these and I’m not suggesting they don’t have a place in minimizing and managing the pain. However, if you address the inflammatory culprits in your diet you just may be surprise by what you find! Let me list the most inflammatory foods for you below to help you in your own personal nutrition study!

  1. Vegetable oils
  2. Chemical additives like MSG and colourings
  3. Wheat/ gluten
  4. Grains
  5. Sugar
  6. Hydrogenated, low fat dairy products (high fat, organic whipping cream from Canadian farmers is best if you don’t have raw - as American dairy has hormones added to it that have been shown to stay in our fat cells and be harmful)
  7. Alcohol
  8. Caffeine (this one seems to be only for certain people)
  9. Nightshade vegetables (again, only for certain people)
  10. Anything take out - because it’s cooked in No. 1 and often contains No's 2 through 6

What might a healthy experiment look like? Well, pick your poison and remove it for 2 entire weeks. You can do this by making a meal plan that excludes it so you don’t accidentally get it or not have a plan and goof the experiment. And let your family know so they don’t cause you to goof the experiment. And write in to let me know your results!

I am so thrilled you are asking these questions of the nutrition information you read, Joan. As always, if readers have a health or nutrition related question for the column, I welcome you to write to me here. And if you’re looking for more specific health information, check out my website and blog here. Have a wonderful long weekend!

Nonie Nutritionista