My diet is good, could I still have nutrient deficiencies?
If you think that a nutrition programme can only help people whose diets are abysmal, you’re wrong. People phone the clinic to ask me how nutritional therapy could help them when their diet is already pretty squeaky clean - or fairly close to it! I tell them that nutritional therapy isn’t about eating a perfect diet - it’s about finding the perfect diet for you. For some it’s lower carb, for others it’s gluten or dairy free, for some it’s meat-heavy and for other’s it’s vegan. It’s about studying the details of your health history and lifestyle and working out what your body needs. There is no one diet that will suit everybody.
Lethargy, sluggishness, poor concentration and low mood are some of the many signs that your diet isn’t working for your body. It might be that lifestyle and health factors have collided, leaving you needing a higher level of nutrients, or digestive issues affecting nutrient absorption.
Here are the top four reasons why your current diet may not be working for you:
- Lifestyle factors.
It could be intensive exercise, long working hours, late nights, smoking, birth control pills, other medication or past health issues - any of these can mean our body’s mean additional nutrients to stay on top of health. I know very few people who claim to live a stress-free existence. It may be that supporting your body’s adrenal function, the system that helps us to adapt to stressful situations could be a key part to maintaining good health. You can do this by ensuring high levels of vitamin C, B vitamins and the right levels of omega 3 in your diet. Birth control pills overtime can deplete zinc and B6 leaving you mentally and physically compromised. Smoking is a huge nutrient robber, the presence of cadmium, copper and other heavy metals found in cigarettes will build up in your cells and diminish levels of beneficial minerals over time. Environmental exposure to heavy metals and chemicals will also affect your mineral levels. So, it is possible that your job could be contributing to your additional nutrient needs.
- Absorption digestive issues.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and it’s associated symptoms (bloating, gas, pain, stool issues) are more than just a pain and an inconvenience. They are signs that your body is not absorbing and processing the nutrients you are eating effectively. Not only is your body not getting what it needs, there will be symptoms throughout the rest of your body due to your disordered digestive process. Your gut wall can become more permeable, leading to food proteins interacting with your immune system and being filtered by your liver. When this happens food intolerances develop which means seemingly innocuous foods can now cause uncomfortable symptoms and every time you eat them, an immune system reaction is triggered. This means your immune system will need support, an over triggered immune system uses much more magnesium and zinc than one which is balanced. If you liver is overloaded it is possible that can leave you sensitive to chemicals, feeling sluggish and a little nauseous.
Some medications can affect the way that you absorb nutrients too, leading to deficiencies. My pet-hate is proton pump inhibitors, these are often prescribed for acid reflux. By lowering the amount of acid in the stomach, you may prevent reflux but you will also prevent proper digestion.
- Inherited factors.
Although the genes we are born with are out of our control, the expression of them is not. The environmental factors that lead to certain genes being expressed are completely under our control. A common genetic factor influenced heavily by nutrition is an MTHFR deviation. This deviation can lead to issues with processing and detoxing certain nutrients, our methylation cycle can be affected by this. Having an MTHFR deviation doesn’t mean that you will have health issues associated with it, but if your environment and diet aren’t supportive then issues can surface. From raised homocysteine with possible cardiovascular problems to recurrent miscarriages, the health effects of faulty methylation can be vast.
- Food quality.
The quality of the food we eat is generally diminished, our soil is depleted and we process our foods way too much. How many additional chemicals are added to food to make it shelf-stable or to give it a certain taste or texture? Even foods that we buy in a near-natural state have been altered in some way. In many ways, the food that is meant to nourish is actually contributing to deficiencies by making our bodies process additional chemicals and additives. We can try to source good quality foods but there’s so much we have little control over. Finding out what suits you and your body is the best way forward. It may be that sulphites are exacerbating your asthma, or high histamine foods are causing random rashes.
Discovering the right diet for you is the best way back to good health.
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About Sarah Hanratty
Sarah is an experienced practitioner at the Brain Food Nutrition Clinic specialising in the link between gut health and physical and cognitive well-being.