Healthy is Not Always Good for You: Veggies Can Hurt
Summer salads go hand in hand with summer six-pack abs.
“I need to eat lots of veggies to look good in that bathing suit. But when I eat a raw veggie salad, I get bloated and gassy, and that six-pack feels buried.”
Does this happen to you? It seems everything we hear is telling us we need to eat a lot of vegetables, increase our fiber content, and that raw is way healthier because it has all the nutrients unaltered by the cooking process.
Eating a variety of raw and cooked foods is extremely important! Believe it or not there are times when eating raw foods is not “healthy”. Often times, vegetables are difficult to digest. Digestion is a chemical reaction that breaks food down into nutrients that the body can absorb and use. Many people do not produce the necessary enzymes to digest these vegetables.
If the body can’t absorb the nutrients, it doesn’t matter how healthy you eat, because the nutrient value to the body is worthless. What’s even worse, is that healthy foods can increase the inflammatory process in the gut.
If the gut is not healthy enough to produce the appropriate enzymes for digestion, eating a raw veggie platter is about as healthy as going for a run with a broken ankle. I often see my patients forcing themselves to eat large quantities of raw veggies, even when experiencing negative symptoms, because of the notion that “vegetables are good for me.” However, if your gut is irritated when eating these foods, to quote Chris Kresser, “it’s like using a wire brush on a bad burn.”
Frequently, the enzymes are not produced because the intestinal lining is damaged. The cells of the gut are irritated and swollen. When this occurs, the space between the cells grow, allowing the undigested food to slip between the cracks. Akin to when food gets trapped between the garbage can and the lining, it can get nasty.
The intact particles will become food for bad gut bacteria vs. for you. The food particles may also enter the blood stream, which can trigger an immune reaction. This inflammatory process can further increase the damage to the gut lining which reduces the digestive enzyme production. The process can continue to spiral downward. This condition is frequently referred to as intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”.
Leaky gut and poor gut function can begin for a variety of reasons. Increased consumption of processed foods, food sensitivities such as gluten and processed dairy, auto-immune diseases, use of steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, frequent use of antibiotics, and high chronic stress levels are all factors in gut dysfunction.
It is important to identify if you suffer from leaky gut, and if you do, begin the process towards healing it. Just like if your ankle is broken you cast it to facilitate the healing process. You have to remove the stressors and support the healing process. Note, I said process, which indicates active participation over a course of time.
Unlike an X-ray of a bone, testing for leaky gut is not as clear as a picture. Frequently is it is determined by symptoms. For a link to test on-line click here.
Working with a Naturopath or a Functional Medicine trained practitioner can make all the difference in determining the right plan for your healing. You can find a functional medicine practitioner here.
There are systematic ways to remove gut irritants and provide a soothing environment for healing. I have found that GAPS and the SCD diet provide a great structure for the healing process.
Both diets are based on the specific carbohydrate diet designed by Elaine Gottschall, initially developed for her daughter with Ulcerative Colitis. It was then further expanded by Natasha Campbell-McBride and used to successfully treat patients with auto-immunity, autism and mental health disorders. To research further check out this website.
The diets both start with six introduction stages to promote healing of the gut lining. Begin by eating foods that are nutritious and non-inflammatory in stages, just like when a baby starts to eat solids. It is recommended to start with what is the easiest to absorb and the most nutritious.
By continuing in a systematic way you can also identify what food triggers that may be continuing to inflame your gut. I highly recommend this book by Hilary Boynton. If you decide this is the right path to take towards healing, this book is your best friend. It breaks everything down in to manageable pieces. And the food is good to boot!
Tips to start healing: Add foods such as bone broth, boiled veggies pureed in the broths for soups, and sauces, sautéed veggies in good heathy fats, sustainably raised grass fed organic meats, boiled and baked. You can also consume small quantities of fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, homemade yogurts (non-dairy to start) for probiotic support.
Supplementation can be added. Probiotics, digestive enzymes, and good quality vitamins are essential at this time. Remember, your body is not absorbing vitamins and minerals from your food. Therefore, it’s essential that the body gets these minerals for building blocks to heal. Working with a practitioner for a customized plan for your specific needs can truly make the difference in successfully healing.
Avoiding processed foods at this time is critical. Processed grains, canned beans, legumes, sugar, (even natural sugars found in fruits) artificial sweeteners, and processed/pasteurized dairy will all contribute to the gut irritation and inflammation.
As the gut begins to heal, it will start to produce the enzymes needed to break down more fibrous, denser foods. The result is less bloating, gas and digestive discomfort. The body can heal itself if you support it. Give your self-time to repair. Just like the ankle we have to start to walk slowly before you can run a marathon.
Roasted Veggie and Kale Salad
- For the salad:
1-2 large bunches of kale
2 large (12 ounces) zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium (6 ounces) yellow squash trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cups diced onion
3 large carrots peeled and cut in to ½-inch dice
1/2 cup avocado oil (or coconut oil)
3 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- For the dressing:
1 cup finely chopped assorted fresh herbs, such as chives, tarragon, dill, chervil, basil, cilantro, and parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the vegetables in a large mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper, to evenly coat.
Spread the vegetables in one layer in a large roasting pan, and roast in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven and allow the vegetables to cool for 15 minutes
- While the vegetables are roasting:
Prepare kale by cutting tough midrib from the leaves. Stack the leaves and cut into 1/2 inch ribbons. Wash.
Blanch the kale. To do this set aside a large bowl of ice and water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water boils, and working in 3 small batches, place the first batch into the boiling water for 30 seconds, remove to iced water using a slotted spoon or spider. Repeat with the last two batches. Drain the beautifully, bright green and blanched kale, and spin dry in your salad spinner or over tea towels.
Place all veggies and kale in a large bowl, coat with dressing (remember good fats in the right amounts are soothing for the gut.) this can help with the absorption of nutrients.
Bone Broths soup are also a power house for healing. Thinking of having soup in the summer can be a bit unusual. Here is a link to a summer-time cold nourishing soup:
Chilled Carrot Curry Soup.
Leaky Gut Links:
Contact Battleborn Health for more health related questions.
This article originally appeared in the July issue of Live, Love, and Eat Magazine.