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Diet Cures: Do They Work?
When you're trying to lose weight and trim inches off your waistline, it can be confusing deciding on which diet to try. Low-carb, low-fat, raw food and vegan diets all claim to help you shed pounds, but what about their health claims beyond weight-loss? Can special diets actually help treat and manage symptoms of disease? And if so, which diet is the right one for you? Let's examine some popular diet choices trending today.
People with Celiac Disease are advised to adopt a gluten-free diet. Many others with digestive difficulties and inflammatory conditions also avoid gluten. Gluten is a protein found in certain grains such as wheat, barely, oats, spelt and rye. There is some debate about whether or not gluten contained in corn and certain types of rice is also problematic. If you are particularly allergic or sensitive to gluten, it may be advisable to avoid corn and glutinous rice as well.
Specially-made gluten-free breads and foods are often higher in sugars, fats and calories than normal glutenous products. For this reason, many are told to avoid these gluten-free breads and foods if they do not have health conditions that require gluten avoidance.
There is rarely any debate as to whether or not gluten-free diets benefit those with Celiac Disease, but gluten avoidance for other conditions is still not considered mainstream treatment. There are studies that show gluten avoidance is helpful for certain inflammatory conditions. And there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence to support this position.
If you or a loved one has any sort of health condition (from ADHD, diabetes, IBS, to thyroid disease or arthritis) it may be worth a try to give up gluten for a trail period. It has been life-changing for many.
Paleo, Specific Carb, GAPS, Grain-free
Diets like the Paleo Diet, Specific Carbohydrate and the Grain-free Diet limit the types of carbohydrates you consume. They not only ask you to avoid glutenous grains, but all grains. The Paleo Diet also asks you to avoid dairy, beans, and legumes depending on which version you adhere to.
These diets also ask you to avoid processed foods, and eat mainly organic products and grass-fed meats, milks and oils. These diets are not designed to be low-carb, but unless you are careful, your carbohydrate count can plummet without grains. You need to make sure you are eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and other allowable foods to maintain a healthy balance.
Critics of these diets claim the high animal protein and sometimes high fat content of these diets can be bad for you. They also claim that avoiding grains and, in some cases, dairy can cause a depletion in necessary dietary nutrients. Others claim that, genetically, certain people require grains and a higher carbohydrate count in their diets. Certain people have reported a worsening of health while following these types of diets.
On the other hand, there is a significant number of people reporting miraculous health improvements after eliminating grains and adhering to specific carbohydrate-type diets. There are numerous books, websites, and entire internet communities dedicated to the Paleo and other Specific-Carb lifestyles.
It is definitely worth looking into GAPS, Paleo, SCD or grain-free diets if you suffer from any digestive difficulties, mental health conditions, auto-immune or inflammatory conditions. People have reportedly eliminated symptoms of thyroid disease, chronic fatigue, autism spectrum disorders, and many others disorders by following these types of diets.
Vegetarian and Vegan
There are many reasons people choose to go meatless. Some do it for moral reasons. Some do it because eating a meatless diet can be significantly cheaper. Others claim that meat makes them feel bloated and sluggish, but are vegetarian and vegan diets really healthy?
Let's face it; if you spend any amount of time on the internet, you can find evidence to support or discredit the health claims of plant-based diets. There is indeed research suggesting that vegans and vegetarians live longer and suffer from less chronic disease. Vegans and vegetarians often direct people towards 'The China Study' (a long-term study and subsequent book) to support this position. However, others, like the Westin A. Price Foundation, argue that this study is highly-flawed. They promote the inclusion of superior, healthy grass-fed meat for optimal health.
Keep in mind that it doesn't take much effort to find someone whose health has transformed for the better from becoming vegan or vegetarian; the internet and book store is full of them. You can also find people whose health has deteriorated since eliminating meat from their diets.
Critics of plant-based diets say that healthy meats contain an optimal balance of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. They say when you eliminate meat, you are at risk of becoming deficient in some minerals and imbalanced in others. They believe plant-based sources do not have optimal ratios of nutrients and that they are harder to digest because of certain proteins and phytates found in the diet.
Advocates of plant-based diets usually claim the opposite - that meat is harder to digest and inflammatory, and that vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and legumes are adequate enough to meet nutritional needs.
Either way, when you eliminate an entire food group (such as meat, dairy, or grains) it's wise to get proper blood and hair mineral analysis to gauge your nutrient levels and make sure you are not deficient. If you are deficient or are experiencing symptoms of ill-health, but still want to avoid meat, you may want to consider adding a digestive enzyme to help you better digest your nutrients, or adding other supplements to your regime.
Proponents of veganism often say a vegan diet is linked to a better mood, and yet others find mood issues started to develop after switching to veganism. Since vegans and non-vegans both experience tryptophan deficiencies, and serotonin is derived from tryptophan, it's no wonder mood issues are popping up in both populations. Serotonin deficiency is linked to anxiety, depression and mood swings.
Vegan foods high in tryptophan include nuts, seeds, wheat germ and spirulina. Turkey meats are good sources of animal-based tryptophan. If you are eating foods high in tryptophan and are still experiencing mood issues, you may want to consider tryptophan supplementation.
There is certainly no lack of anecdotal evidence to support certain diets and their health-boosting claims. There is often even scientific research to reinforce them. There are many people who have alleviated or eliminated their symptoms of disease by following certain dietary protocols. The problem lies with overzealous advocates who claim a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to diet and lifestyle. A certain diet may cause one person to thrive while another crashes.
People are different, with different genetics, circumstances and dietary needs. Do not be bullied into sticking to a diet that is not working for you. With research, perseverance and a little trial and error, you can find a diet that will optimize your health and meet your individual needs.
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