As an overactive immune response, food allergies and intolerances can manifest physical symptoms that may impact quality of life. Here’s one story of why food restriction can be necessary for your health.
There is a growing prevalence in articles about intuitive eating, non-diet approaches to food and nutrition, and experts advocating for an “all foods fit” mentality. Generally speaking, this is great!
If there’s a way to communicate that no one needs to unnecessarily restrict foods or deprive themselves while giving equal opportunity to both chia pudding and cheesecake, imagine all the people who will be on board! At the same time, it’s important to note that dietary restriction is necessary sometimes. As with much in life, nutrition is not black-and-white and highly individualized.
Sometimes all foods don’t fit, and that’s completely okay.
For example, there are individuals out there who have a tree nut allergy that can induce anaphylaxis and very quickly become life-threatening. There’s no way around it, and tree nuts would not fit in that person’s diet. Ever.
You may be thinking, “That’s the exception, and is an extreme example.” Sure, it’s extreme in the sense that most people won’t have a life-or-death reaction to food. Yet the nature of a severe food allergy does not give more justification to restriction than others who are avoiding foods because of less life-threatening sensitivities or intolerances that make it difficult to manage their medical symptoms.
For myself, there was a point when I began having horrible gastrointestinal symptoms, and was eventually diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). My instinct told me there was a dietary trigger because the worst pain, bloating, and emergency bathroom trips always happened right after eating.
My gastroenterologist told me to avoid artificial sweeteners and any “food triggers” (with no guidance as to how to determine what they were), take a probiotic, and take a prescription. I saw improvement with these changes, but my quality of life was still no where close to where it had been before.
I was always still afraid to eat when I was at school or work, because I never knew if something would trigger severe abdominal pain or extended periods in the bathroom.
One day, enough was enough.
As a nutrition professional, I had heard studies about eliminating gluten that helped alleviate symptoms for certain IBS patients. So on one particular day as I sat crying in my pain, I decided I had to at least try something. So, I stopped eating gluten.
Literally overnight, there was massive improvement. Do you know what it’s like to wake up every day in pain, and then one morning waking up and realizing, “oh my gosh, I’m not in pain!”? I never looked back.
I share this because I don’t want anyone to ever restrict food unnecessarily, but sometimes it is necessary.
It’s an important message to share, because there are true physical symptoms that limit a person from living their life to the fullest. Everyone has a different story, but this is mine and I know I’m not alone in my experience.
For those who may advocate for the non-diet approach and have never experienced necessary food restriction, it’s much easier to make generalizations of what it may be like. However, even if elimination or restriction is necessary, that does not mean one feels deprived especially if it means the opportunity to live life free of physical symptoms. It is a personal decision for everyone to decide what’s worth it to them (with the help of a health professional, of course), but it’s an individual choice and one that doesn’t need to be up for judgement and assumptions.
Mindfulness and intuitive eating can still coexist with necessary food restriction, as long as the intent behind why the food is restricted is understood. For some, including myself, that necessary food restriction can make a dramatic difference, and actually enable them to be more mindful and intuitive towards food and their health.
Do what you need to do to feel healthy and empowered as an active participant in your own life.
Adapted from the original article.
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Lindsey Janeiro RDN, CLT is a virtual private practice dietitian and nutrition expert based in Florida. She specializes in helping individuals feel their best through mindfully managing food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities. Connect with Lindsey by visiting Nutrition to Fit.