Why do we feel better if we completely change our diet, whether to vegan or extreme carnivore?

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Usually people who completely change their diet feel – and indeed are – very much better for the change.  Cholesterol levels drop,  they get more energy, their skin colour improves, they lose some weight.  If they have chosen to go vegan or vegetarian, they naturally become passionate about their diet and utterly convinced that eating flesh can only cause harm.  The principle reason why people feel better immediately following a major change of diet is mainly to do with food intolerances.  The above video is about 3 minutes long and does  cover some of the main concepts fairly succinctly.  Towards the end of the video,  Carolyn Martinelli talks about the importance of varying the foods we eat each day, a subject I also know to be true, and a subject that many choose to ignore.

Inevitably, when going through the days eating events with a new client, their food choices show remarkably small variation.  The same thing for breakfast, same snacks and little variation at lunch.  Each day sees the same parade of bread, pasta, dairy, tomatoes, chicken, salmon or tuna.  In the course of normal digestion, the gut wall gets damaged and should repair itself.  There are substances in grains (particularly wheat), unfermented soya, unsoaked nuts and under cooked pulses called lectins.  These bind to the gut wall and prevent essential repairs.  As a result we all end up with a leaky gut through which large molecules escape. With the small variation of diet so common, the body builds up an intolerance to these food stuffs, and this, very slowly, builds up a huge variety of symptoms – the end result is instead of being in the pink, we have slowly become a rather weedy green.  So when we get a call to arms from, say, a high cholesterol reading, or a photo of ourselves taken on holiday in which our true magnitude is revealed, one course of action is to entirely change the diet.  And initially we feel very much better and so on.  A prime reason for our sudden increase in vitality is due to stopping eating those foods we ate everyday.  So if an Atkins type diet is chosen, then we lose the bread and the pasta, the tomatoes and the daily banana.  If we go vegan, we lose the meat or fish that we were having such a hard time digesting – protein digestion needs good levels of HCl in the stomach, and this drops with age and increasingly poor digestion.

But with the new diet, as time goes by, health very slowly declines due to the lack of variety again.  For good health, we all need copious amounts of vegetables.  For good health, we all need to eat meat and fish.  And we all need to eat healthy fats (not sunflower, margarines or spreads). Stop eating any of these for any length of time, and we can only go downhill.  Prime reasons for eating plenty of vegetables: vitamins, fibre, anti-oxidants.  Prime reasons for eating meat: Vitamin B12, minerals, complete proteins.  Prime reasons for eating fat: immune function, eicosanoid production, satiety. We all need all these things every day.  And we need to digest them well.

In conclusion: a short term complete change of diet may give temporary relief.  But for long term health, we need a complete diet with as much variety to it as we can get our bank accounts to handle – and if things have gone awry either health wise or weight wise, effort is good when put into working out why we feel so tired all the time, or why we seem to be getting fatter and fatter, with the first investigation being digestion.  Not statins or weird diets.

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