While brainstorming menu options for an upcoming group dinner (pre-COVID) that would accommodate my family’s gut healing diet, we hit a roadblock. Our dear hostess, who loves and supports us in everything, shared that there were no circumstances in which she could give up dairy. Literally none. A life without cream, she maintained, simply wouldn’t be worth living.
Several thoughts flew threw my mind:
- I’m glad there’s more than a love of cream standing between me and the abyss.
- This person has never truly been sick.
From the outside, a gut healing diet free from gluten, dairy, and sugar (not to mention alcohol and coffee) can look like a self-imposed ordeal. As a temporary measure with a fixed end-date, like a cleanse or a January fat-shedding exercise, maybe; But as a long-term, voluntary life-style choice? For most, that’s a hard no.
Making The Switch To A Gut Healing Diet
I get it. There was a time, before my autoimmune disease, when pulling off a hunk of sourdough and dragging it through a slick puddle of red wine sauce finished with butter was my idea of heaven. But once I received my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, I came to understand that certain aspects of my lifestyle were contributing to my illness.
Without realising it, I’d been feeding my body the wrong things, contributing to a leaky gut populated by bad bacteria. The result was inflammation – a cause and symptom of disease – that may have triggered, and was certainly exacerbating, my Hashimoto’s. Unless I improved my gut health and reduced inflammation, I would not – could not – be well. I needed to heal my gut.
Cutting out whole sections of the Standard American Diet (SAD) and old food pyramid is daunting – logistically and emotionally. In both the U.S. and Australia, where I live, society is set up to support mass consumption (in vast quantities) of gluten, sugar, and all manner of processed food-like substances. On a social level, food is a critical aspect of our culture, traditions, heritage, and ritual. The simple act of sharing a meal binds us to one other. Stepping out of the mainstream approach to food was, initially, both onerous and isolating.
Making batches of bone broth, never getting caught out without a healthy option to hand, and trading convenience for a commitment to whole foods that required me to make nearly everything from scratch, right down to my nightshade-free ketchup, felt like a full-time job.
Having people around – what would I feed them? Going to someone else’s place involved bringing a separate meal (and many questions from curious folks). Going out meant holding up the table while I grilled the waiter and sent questions to the kitchen. Sometimes, it felt easier to issue a polite ‘no’ and miss out.
Flip The Script
The gut healing diet that looked so punitive to friends on the outside was transforming not only my physical and mental health (gut health has a direct bearing on mental health) but my identity.
But there’s nothing like results to eclipse inconvenience and strengthen your resolve. My all-new-way of eating gradually became manageable and, ultimately, easy: cravings eased, tastebuds re-calibrated, symptoms receded. My energy slowly (so slowly) expanded. The desperation that drove me to overhaul my diet was replaced by a sense of empowerment. I’d taken action that yielded tangible physical results, as well as some unexpected psychological benefits. I was no longer ‘sick’ or a victim of disease – but was healing.
I became an advocate for my own health and I had agency, which led to a new sense of self-confidence and respect. The gut healing diet that looked so punitive to friends on the outside was transforming not only my physical and mental health (gut health has a direct bearing on mental health) but my identity. It was a deliberate, sustained act of self love.
Once I made this mental shift, everything changed. I realised that:
- Eating for long-term health and vibrancy, instead of sort-term pleasure or comfort, quickly becomes second nature. You don’t even think about it.
- Every meal is a chance to heal or harm – fill your plate accordingly.
- Cravings do, eventually, pass.
- Avoiding foods that make you feel unwell – even foods you used to love – becomes easy.
- Eating foods that make you feel good – even foods you used to hate – becomes easier.
- Feeling good never feels like missing out.
- Time and effort devoted to nourishing yourself is time well spent. You’re worth it.