Photo credit julieta pracana

Happy guts

My digestive health has been on a gentle decline for a long time.

A few years ago I stopped eating wheat, which made a dramatic difference: I felt healthier and more energetic than at any other time in my life.

As my sensitivity increased I learned I felt better when I cut out all gluten-containing foods (wheat, oats, rye, barley). It took me a while to adjust my eating patterns but before long I had trained my brain to just treat things like bread, pasta and pastry as Not Food.

In the last year I’ve noticed that the old symptoms are coming back: lethargy, indigestion, weird temperatures, and a lowered immunity to bugs and viruses.

Sad guts = sad me.

Recently I got introduced to Marion Leighton, a specialist general physician with an interest in nutrition, and a member of the Wellington Timebank. In other words, if you’re a member of the Timebank ($5 joining fee), you can get specialist advice in exchange for hours rather than dollars.

I contacted Marion and she told me to keep a food diary for two weeks, then meet her at a bar for a 2 hour consultation.

At that meeting she listened to me describe my history, symptoms, self-diagnoses, anxieties and frustrations — my first experience of feeling like a health professional had listened to me and considered my opinions about my own body to be relevant data in her diagnosis.

Then she took me through Nutrition & Digestion 101: this is fibre, this is where you get it from, this is how your body processes it, this is fat, this is sugar, etc. As she described each component, she emphasised certain parts in response to the symptoms I had described at the beginning: ‘sounds like you need to have more of this and less of that’.

She left me with an enormous sheet of notes (we met at Monterrey, where you can write on the tablecloth), and a couple of takeaways:

  1. exclude any cheap gluten-free replacements (e.g. supermarket bread, pasta, breakfast cereals are just low-quality grains, over processed into imitation food with little nutritional value)
  2. massively increase your intake of leafy greens (inc. spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, etc)
  3. massively reduce your sugar intake (most of us eat about 10x more sugar than the WHO recommends)

She also followed up with a diet plan and a sample of the world’s most amazing muesli.

Marion has a kind of genius that combines scientific rigour with a holistic attitude. For example I asked her for her opinion on the Paleo diet — she replied ‘I think it is nutritionally complete, but I don’t recommend it to anyone because it will have negative effects on your social life. Eating with other people is a key ingredient of your health, and Paleo meals tend to be incompatible with most other people’s habits.’

In the past couple of months I’ve taken her advice and felt better than I have in a couple of years. I feel like I’m much more aware of what’s going on in my body and what I can do about it too.

Okay now you, go join the Wellington Timebank and get you some knowledge!

xox