The trouble with many so called nutritional therapists is that they don’t have to give evidence based advice.
They can pretty much tell you anything they like and sell you any expensive supplements they like, because they aren’t going to get struck off any regulatory body if what they are advising is a bit short on evidence.
One of my favorite pseudoscientific claptrap* diets is the Gluten Free, Dairy Free diet.
This is ‘diagnosed’ using strange tests involving black boxes, crystals or finger prick blood tests.
Now before I explain the claptrapness of this, I should first state that there is a genuine condition of intolerance to Gluten(the protein in grains like wheat, barley and rye that gives it springiness).
This is called coeliac disease and requires a lifelong gluten free diet. Coeliac Disease should be identified by your GP and confirmed by a gastroenterologist.
Lactose intolerance also exists – some people lack the enzyme to break down this milk sugar, or may temporarily stop producing it after damage caused by a gut infection.
If you suspect you may have either of these, please talk to your doctor. They cannot be diagnosed by a nutritional therapist, nutritionist or high street ‘allergy specialist’. There are home testing kits for coeliac disease available at pharmacists, but your GP can do a much better test for for free.
But what often happens is that someone goes to an ‘allergy specialist’ at the local health food shop who has waved crystals, put your hand on a black box, done the an ancient intolerance dance around you, or even taken a fingerprick of blood to test and proclaimed you must cut all gluten and dairy from your diet.
This will solve every illness you have, and also give you more energy and lose weight into the bargain. Excellent you think, an answer to all my ills for only fifty quid, bargain. Maybe that’s where my magic wand has got to now I think of it. . .
So what happens next? Well you go away, possibly clutching a diet sheet in your hand, and start the mammoth process of cutting some pretty major food groups out of your diet.
First to go is the cakes, biscuits, pies, sweets etc as they all tend to contain either a gluten containing grain or dairy. Hopefully you’re excellent diet sheet will contain all possible sources of them, so that you can check food labels as well.
And wouldn’t you know it, pretty much all processed food has one or the other in it as an additive or thickener. So what can you do now except cut out all junk and processed food, and start cooking your meals from scratch. Even your lunchtime sarnies have to go in favour of a baked potato or rice salad.
Then a miracle happens – you start to feel quite good, your stomach is less bloated and you even start to lose weight. This is it, your weight problem, tiredness and possibly ill health are all down to a food intolerance.
Excellent you think, an answer to all my ills for only fifty quid, bargain. Maybe that’s where my magic wand has got to now I think of it. . .
But lets look a bit closer at that. Real food intolerance/allergies don’t cause weight gain – they tend to do the opposite as you don’t absorb nutrients as well.
So whats going in? First of all you’ve cut a couple of big food groups out of your diet – restricting what you can eat. This is how fad diets work. If there’s less you can eat you generally tend to eat less.
Then lets look at what you do eat – you are now cooking meals from scratch with fresh ingredients, cutting out a lot of processed and junk foods full of fat and processed starch including most of the stuff you can buy on the go.
That’s likely to make you feel better, especially if you add on all those miles walking round the isles in the supermarket looking at labels.
Now of course if it has a positive effect on your health, what’s the problem? Well if you can manage to eat a balanced diet with these restrictions, then not a great deal.
Calcium is a bit of a concern, but you can replace that with fortified soya or rice milk and fish that you eat with the bones (e.g. tinned salmon, pilchards). But not everyone will even know that they need to do this unless they have been given this advice.
Then comes the downfall of all fad diets – the special occasion. A family wedding, party or meal out where there is absolutely nothing that you can eat.
So maybe you say ‘hang it’ just this once and eat your forbidden foods. And surprise, surprise the world doesn’t end and there is no bad effect, which of course if you are completely sick of rice salads can lead to just going back to your old way of eating.
This is often known as all or nothing thinking “I’ve ruined it now so I might as well give up”.
But maybe you’re sharper than that, and know that one bad day does not a disaster make.
But now the food industry is out to get you again. There is a fine range of ‘free from’ foods available to part you from your hard earned cash. These are fantastic if you have coeliac disease and would have to live forever without cookies without them.
But they contain the same fat, sugar and calories as the gluten/dairy containing products. So your diet can return to an unhealthy one, and you can gain weight just as well with these . . .
So what to do? There is a cheaper alternative, but I’m afraid it’s really, really boring. A balanced healthy diet with meals mostly prepared from freshly cooked ingredients and regular activity will help you trim up and have more energy.
Told you it was boring. I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t pay me fifty quid to tell you that, but at least with my way you’d get a real cake or pie once in a while.
Now don’t even get me started on Candida. . .
* In case you’re wondering the definition of pseudoscientific claptrap is that it’s like any old regular claptrap, but dressed up in language that sounds like plausible science to the untrained (which is pretty much everyone really).
It might even have a reference to a scientific paper to back it up. Never mind that this study was done on 10 people and there’s hundreds of studies that show the opposite.