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Trust Your Gut by Gregory Plotnikoff MD & Mark Weisberg PhD (2013): IBS and digestive problems – What to eat and foods to avoid

Trust Your Gut - book by Gregory Plotnikoff MD & Mark Weisberg PhDTrust Your Gut (2013) is a book on healing IBS and other chronic digestive problems without drugs –

  • Keep a food and symptoms diary to understand your reactions
  • Most common reactive foods are: wheat, dairy, corn, nightshades, legumes
  • FODMAP diet is an alternative: also consider Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic approaches
  • Test reactivity with elimination and rotation diets

Food testing is a small part of the book – it also suggests you observe other lifestyle factors and use neurohormonal retraining to rewire the gut-brain reaction, amongst other recommendations.

Below is a description of the food recommendations in the book.  Assessing foods | Reactive foods | Testing reactivity | Foods that may help | Diet for sleeping.  There’s a lot more in the book.

Get a copy of Trust Your Gut for details of the CORE program, suggestions on how to observe and react to non-food triggers for IBS, and how to solve them

The reasoning behind Trust Your Gut

The brain does not distinguish between what is physical and what is psychological. It creates the same neurohormonal responses either way. Your chronic gut problems are signs that your system is out of balance. Instead of killing the pain with a pill, the authors want you to observe the pain and try to understand what it is telling you.

Trust Your Gut diet plan – food list

There isn’t a single set of recommendations – the authors ask you to identify what’s troubling you personally, and then check and address it.

Assessing foods | Reactive foods | Testing reactivity | Foods that may help | Diet for sleeping

First, assess how you react to foods

Food and symptoms diary

Keep a food and symptom diary for at least 14 days. Include: date, time and detailed description of food and drink, time and presence of symptoms (digestive system and general), duration of symptoms, degree of interference with daily activities.

Regular diet

Level 1 awareness: When following a regular diet, note in your food and symptom diary and be aware of how much of your food is processed, or has empty calories:

  • Daily servings of vegetables; fruits; processed grains (flours, breads, pastas); high fructose corn syrup HFCS, concentrated sweeteners, artificial sweeteners; caffeine; dairy, by type (butter, milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese); hydrogenated vegetable oils
  • Calories from nonalcoholic beverages; alcoholic beverages
  • Weekly servings of fast food; fish; lean red meat

Dietary ideals

Level 2 awareness: Check these for dietary ideas for those who are not vegan or vegetarian:

  • Daily servings of antioxidants: blues and purples (all dark berries including blueberries, bilberries, blackberries); reds (bell peppers, cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, raspberries); orange (autumn squash, bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes); yellow (bell peppers, zucchini)
  • Daily servings of cruciferous vegetables: bok choy, broccoli, broccolini, broccoli rabe, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards
  • Daily servings of non-dairy sources of calcium: almonds, beans, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, dark leafy greens (bok choy, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens), dried figs, okra, tahini, tempeh
  • Daily servings of traditional grains: buckwheat, quinoa, millet, teff, wild rice
  • Weekly servings of: avocados and olives; extra virgin olive oil for cold cooking, dressings, dips; fermented foods (sauerkraut; lacto-fermented pickles, beets, or onions; unpasteurized yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, miso, natto, tempeh); high oleic acid sunflower oil or coconut oil for hot cooking; mercury-free fish; organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-, hormone-, and pesticide-free beef, lamb, poultry

Vegetarian diet

Level 3 assessment: Standard vegetarian diet with no dairy, not meat:

  • Daily servings of complete protein: egg, quinoa, or a combination of beans, grains, nuts, and seeds as well as supplements including tahini. Note: soybeans and legumes are low in amino acids tryptophan and methionine, both of which are crucial for mood, energy, and sleep, so they are not listed here. Grains, nuts, and seeds are low in lysine, which is crucial for tissue repair, hormone production, and vitamin B6 function for serotonin production, so supplement them with other forms of protein
  • Sufficient protein: aim for at least 0.35 grams of protein per pound of weight for adults
  • B12: nutritional yeast, fortified cereals, vitamins
  • Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: spirulina and other algae for DHA; walnuts and flax seeds along with long-fat diets for EPA production
  • Iron (for menstruating women or anyone with iron loss): blackstrap molasses, cooked soybeans, lentils, lima beans, quinoa, spinach, swiss chard, tempeh, tofu

Reactive foods

Most common foods for adverse reactivity

The most common foods for adverse reactivity are:

  • Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Corn
  • Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers – including spicy and bell peppers)
  • Legumes (all kinds of peas and beans, including soybeans, lentils, and peanuts, but not cocoa or coffee beans)


Some people have cross-reactivity with environmental allergies

  • If you get birch pollen allergies in the spring, you may have reactivity to apples, carrots, celery, hazelnuts, peaches, pears, raw potatoes
  • If you get grass allergies in the summer, you may have reactivity to tomatoes
  • If you get ragweed pollen allergies in the late summer, you may have reactivity to bananas, melons including watermelon, tomatoes
  • If you get mugwort allergies in the fall, you may have reactivity to apples, broccoli, carrots, chestnuts, celery, hazelnuts, kiwi, peanuts, peppers, sunflower seeds, and some spices including parsley, caraway, cumin, coriander, fennel, and anise
  • If you get latex allergies, you may have reactivity to apples, avocados, bananas, carrots, celery, chestnuts, kiwi, papaya, potatoes, tomatoes

Nickel allergy

If your skin reacts to jewelry (redness, itching, scaling or small blisters, but not with sterling silver or 14kt gold), you may have nickel allergy. Avoid foods that contain nickel as they may cause the same reaction in your intestines:

  • Nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, walnuts
  • Seeds – sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds
  • Legumes – beans, peas, soy beans including tofu, soy sauce
  • Grains – bran, oatmeal, oat bran, muesli and similar cereals, whole wheat or multigrain breads
  • Fruits – dates, figs, pears, pineapple, prunes, raspberries
  • Other – chocolate, licorice, marzipan, shellfish (prawns, mussels), canned foods, foods cooked in stainless steel (especially with acidic foods like tomatoes, lemons)

Low-FODMAP diet

Alternatively, foods high in FODMAPs may affect you (Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyls). Note that this is in many ways opposite to other suggestions in the book – don’t exclude everything!

  • The theory is that these carbohydrates are difficult to digest, so they ferment in the intestines causing an excess of liquid and gas
  • High FODMAP foods to be avoided are: high-fructose foods such as apples, cherries, magno, pears, peaches, watermelon, honey; lactose-containing foods like milk, soft cheeses, and yogurt; all sorts of legumes; high-fructose corn syrup; alcohol sugars like sorbitol, xylitol, malititol, erythritol and isomalt; grains such as wheat and rye; a wide range of vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, avocados, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, garlic, jicama, leeks, onions, peas). If you test a food and it doesn’t cause a reaction, there’s no need to exclude it if it’s on this list.
  • Low FODMAP foods that are encouraged include: low-fructose fruits like bananas, grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges; maple sugar and white sugar; vegetables ranging from peppers, carrots, and celery to eggplant and tomato; oatmeal and spelt grains. Fermented milk products are okay.

Test reactivity with elimination and rotation diets

Eliminate all suspect foods for a minimum of two weeks (elimination diet) and then carry out challenges one at a time (rotation diet). The focus of the elimination diet should be to identify any foods that appear to cause you intestinal distress – either allergic or adverse reactions.

  • Work out which foods you think you’re reacting to. The five most likely suspects are wheat, dairy, corn, nightshades, legumes. Although uncommon, some people may be very reactive to citrus foods. You might also consider perspectives on adverse food reactions from traditional Chinese medicine, and Ayurvedic medicine.
  • Eliminate these foods for 2 weeks. After clearing potentially problematic foods via the elimination diet, the rotation diet slowly puts foods back in. Introduce one element of one food group per week (wheat, dairy, corn, nightshades, legumes, or citrus). The first two days of the week, aim for 3 daily servings of the food group and then resume a more normal pattern. During this time, center and observe your body’s reactions. If your body says “Yes, great!” you’re ready for another challenge in 5 days. If your body says “No, stop!” then stop the food and wait 12 days before introducing a new food

Foods that may help

  • Add these foods to your diet to supplement your body’s nutrients and healing agents naturally:
    • L-glutamine: beef, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products, wheat, cabbage, beets, beans, spinach, parsley
    • Cysteine (not NAC): animal proteins, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, broccoli, red peppers, onions, bananas, garlic, soy beans, linseed, wheat germ
    • Zinc: shellfish, red meats, wheat germ, wheat bran, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
    • Quercetin: black and green tea, apples, citrus fruit, onions, red grapes, tomatoes, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, berries
  • Adopt a prebiotic-rich diet to support the growth of healthy bacteria
    • Fermented vegetables and cultured foods: curtido from multiple vegetables; sauerkraut and kimchi from cabbage; cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir, lassi, and leban from dairy; tofu, miso, natto, shoyu, tamari, and tempeh from soy
    • Foods containing prebiotics: vegetables and fruits: artichokes, asparagus, bananas, burdock root, chicory, dandelion greens, eggplant, garlic, honey, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, onions, and legumes including peas and soybeans
    • All soluble and insoluble fiber sources; carrots, apples, oranges, barley, nuts, flaxseed, beans and peas, the beta-glucans found in baker’s yeast and medicinal mushrooms as well as psyllium husk
    • Commercial prebiotic supplements, including but not limited to products with inulin-type fructans, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS), and larch arabinogalactan
    • Probiotics should be taken with cool, unchlorinated water (chlorine in tap water kills bacteria), at least 30 minutes away from warm food or drink

Help yourself sleep with dietary choices

  • Max out on protein during lunch, and eat less protein at dinner
  • Aim to finish eating and drinking at least a couple of hours before it’s time to go to sleep
  • Stay away from caffeinated drinks (coffee, certain soft drinks, energy drinks)
  • Alcohol is a sleep disruptor – you can fall asleep, but you don’t necessarily stay asleep all night
  • Don’t eat dinner very late, and don’t eat in bed

Health benefits claimed in Trust Your Gut

The diet in this book claims to reduce the risks for: abdominal cramping, abdominal spasms, appetite concerns, bad breath, belching, bloating, brain fog, burping, congestion, constipation, diarrhea (urgent and frequent, even incontinence), alternating diarrhea and constipation, dysbiosis, dysfunctional bowel, esophagitis, fatigue, fluid retention, food avoidance, food craving, food intolerances, gas (frequent, bothersome, noticeable), GERD gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastritis, headaches, heartburn, hiccuping, inflammatory bowel disease IBD, irritable bowel syndrome IBS, mood swings, mucus in stools, nausea, reflux, stomach upset, ulcers, undigested food in stools

As always, this is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical diagnosis or treatment for a medical condition. Consult your doctor before starting a new diet. This page describes what the authors of the diet recommend – Chewfo is describing the diet only, not endorsing it.

Get a copy of Trust Your Gut for details of the CORE program, suggestions on how to observe and react to non-food triggers for IBS, and how to solve them
Buy now from Amazon
Also see http://trustyourgut.com/.

How has this diet helped you? Please add a comment below.

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