Therapeutic diets

December 30, 2001 by  
Filed under Database

These are the diets used by the professional naturopathic nutritionist to help individuals suffering from nutrition-responsive health problems.

Anti-Candida diet

The anti-Candida diet is intended to discourage the growth of the Candida albicans yeast. Since most candidiasis sufferers have food allergies, the diet is a modified version of the hypoallergenic diet. In addition it does not permit the ingestion of any sweetened foods or any foods or drinks which are very high in natural sugars, such as bananas, fruit juice and dried fruit. This is because sugar encourages the growth of yeasts.

It used to be believed that mushrooms (which are a member of the fungus family), and yeast occurring in stock cubes, yeast extract, baked products, fermented products like soy sauce and vinegar, or even products containing small quantities of these, like mayonnaise, could encourage the growth of the candida yeast. It is now known that the consumption of killed yeast cannot encourage Candida albicans, and that the aggravation of candidiasis symptoms which was noted by early workers in this field, was almost certainly due to yeast allergy – the candidiasis sufferer having been sensitized to yeast by having a yeast infestation in his or her intestines.

An anti-candida diet will also encourage the consumption of onions, leeks, extra-virgin olive oil, unsweetened soya yoghurt and garlic, all of which help to inhibit the growth of the yeast.

Anti-herpes diet

Because a high intake of the amino acid arginine appears to encourage the herpes simplex virus, while a high intake of the amino acid lysine has the opposite effect, this diet avoids foods rich in arginine and encourages the consumption of foods which favour lysine.

Foods to eat liberally: meat, fish (except shellfish), dairy products, fruit, all vegetables except those mentioned below, butter beans, mung beans

Foods to eat less liberally: maize products and sweetcorn, millet, wheatflour, rye, oats, barley, potatoes

Foods to avoid: All nuts and seeds (their oils are ok), all beans, peas and lentils (except those mentioned above), buckwheat, rice, pumpkin, chocolate.

Blood sugar control diet

There are two types of blood sugar problem: a tendency to excessively high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia, or diabetes) and a tendency to excessively low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). Both types are aggravated by the consumption of foods with a high glycaemic index, that is to say foods which are converted very rapidly into blood sugar. Most of these foods can be identified by their sweetness, such as sugar, honey, bananas, fruit juice, carrot juice and dried fruit. Refined starches like white flour and white rice are also more readily converted to sugar than their whole grain counterparts.

The blood sugar control diet excludes such foods and encourages the use of foods high in soluble fibre like pulses and oatmeal, which help to slow down the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream. It is interesting that orthodox nutritional advice for diabetics has undergone considerable change and is now identical to the advice which nutritional therapists have always given. (Also see Glycaemic index).

Calorie-controlled diets

These are diets which combine the principles of healthy eating with strict rationing of high-calorie foods to promote weight loss.

Cleansing diets (alkalinizing diets)

There are many variations of cleansing diets, which stem from naturopathic tradition. Often based on raw food, they may not be suitable for people suffering from weakness, or a ‘yin’ condition of the body, since raw food increases any excess of yin. The main purpose of these diets is to remove excess tissue acidity, a toxic condition caused by the long-term consumption of too much protein, to correct the sodium/potassium balance, to promote cell respiration and oxygenation, and to help decongest the liver after long-term excess fat consumption, and help it to discharge toxic waste matter.

Protein, when metabolized by the body, leaves an acidic residue. This residue may build up in the tissues, causing difficulties in cell oxygenation and, by promoting free radical damage to tissues and joints, may in the long term encourage the development of degenerative diseases such as arthritis and cancers. Research carried out by Professor Louis-Claude Vincent has shown that sufferers of such diseases often have high tissue acidity levels, as shown by measuring urine pH.

Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, leave an alkaline residue after being metabolized, so cleansing diets mainly concentrate on these, often to the exclusion of all other foods for a short while. For the first ten days to two weeks cleansing diets are often all raw food. After this some steamed vegetables may be added, and some brown rice and pulses (legumes). Some nuts (not peanuts) and a very small amount of olive oil may be allowed, but no other fat. The diet is deliberately low in calories, since it is designed to break up fatty deposits in the liver. Body fats (and lean body tissue) are broken down to release stored energy when calorie intake from food is inadequate for energy needs. To minimize the loss of lean tissue, care must be taken not to reduce the calorie intake too much.

Elimination diet

This is a diet which eliminates suspect foods to which an individual may be intolerant, before reintroducing them to determine the reaction.

Exclusion diet

A diet which excludes certain foods, usually because the individual has been found to be allergic or intolerant to them.

Fasting and mono diets

Fasting is a technique used much more frequently by the more traditional naturopath rather than the modern nutritional therapist. It is based on the theory that if an individual stops eating, the body will have the opportunity to break down and eliminate its diseased parts. Whether or not this is true, it is certainly true that the digestive system will have the opportunity to rest and repair its absorptive ability where impaired, (if this is possible and provided dysbiosis is thoroughly treated first).

The most effective type of fast is thought to be the water fast, in which only water is consumed. Also used are juice fasts, in which carrot or apple juice, for instance, may also be consumed, especially after severe diarrhoea, when the body needs to replenish electrolytes and may be unable to tolerate food anyway. ‘Mono diets’, consisting of eating only one food, such as apples or grapes, are also a type of fast.

Water or juice fasts generally last from four days to two weeks. Mono diets may last up to six weeks. Lengthy fasting must only be prescribed and supervised by a knowledgeable practitioner and never self-administered in the hope that it ‘might help’. People who are severely underweight or suffering from any form of weakness are not advised to fast.

Feingold diet

This diet was developed by the late Dr Ben Feingold MD, an American allergist who spent many years researching the possibility that chemical food additives may be linked to hyperactivity and behavioural disorders. The Feingold diet excludes most synthetic ingredients such as food colourings and flavouring, and also some natural fruits because of their salicylate content to which some children are sensitive.

Although this diet is often successful in treating hyperactivity, its successes may not necessarily be always due to the exclusion of synthetic substances. When such substances are avoided, this often results in the much greater use of fresh foods prepared at home. These may be a great deal more nutritious than the commercial foods normally consumed by the children in question, which could lead to health benefits not related to the avoidance of artificial additives. Clinical trials testing additives against placebo in hyperactive children have led to variable results, which is one reason why this whole area remains controversial. However some studies have shown that additives are by far the most common inducers of behavioural problems and migraine in the children tested.

Few foods diet

The ‘few foods diet’ is a recognized medical technique for identifying problem foods, and consists of hospitalizing a patient, starting him or her off on just a few foods, and then gradually adding more foods, observing which foods seem to set off symptoms when added to the diet. One well known version of the few foods diet is the ‘lamb and pears’ diet, in which the patient is allowed to eat nothing but lamb and pears for a number of days. Other versions are the ‘mackerel and courgettes (zucchini)’ diet, or the ‘cod and cabbage’ diet. In each case the ‘few foods’ chosen are those considered least likely to provoke an intolerance reaction.

It is not advisable to continue with a few foods diet for more than a few days, and such a diet is only given under the strictest supervision. Although useful for identifying definite reactions which occur within 24 hours, it may not pick up on the more insidious types of response.

Gerson diet

This diet is famous for its use against cancer, and many so-called anti-cancer diets are variations of it. Dr Max Gerson was a physician practising from the 1930s to the 1950s who invented what was to be a revolutionary but controversial new form of cancer treatment based primarily on the consumption of organically grown fresh, whole foods and large quantities of fruit and vegetable juices, particularly leafy green vegetables. In his book A Cancer Therapy: Results of Fifty Cases, Gerson wrote that cancer is ‘a very slow, progressing, imperceptible symptom caused by poisoning of the liver and simultaneously an impairment of the whole intestinal tract.’ His treatment therefore aimed to assist liver oxidizing enzymes (now known as cytochrome P450 mixed-function oxidases) and provide extra nourishment in easily-absorbed form (by means of the juices) as well as to enhance the elimination of toxic substances (by means of coffee enemas).

Half a century on, modern science is only now catching up with Max Gerson, as scientists are finding that green vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts really do contain powerful indoles which assist the function of cytochrome P450 oxidase enzymes in the liver. Research also reveals that most cancer patients have some degree of food malabsorption.

Hay Diet

The Hay diet has traditionally been promoted as being effective for weight loss and digestive problems because it does not ‘mix’ starch and protein, thus preventing the body from having to produce starch-digesting and protein-digesting enzymes at the same time. There is no physiological rationale why this enzyme manipulation should help with weight loss. Since a proportion of people do find the Hay diet more effective than a conventional weight-loss diet, this may be because one or more meals a day are low in carbohydrate.

Another explanation may be that many people on the Hay diet avoid carbohydrate meals completely, and eat fruit-only meals, or protein with salad or vegetables. They are unknowingly avoiding some of the most common food allergens and promoters of dysbiosis, such as sucrose, gluten, wheat or other grains. They may attribute their weight loss or health improvement while following this diet, to the non-mixing of starch and protein, whereas the truth may be that their symptoms were due to food allergy and dysbiosis and their excess body weight to allergic fluid retention, and it was the avoidance of the problem foods which helped them.

Doubtless weak digestive organs may benefit from not having to produce all types of enzymes for all meals, but our understanding of the factors involved in digestive disorders have advanced considerably since the development of the Hay diet, and more finely tuned options are now available. In its full form this difficult and complex diet is not a reliable or long-term solution to a weak digestion, and most nutritional therapists do not often prescribe it.

High methionine diet

The amino acid methionine is vital for the supply of sulphur compounds needed for many functions in the body, particularly in liver function and detoxification and in cell membranes. Extra dietary methionine can therefore be particularly helpful for individuals suffering from chemical sensitivities. Methionine is also involved in the control of blood histamine and so can help to prevent allergic reactions as well as to control a type of depressive illness which is related to high histamine levels. Some individuals need extra dietary methionine for these reasons. Certain foods such as brazil nuts, rice and sesame seeds are particularly rich in methionine and can be used to form the basis of a methionine-rich diet.

Hypoallergenic diet

This is often used as a basic diagnostic diet for the first two weeks of a naturopathic nutritional therapy regime. It excludes the four foods which are most commonly associated with intolerance symptoms (wheat and gluten, dairy produce, eggs and yeast) together with a number of dietary items which may cause actual or potential stress to the digestive system, detoxification system or endocrine system, including tea, coffee and chocolate, sugar, salt, artificial food additives, alcohol, saturated and hydrogenated fat and red meat. The diet is usually given in the form of a checklist of foods to eat and foods to avoid, with suggested recipes and advice on food preparation. In some cases individual guidance for meal planning is also given. This diet must be given under supervision since patients who are faddy eaters have been known to adapt it to taste, and to try to exist on a very small number of foods, quite inadequate for their needs.

People who have attempted food elimination without proper professional advice often fail to improve because they are unaware of hidden ingredients in food.

Low carbohydrate diet

This is a technique used only as a last resort by nutritional therapists, for patients with a very resistant weight problem that will not respond to a healthy reduced-calorie, high exercise programme. They must be clinically obese, not merely anxious to lose weight for cosmetic reasons. This diet is based on the premise that if you deprive the body of carbohydrate it will have to convert protein and fat into glucose, to obtain the raw energy material it needs. In the process of this conversion there appears to be some calorie wastage. Clients also feel full more quickly and stay satisfied longer.

A low-carb diet can be very successful but if used for prolonged periods it can lead to acidosis, deydration, loss of lean tissue, and impairment of kidney function due to a build-up of waste products from the breakdown of body tissues. Naturopathic nutritionists take great care when administering this diet, and ensure that the patient understands it is a once-only diet, and after the target weight has been reached a healthy lifestyle with strict rationing of high-calorie foods must be permanently maintained so that excessive weight gain never recurs.

Macrobiotic diet

See Yin/Yang balanced diet

Maintenance diet

A maintenance diet is a diet prescribed for long-term use after a nutritional therapy treatment program. It aims to keep the individual as healthy as possible, and to prevent their original problem from returning, but with the minimum of inconvenience.

The basic principles of the maintenance diet are that 90 per cent of the diet should consist of a variety of fruit, vegetables, pulses (legumes), whole grains or cereals, nuts and seeds daily, and that the remaining 10 per cent can be selected at will, provided that any appropriate calorie restrictions are observed and allergenic foods avoided. The naturopathic nutritionist will also generally recommend that even if the individual is not allergic to wheat, eggs, yeast and dairy produce, consumption of these foods should be controlled. This is because out of all the foods which form part of the human diet, these seem to be the most highly allergenic, therefore as a species we are probably not well adapted to them and may be well advised to take care with their consumption. It is possible that the breeding to which modern wheat and yeast have been subjected (to make lesser quantities go further in manufactured products) and the antibiotics and/or hormones, food colourings etc, fed to laying hens and dairy cattle, traces of which may remain in eggs and milk, may play some part in this poor adaptation. Some children who are severely allergic to ordinary dairy milk suffer no reaction to organic milk (milk from cows fed only traditional food and not routinely treated with drugs). Likewise many individuals who are allergic to modern wheat products can tolerate ancient wheat (also known as ‘spelt’) without problems.

A maintenance diet also requires a restricted intake of tea, coffee, food additives, sugar (including honey), saturated fat and red meat.

The maintenance diet is also suitable for those without health problems who wish to follow healthy eating practices.

Oligoantigenic diet

This is similar to an elimination diet, but excludes more foods. This term is often used in clinical trials which investigate the effects of dietary restrictions on symptoms and behaviour.

Rare food diet

This is a type of elimination diet which only allows the consumption of foods which the patient has rarely eaten and to which he or she cannot therefore have become sensitized.

Raw food diet

Although some naturopaths advocate eating mainly raw food for both preventive and curative purposes, it is important to be aware that a high-raw diet does not suit everyone’s constitution and may even be inappropriate. In particular the condition of individuals with chronic muscular weakness, severe fatigue and other debilitated conditions may rapidly deteriorate on such a diet. Cooking food breaks down and softens the tough, indigestible walls of plant cells, making the starch available for enzymes to work on in our intestines.

Oriental medicine does not advise individuals suffering from any of the conditions mentioned above, or with fluid retention or ‘cold’ conditions of the body to eat more than a small amount of raw food. On the other hand raw food diets may be extremely beneficial for individuals who suffer from hot, inflammatory conditions.

Rotation diet

Nutritional therapists use rotation diets for patients with multiple allergies who would not otherwise be able to eat a varied diet. There are many different types of allergic response to foods, and one of these is a type which only occurs if a specific food is eaten more than once in any four-day period. Why four days, and not three or five, for instance, we do not know. Some believe that it takes four days to clear all remains of a food completely out of the system, and that eating it more than once in that period can overload the body’s ability to detoxify some of the natural chemicals found in that particular food. It is believed that the rotation diet achieves a gradual regaining of tolerance to foods by reducing an excessive demand for specific liver detoxifying enzymes that are required to metabolize specific natural food toxins. If this demand is not met, and the problem foods continue to be eaten, there may be a rise in circulating toxins or intermediate toxic metabolites, which promotes not only symptoms but biological damage. If the load is reduced, there is an opportunity not only for the enzyme systems in question to regenerate, but also for the biological damage to be repaired.

Each rotation diet must be individually devised according to the patient’s own tolerances. The diet will not include foods to which the patient is severely allergic or which always cause an allergic reaction when eaten. Each food in a rotation diet may be eaten only once in any four day-period. Once the patient begins to feel better, this can be modified, and then foods to which the patient has never suffered an allergic reaction need no longer be strictly ‘rotated’, although they should nevertheless not be eaten too regularly.

Specific carbohydrate diet

Devised by digestion researcher Elaine Gottschall, this diet is designed to combat dysbiosis by avoiding those foods which require digestion by enzymes secreted by the gut wall. The production of these enzymes becomes impaired when the gut wall is damaged by bacterial endotoxins and acids. As a result, starches and disaccharide sugars in particular can be poorly digested. Undigested carbohydrates are fermented by undesirable gut bacteria, allowing them to thrive and thus worsening the dysbiosis. The end result can be problems such as an excessively permeable gut (see Leaky gut syndrome), inflammatory bowel disease and food intolerance or allergy. Users of the specific carbohydrate diet have reported being cured of such diverse conditions as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel sydrome, ulcerative colitis and coeliac disease (with restoration of the coeliac’s tolerance to gluten). Bowel toxins can even promote hallucinations and other mental effects, as many coeliac sufferers have reported. By helping to heal the bowel in such patients, the specific carbohydrate diet has reversed some cases of schizophrenia.

Stone-Age diet

This is a type of elimination diet for allergy sufferers which avoids all foods which have entered the human diet relatively recently in evolutionary terms and which man may therefore be less well adapted to: wheat, rice and other cereals, bread, biscuits, cake, sugar, dairy products, food additives, coffee, tea and alcohol. These foods are much more likely to cause allergy/sensitivity problems. Stone Age man lived a mainly hunter-gatherer existence on fresh meat, fish, vegetables, fruit and nuts.

Yin/Yang balanced diets (including Macrobiotic Diet)

These diets are given to individuals whose symptoms suggest an imbalance in yin and yang energies – the energies in the oriental macrobiotic system of medicine which, according to this system, are thought to be at the root of all illness.

Conditions of excess yang are those associated with excessive body heat, inflammations and eruptions. Acne sufferers are often a good example of this. Conditions of excess yang are thought to be much less common than conditions of excess yin in the western world. Yin conditions are those associated with coldness and lack of energy, chest ailments, and fluid retention. They are thought to be linked with the excess consumption of ice-cream, chemicals, drugs and dietary fat and sugar, all of which are considered to be excessively ‘yin’.

A diet aiming to reduce excess yang will avoid high-protein foods, and concentrate mainly on brown rice, salad and fresh fruit, vegetables and pulses (legumes). A diet aiming to reduce excess yin will avoid raw, cold foods and fruit juices, and concentrate mainly on brown rice, porridge oats, cooked vegetables, miso, pulses and a little cooked fruit and fish.

A large variety of diets for the treatment of specific illnesses have been promoted in books and magazines. Unfortunately this ‘one diet for all’ approach will never have more than a hit or miss effect. For best results, diets should always be tailored to the individual’s needs.

These principles are taught by Linda Lazarides at the School of Modern Naturopathy

Linda Lazarides is Course Director of the School of Modern Naturopathy and author of eight books on health, nutrition and naturopathy.

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