Response to BBC Horizon programme Jan 2017
This week Horizon on BBC2 reviewed the rise of the Instagram foodie star; the leaders of ‘clean’ eating and new trends in foods such as gluten free, alkaline diets and grain free. The programme gave one shocking case of serious malpractice, a health ‘expert’ in America claiming to cure cancer with a pH diet, sadly with fatal consequences. However, the main targets of the programme (all women BTW) were attacked for encouraging us all to eat more vegetables.
It was a shame the programme ignored food intolerance (especially gluten) and seemed to say ‘since drugs have been proven to tackle illness let’s just ignore the impact of diet on your body’. The doctor presenting the programme had no interest on how food can be used to tackle health conditions, despite growing evidence to the contrary. (For example, the DASH diet has been proven to turn around hypertension, and changes to diet can reverse Type 2 Diabetes.)
‘Deliciously’ Ella Mills quite rightly said in the programme if you’re calling some foods ‘clean’ then obviously other foods are considered ‘dirty’, and that isn’t a healthy way to look at food and may lead to disordered eating patterns. Putting so many rules around food, and taking the enjoyment out of eating isn’t a healthy way to be. The ideas around healthy eating championed by many of the big food bloggers (like Honestly Healthy, Hemsley sisters and Deliciously Ella) are mostly plant based, or significantly increasing vegetables, and including healthy fats to our diet – not that radical if these recipes are used as a basis for your diet rather than a strict rule book. We were told there is no evidence for eating more whole foods, vegetables, and to concentrate on these foods is just a fad. It seemed to want to shame us for increasing vegetables, focussing on fibre etc.
Gluten Free Eating
Dr Giles Yeo challenged gluten intolerance in the programme and the claim was that most people should not, and therefore do not, have a problem with gluten. They claimed gluten intolerance was a fad, and only a tiny proportion of people need to omit gluten. Many people feel better for not eating gluten, whether it’s a recognised intolerance or not, and research is starting to recognise the impact of food intolerance.
The Horizon programme interviewed Dr Alessio Fasano, an expert in coeliac disease and leaky gut who has written many books on the topic. He stated gluten can only be harmful IF the following conditions are also present:
- Genetic predisposition
- Immune dysfunction
- Leaky gut
- Microbiome imbalance
Of course, people with strong immune systems, who have excellent digestive health, and no genetic mutation in processing gluten, can digest it very well, and have no problem with bread, pasta and cakes. HOWEVER, a lot of people with health conditions such as IBS, or other chronic conditions, have at least one of these issues, which may explain why some people can, and do, feel better without gluten. Our immune system can become impaired due to chronic stress, a diet low in nutrients, fibre or protein, and high levels of alcohol, processed foods or sugars. Leaky gut and / or an imbalance of gut microbes is also very common with a diet low in fibre, nutrients and protein, a history of antibiotic use or high levels of alcohol, processed foods.
Taking out gluten from your diet should only be done with careful throught. Just swapping out bread, cakes and pasta for gluten free variants will reduce essential nutrients, however, there are other ways to eat! Talk to a nutritional therapist if you want to make some changes to your diet.
Qualified Nutritional Therapists
The programme also raised a concern with Instagram food celebrities who are not qualified registered nutritional therapists or dieticians, giving people advice on what to eat, or claiming there is one way to live (their way).
Naturopathic Nutrition is all about looking at the whole person, and their individual lifestyle, diet and health background to identify a healthy diet for each individual case. I studied for 3 years and I’m registered with BANT (The British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and CNHC (Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council). Registered Nutritional Therapists are recognised by the Professional Standards Authority to be as competent as other traditional healthcare providers. It has been recognised that they can make a difference by working together with healthcare providers as part of multidisciplinary teams under NHS commissioning.
As a member of BANT I continue to prioritise professional development, I’m an assistant supervisor for the College of Naturopathic Medicine and attend courses and training to deepen and expand my practice.
If you want to talk to someone about changes to your diet, do look for a BANT registered Nutritional Therapist who is committed to industry guidelines. You can contact me for a quick call to see if nutritional therapy is right for you – emailor call 07812010412.