We are all creatures of habit and we like routine, especially when it comes to meal times. Breakfast time in particular is a time when we often quickly grab the same old cereal and milk or toast usually because we are in a hurry and don’t have time to think too much about it.
I am aware of many people who prepare the same kale smoothie or juice every morning, believing it is the best thing they can do for their health. Yes, green smoothies are fantastic, as they are rich in nutrients that are going to be amazing nourishment for your body, but for some people, it can become problematic if you have that same green smoothie every day. One of my clients had ongoing issues with nausea. It was only when she took a break from her morning smoothie that she realised it was contributing to the problem.
Why is this? Unfortunately, the majority of the population has some degree of intestinal permeability or `leaky gut syndrome’ and many are not aware of it, as it can be asymptomatic and can vary in severity. Eating the same food every day (even healthy superfoods) can be detrimental to your health if you have intestinal permeability. This is because repeated overexposure to the same foods every day can cause you to develop a sensitivity to that food, even to healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. Rotating your foods on a regular basis can help with this.
What is Intestinal Permeability (Leaky Gut)?
Intestinal permeability is a condition that occurs because of the development of gaps between the enterocyte cells that form the membrane lining of the intestinal wall. These gaps allow the passage of substances such as undigested foods, bacteria, and metabolic wastes that should be confined to your digestive tract, to escape into the bloodstream. Once the integrity of the intestinal lining is compromised, there is a flow of toxic substances that leak out into the bloodstream which causes an increase in inflammation.
Food particles that are not fully broken down into amino acids, glucose, and fatty acids can leak through the permeable intestinal membrane into the bloodstream. As undigested food particles are not supposed to be in the bloodstream the immune system recognises it as a foreign antigen and mounts an attack (by macrophages circulating in the blood). Specialised immune cells called T lymphocytes are activated to create antibodies (e.g. IgG) against the food allergen for future encounters. This means that the next time the food is eaten, an immune response is triggered, which provokes an inflammatory response in the body (e.g. release of histamine). This is how food intolerances and sensitivities manifest.
The overconsumption of a limited number of foods can often lead to food intolerance reactions, as repeated exposure to the same foods, can trigger long-term activation of the immune response.
Some of the main causes of intestinal permeability are:
Antibiotics and other medications such as corticosteroids and the oral contraceptive pill
Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods
Diets low in fibre
Chronic stress, toxins, and infections
Gliadin protein found in wheat
Some of the most common signs that you may have intestinal permeability are:
Digestive problems such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Allergies such as hay fever, sinusitis, and asthma
Skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and rosacea
Hormone imbalances such as PMS and PCOS, recurring miscarriages, and infertility.
Autoimmune diseases such as Coeliac Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Lupus, Psoriasis.
Depression, anxiety, ADHD, ADD
Chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia
Recurring thrush and UTI’s
Rotating your foods every day is a good idea
To reduce the development of gut inflammation and food intolerances, it is recommended to avoid where possible eating the same foods every day. I always recommend to my clients to have 3 or 4 different breakfast options and rotate these around without having the same thing two days in a row. For example, if you have a green smoothie on Monday, you could have homemade muesli on Tuesday, a berry smoothie on Wednesday (made with different smoothie ingredients) and maybe poached eggs on toast on Thursday. Then Friday is back to a green smoothie again, etc.
To start with rotate foods that are the most problematic to you, such as grains, dairy, tea, coffee, chocolate, etc until you get the hang of it, otherwise, you may feel overwhelmed. Allow yourself to only eat that food in that 24-hour window and then avoid it again for 3 days. Also, focus on rotating those foods you have a lot of, for example, banana in your smoothie, cashew nuts for morning tea, tomatoes for lunch, apples for afternoon tea, etc.
I personally found more benefit from rotating a wider range of foods, including foods I had a mild sensitivity to rather than eliminating these foods completely. I find I might be ok to have cheese twice in one day, but as soon as I try to have more cheese the next day, I start to notice it doesn’t make me feel that great. If I have 3 days in between having cheese, then I am good with cheese.
Often when people eliminate foods from their diet, they often replace it with another food and end up eating a lot of that food as a substitute (e.g. kumara instead of potatoes). This often results in the person becoming sensitive to the replacement food.
Here are some of the benefits of a rotation diet:
Rotation diets may help prevent the development of intolerances to new foods.
Rotating your foods may help to identify intolerances that were not tested or may not be suspected as problematic. According to food-allergy.org `If you eat a food on Monday, for example by Friday when you eat it again the ‘masking’ antibodies your body makes specifically for that food will be diminished. Therefore you will realise you are reacting to it, even though you did not have obvious symptoms when you ate it on a daily basis’ (1). Any foods that you obviously are reacting to need to be avoided for 3 months then introduced gradually using the 3-day rotation plan.
A rotation diet allows you to eat foods to which you have a mild intolerance and which you might not tolerate if you ate them more often.
It helps to promote overall health by encouraging a varied diet.
A varied diet increases microbiome diversity.
It helps your gut heal by reducing the physical stress caused by overeating and consuming the same foods repeatedly.
Having a 3-day gap between eating certain foods allows your immune system to have a break from overreacting to these food proteins which can reduce the risk of autoimmunity.
Planning your weekly menu and keeping a food diary can help you keep on track of what you are eating and can help you identify what may be causing you to have reactions. Food intolerance reactions may not present as obvious gut symptoms. They can manifest as anything from weight gain, skin problems, migraines, depression, joint pain, reproductive problems, and issues with sleep to name a few. Food intolerance reactions are often delayed onset reactions, so may take 24 – 72 hours to manifest as a symptom so they are sometimes impossible to identify. Rotating your foods is a good way to reduce the chances of these food sensitivities occurring.
Please contact me if you would like further information on the rotation diet and how to heal your gut naturally.
(1) How to use a rotation diet, www.foodallergy.org/rotation (Sourced June 2020)