One of the greatest challenges my patients face when I start working on their digestive health is moving away from a no grain, often low carbohydrate diet to a more balanced, microbiota-friendly diet that also includes wholegrains and pulses. The most frequent question I’m asked is ‘How to tolerate grains after a no grain diet?’
Many people who come to see me for digestive issues have been following a no-grain diet for at least 6 months and, more commonly, over a year. Many of them still have a lot of bloating even when keeping to a no grain and pulses diet and following strict protocols. They struggle to reintroduce wholegrains and beans and many of them end up having more food chemical sensitivities or undefined food reactions and are restricted to a very limited diet. They are puzzled and worried as to why their daily broth and high fat, no grain diet isn’t resolving their gut and sensitivities issues.
This is incredibly frustrating for people as well dangerous from a gut microbiome point of view as restricting the variety of fibres we eat inevitably affects the composition of our gut microbiota with dire consequences in the long run.
Now, I’m not here to give you a simple ‘ten step diet’ and you’ll be ok type of spiel. There is no such thing. Some people experience bloating because they have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), others have dysbiosis (gut microbial imbalance) and others poor upper digestive function or Celiac’s disease.
However, there is one thing that all digestive issues have in common: inflammation and an upset ecosystem.
The key to regaining the ability to eat a varied diet (that includes healthy wholegrains, beans and lentils) is to first address the cause of the gut imbalance and secondly to restore the gut ecosystem and stop the inflammation.
Addressing the cause is usually quick – for example, you can get rid of the bacterial overgrowth in SIBO in 2-4 weeks and the same goes for some parasites like Dientamoeba fragilis and Giardia.
However, restoring the entire ecosystem, removing the inflammation and reinstating an appropriate gut motility usually take a long time. It took me two years after stopping a strict no grain, no starch and no pulses ‘supposedly’ healing diet to restore the right microbiota in my gut that would allow me to enjoy wholegrains and pulses again.
I did this with specific prebiotic fibres, lots of herbal and nutritional anti inflammatories, strain-specific probiotics, a highly targeted abdominal massage and a gentle reintroduction program.
I can now eat and enjoy all wholegrains (though I do not eat gluten containing ones) and pulses on a daily basis with no bloating or pain whatsoever.
Grains are NOT the problem. A poor digestion is.