Ask the Expert: Bite by Bite

In this edition of Ask the Expert, Kripalu’s Lead Nutritionist, Annie B. Kay, answers your questions. An integrative dietitian and a Kripalu Yoga teacher, Annie is the author of the book Every Bite Is Divine.

What would you recommend as a good diet for someone who is vegan and has IBS?

I invite those with IBS to try the experiment of eating gluten free as a starting point. Nutritional science research suggests that up to 40 percent of people have some level of difficulty digesting gluten, and if you have an IBS diagnosis, that risk skyrockets. Try it for 30 days. And don’t think of it as, I’m never going to be able to eat my favorite foods again. Think of it as collecting data. Even if you do find you’re sensitive to gluten, most people can tolerate a little bit of gluten.

You may not notice the full benefits for as long as six months, but you may notice a significant difference before then. Then you can determine whether eating gluten free is a lifestyle choice for you, or if you want to try reintroducing gluten. About half of those with IBS who go gluten free find that it’s a miracle cure.

What kinds of tea have the most beneficial properties?

It totally depends on who you are and your particular needs. That said, for most of us, green tea is looking good. It contains a number of phytochemicals that are health enhancing, potent anti-carcinogens and anti-inflammatories, and protection for men from prostate cancer. Both green and black teas have a chemical called L-theonine that’s enlivening without being agitating. If you’re a coffee drinker and you have multiple cups a day, you could try switching over to green tea after one cup of coffee.

What are the benefits of eating a raw diet?

One big benefit is that when you’re eating a raw diet, you’re eating a plant-based diet. You’re minimizing the chemicals you’re taking in and the metabolic load that your body has to handle. In addition, the less you cook food, the more phytonutrients and vitamins stay intact. Plus, you’re keeping your digestive enzymes working: cooked food is easier to digest, so people who eat a highly cooked and processed diet tend to be those who need digestive enzymes.

The risk of a raw diet is food fundamentalism. There’s something about human nature—we have a hard time staying the middle path. We can fall in love with the purity of this kind of diet and become malnourished. The best diet is a plant-based diet with some healthy source of protein—one serving a day of animal protein, fish, soy, maybe full-fat organic yogurt. In nutrition, we learn over and over that too much of anything, including restrictions, is too much. It can create as many problems as you think you’re solving.

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