Something that we like to constantly emphasize here at Functional Patterns is that becoming healthy is not always about adding things (foods, supplements, fitness modalities, etc.) to your life. In fact, the single most impactful thing you can do on your journey to optimal health is REMOVE the things in your life that are preventing you from reaching your goals.
In a previous article we discussed how grains are one of the single most detrimental foods you can eat. In addition to being inflammatory to the gut and immune system, they promote bloating in the intestines that shuts off deep core musculature entirely. To get the full read click here (Grains, The Uncomfortable Truth).
While grains are certainly one of the more troublesome foods to consume, this article will dive into some other foods that may be causing you problems.
What Makes a Food Troublesome?
Below we will briefly explain some important variables to consider that can make certain types of food harmful.
As we discussed in our article about grains, one of the largest issues with certain types of foods is their ability to resist digestion and cause bloating. This promotes both a state of inflammation as well as a physical pressure pushing out on the core muscles.
Some foods contain compounds that physically protect them from digestion while others contain compounds that inactivate enzymes in the intestines. In either case, this can contribute to inflammation in the intestines and further disruption of digestion.
As the cycle of inflammation and poor digestion is exacerbated by the continued consumption of grains and other foods, this often leads the immune system towards a state of over-reactivity. In modern times, this state is often characterized as ‘leaky gut’ and is recognized as a major contributor to autoimmunity (1).
In addition to contributing to an overactive immune system, scientists are now highlighting how inflammatory conditions in the gut may be a major contributor to a variety of diseases including diabetes, obesity, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s (2).
The following are foods you should consider removing from your diet for a period of time to observe if they create improvements in your health.
Top Foods to Consider Removing from Your Diet
Pseudograins include amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, and chia seeds.
Pseudograins are often marketed as being superior to cereal grains for various reasons. For example, quinoa is touted for its high protein content while chia seeds are advertised for their high omega-3 fatty acid content. Additionally, pseudograins tend to have higher levels of b-vitamins and certain minerals.
Although these foods may contain higher amounts of certain types of nutrients while having lower amounts of gluten, they still seem to cause health challenges similar to grains for many people.
Pseudograins still contain gut-irritating and digestion-inhibiting compounds such as lectins, saponins, and phytates.
Lectins are a class of proteins that can contribute to mineral deficiencies, intestinal damage, and have the potential to exacerbate auto-immune conditions. Simply removing foods high in lectins can relieve some autoimmune symptoms (3). Lectins seem to be damaging in higher concentrations and especially problematic for those who already have digestive issues.
A well-regulated gut barrier allows food to pass through only once it has reached adequate digestion. It would also help prevent unwanted pathogens from passing through the digestive tract into the bloodstream. Saponins can cause problems in this regard because they have been recognized to increase intestinal permeability in animal studies. Additionally, saponins have been used in vaccine research to stimulate the immune system by increasing the passage of pathogens through the gut barrier (increasing intestinal permeability) (4, 5).
While this evidence is not conclusive, someone with digestive or autoimmune struggles may consider limiting their intake of saponin-containing foods and seeing if they experience improvements.
Finally, phytates or phytic acid is well known for binding on to minerals and removing them from the body. This is why some consider phytic acid as an “anti-nutrient” – because it takes nutrients from the body as it is being processed through the digestive tract.
Additionally, and most importantly from a biomechanics standpoint, pseudograins still have a tendency to swell when placed in water. This means they have a tendency to swell in the intestines, cause bloating, and inhibit the activation of the deep core.
As discussed in our article on grains, an inactive deep core will lead to instability in the lumbar spine and hips and may contribute to a wide range of movement problems over time.
Beans and Lentils (Legumes)
Legumes include alfalfa, chickpea, fava bean, pea, lentil, lima bean, mung bean, peanut, soy, among others.
Legumes are similar to grains and pseudograins in that they contain gut-irritating compounds and they tend to swell when placed in water.
Legumes, like pseudograins, are particularly high in saponins.
In nature, saponins protect plants by dissolving the cell membranes of the bugs and microbes that attempt to eat them. This often kills the predator attempting to eat the plant.
While saponins won’t kill you or dissolve your cell membranes, as discussed previously, they may overly increase the permeability of your intestines. An overly permeable gut is often a major contributing factor to autoimmune conditions and can contribute to chronic pain.
Legumes also contain a class of compounds known as protease inhibitors. These directly block the enzymes in the intestines responsible for protein digestion. This further contributes to intestinal inflammation, elevated permeability, and reduced protein absorption.
Over time intestinal inflammation will lead to worsening digestion and increased instances of bloating, further shutting off deep core muscles.
Nuts and Seeds
While the evidence is a bit more conflicting when it comes to nuts and seeds, these foods have biological similarities to grains, pseudograins, and legumes.
Some people tend to notice no issues including nuts or seeds in their diet while others notice immediate bloating or digestive upset.
Since the science is up in the air on this one, eliminating nuts and seeds from your diet for a period of time may be a strategy to consider to observe any changes you notice in your body.
We have observed many times a drastic increase in core activation as well as improvements in digestion after the elimination of nuts and seeds from a client’s diet.
Vegetable oils may not be all they were cracked up to be in the late 1900s.
As we investigate what behaviors are healthy for humans or not, we must consider how the human body has adapted to the environment over millions of years.
Oftentimes, we can pinpoint healthy behaviors by considering the activities we partook in the most as humans during our evolution.
The reality that humans prioritized movements like standing, walking, running, and throwing for survival is what allowed for Functional Patterns to develop a framework that gets results with a wide range of people in regards to physical training.
When we look back at our history, anthropological studies show that our intake of omega-6 fatty acids was drastically lower than it is today (6). The primary sources of omega-6 fatty acids in modern times are vegetable oils including canola, safflower, sunflower, peanut, corn, and soybean oil. These oils, if not consumed directly in cooking, are often found in processed and packaged foods found in grocery stores.
Vegetable oils are also typically the primary cooking oil used in most restaurants.
Evidence suggests that the human diet has heavily consisted of saturated and omega-3 fats derived predominantly from animal foods for the vast majority of our evolution.
The human organism simply did not evolve consuming high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. This may be why they are now being investigated for being a potential cause in the current epidemic of metabolic disorders including obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
Consider removing vegetable oils from your diet and instead opting for more saturated fats like coconut, grass-fed butter, and grass-fed or wild-caught meats.
How Strict Should You Be With Your Eating?
No matter the reason for limiting the intake of certain foods, there will always be an argument similar to the one below that arises:
“Sometimes you just eat certain foods for enjoyment, not because they’re good for you. I feel like life is boring without good food. Restricting your eating like this just doesn’t seem healthy or enjoyable.”
Ultimately, what you find enjoyable is an indicator of your priorities in life.
If your priorities lie in stimulating your senses in a variety of ways to keep certain neurotransmitters (dopamine, for example) elevated, then you may find yourself having trouble removing damaging behaviors from your life.
Another person who prioritizes feeling in control of their energy levels and deep core tension would likely have a relatively easier time cutting things out of their life that directly inhibit those feelings.
Never mind that. What it really comes down to is if you are able to acknowledge what the function of food is in the first place. At the end of the day, humans eat food to support the production of energy. Some foods support a higher output of energy while others are inferior in this regard. Your desire, or lack thereof, to be high on the spectrum of functionality will determine what types of foods you consume.
Another argument that comes up is something along the lines of:
“But being healthy is so expensive!”
When your health is relatively intact, you have wiggle room to make bad decisions and not feel the negative consequences to their full extent. You can eat cheap, processed foods and continue to grind through your days. You can piece together a personal fitness routine from free information you find online. You can pop some anti-inflammatory medication when things start to hurt a bit. You can kick the can of your health down the road and this may save you some money in the short-term.
At some point, this act of taking the cheaper route tends to gradually turn into the exponentially more expensive route.
When people find Functional Patterns, it is because they have used up all of their wiggle room and are forced to make a drastic change or exponentially lose their health as they get older. This requires a significantly higher financial investment than simply being proactive.
Medical procedures to address herniated discs in the spine, auto-immune conditions, chronic inflammatory diseases of the digestive system, hip replacements, and knee replacements are astoundingly expensive. This is where all the money that was saved opting for cheap food or fitness advice gets quickly drained and sometimes worse.
As a global network of practitioners constantly working to bring humans back into the positive end of the health spectrum, we have seen what it looks like when humans reach their limits.
We are here to urge you to take control and be proactive with your health so you can enjoy a long and healthy life.
We have seen amazing outcomes when humans decide to take the path of regeneration and our results tell the tale.