7 People Share the Simple Diet Tweak That Improved Their Health
Even when you play by the so-called "rules" of leading a healthy life, eating the right foods, and working out, everyone tends to battle a pesky health issue. Here, people share the tiny little change they made in their diet that made a world of a difference in their health.
"Eliminating dairy, gluten and processed-sugar solved my tummy woes."
While it might be a popular choice these days, going gluten-free isn't for everyone. However, Avi Loren Fox, the founder of Wild Mantle, had a compelling reason: When she was in her early 20s, she got a stomach parasite—probably from drinking well water. "It was like a bus hit me. All of a sudden, everything I ate made me sick. I lost weight and couldn't eat anything at first, and then only really plain foods like rice and chicken with no salt or pepper," she explained. Once they figured out her diagnosis, antibiotics cleared up the infection, but her gut never fully digested food in the same way it did before. "Foods that used to be fine started to make me sick. I would feel lethargic and tired when I ate certain things. I started to have other issues like acne flare-ups, indigestion, and inflammation," she shares.
In fact, a 2014 study published in the National Journal confirmed the direct connection between consuming dairy and processed foods and lower immune system function. As Jim Curtis, author and president of Remedy Health Media, explains, "Often we fail to recognize that the food we 'take' has an even bigger, long-term effect. We literally are what we eat, despite a cute mascot or funny commercial. The science shows fresh, organic foods, free from pesticides, corn syrup and aspartame, will simply make you happier and more energetic."
To determine what was shifting in her body, Fox started seeking the expertise of various dietitians, doctors, and acupuncturists, but everyone had a different solution. Frustrated, Fox decided to become her own health advocate by paying close attention to her body and reading a bunch of books to locate the source of her issues. Finally, via an elimination diet, she discovered that dairy, gluten, and processed sugar were all triggers.
She decided to gradually cut these items out and keep track of the progress. The outcome wasn't overnight, but it was impactful. "This shift changed a lot for me. I still slip up and eat things that aren't great for me every now and then, and when I do, my body immediately reminds me that wasn't a good choice," she says. "I think I'm a lot healthier now because I don't eat a lot of inflammation-producing foods. The challenge is to get to know your body and listen to what it is telling you. Even if it means a lifestyle shift, you'll be happier. Your health is worth it."
"I tried the FODMAP diet and my IBS symptoms went away."
Lifestyle writer and public relations professional Zlata Faerman has had tummy issues for as long as she can remember. After many years of tests, she was finally diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but wasn't offered any solutions to alleviate her discomfort. (These are the clear signs you have IBS.) It was the aftermath of an extremely embarrassing situation that motivated Faerman to start conducting her own research. This is when she discovered the FODMAP diet—an food elimination approach. (The acronym stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols; essentially, the plan means avoiding foods with simple carbs and sugar alcohols, additives in a lot of processed food.) Inspired by the idea, she became the first lifestyle writer to write about FODMAP in the U.S., which is now a popular diet, three years later.
"Once I started eating low FODMAP, I did not feel sick anymore. The feeling of being carefree about food—eating without fear—is not something that's easy to put into words. While 'normal' people can just eat and not think twice, I wasn't able to do that," she says. "Food plays a big factor in everyday life, so you can imagine how exhausting that was for me. I no longer feel angst about how I'll feel following a meal. I no longer decline invitations because of the 'what ifs.' Sure, I still have some times that my IBS affects me, but the low FODMAP diet truly changed my life."
"I switched from a low-fat diet to a low-carb one and my energy skyrocketed."
Even though Renee Jones, a counselor and coach, was petite and in great shape at 120 pounds on a 5'3" medium-sized frame, something was off. She worked out regularly, maintaining her physique and healthy eating habits with a low-fat diet, but still found herself feeling grumpy and fatigued almost all the time. At first, she thought these mood swings and exhaustion were due to the fact she was going through menopause, but when the feelings persisted over the years, she wondered if something else was going on. To figure it out, she turned to her diet, which was a low-fat, low-calorie plan (just 1,200 calories a day). When she tried going up to 1,500 calories, she suddenly gained weight. Jones began to wonder if her problems had less to do with calories than what she was eating.
"The change I made initially was to add more fat to my diet. I know, sacrilege after the decades of low-fat. Yet, I instantly felt better. Over time, and in order to balance the extra fat, I lowered my carbohydrate intake—not happily, I'll grant you," she says. "I thought low-carb was nonsense. However, after a week, my brain fog, afternoon energy dip, and cravings vanished. I didn't think that was possible! Within a month, I was no longer so moody nor bloaty, and I easily dropped down to about 115 pounds. I was amazed."
"I started eating more protein, and my hair became healthier."
When freelance travel-and-lifestyle writer Aly Walansky was 25 years old, she went on a strict diet in an effort to lose weight. By cutting back on fast food, sweets, and booze, she successfully went from a size 14 to nearly a size zero. While she was thrilled with the weight she was able to shed, she wasn't happy about what happened to her hair. She explains that it became frail and brittle, even breaking off at the ends: "I wasn't going bald, but my hair wasn't as healthy as it once was and I became concerned." She turned to her diet to see if perhaps what she was eating—or not eating—was to blame. That's when Walansky figured out that protein was the missing link. "I toyed with my diet and discovered that when I upped my protein intake, my hair gained back its strength, natural oils, and luster," she says.
"I switched to a whole food, plant-based diet, and my congestive heart failure improved."
When 80-year-old Millicent Donahue was diagnosed with severe congestive heart failure, her future looked grim. She only had 10 percent of heart function left and her kidneys were shutting down; the hospital released her to hospice care. That's when her daughter Meg went on a mission to figure out how to help her ailing mother. She discovered researched conducted by Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr, MD, that suggested a plant-based diet could improve her condition. Within six months of shaping her mom's diet to be 100 percent whole food and plant-based, the medical report card began climbing from a scary D- to nearly an A+.
"I was too weak to feed myself, so I moved into a small apt in my daughter's garage, and she made my meals. My health stabilized and then over the course of a year improved dramatically. I didn't die," she shared. "Six years later at 86, my heart function is at the low end of normal. I swim four times a week, drive by myself, and just took up Tai Chi and yoga."
"I prioritized my gut health and stopped feeling anxious or bloated."
Renee Tavoularis, the co-founder of Well Within Beauty, was stuck in a pattern she didn't exactly appreciate: After each and every meal, she'd feel bloated and uncomfortable. And to make matters worse, she also experienced a "constant, nervous energy coming from my stomach." She thought it was a personality trait she inherited from her mother, but after turning 50, she had had enough. "For me, this age was an enlightening moment. It prompted me to create a different path and embrace a holistic lifestyle that inspires, fosters balance and wellness, and serves as a place that encourages creativity and space to pursue my dreams and passions," she shares.
As she audited her life, she did an edit of her diet, deciding she would eat more plant-based foods and more importantly, figure out what was up with her gut. After a severe stomach virus, she changed her eating patterns and listened to how her body felt every time she ate. She also introduced probiotic supplements. "I added these to my regime to increase the amount of healthy gut bacteria. All the healthy food in the world won't help a compromised digestive system," she says. "The gut is an essential part of how our nutrients make it from the food we eat to our bodies. So adding probiotics to my meal plan helps me maintain a healthy level of good gut bacteria, reducing inflammation throughout the body." Along with cutting out dairy and eggs, these tiny changes increased her energy levels and solved her digestive issues. "It was incredible," she says.
Look out for these 15 signs your diet is making you sick.
"Bone broth helped heal my son's immune system."
Sharon Brown, the founder and CEO of Bonafide Provisions, and her husband spent the first six years of their son Blake's life worrying. Not only did he suffer from chronic sinus, ear, and respiratory infections, but nothing was helping—even the antibiotics and steroids doctors prescribed. And thanks to all the health issues, Blake struggled at school and began showing signs of ADD. In an effort to help her son, Sharon changed the way she cooked to focus on improving her child's immune system via his gut. Firstly, she cut out grains and sugars and then started cooking everything from scratch, using ingredients only found in the outside aisles or the frozen sections of the grocery store. Then, she discovered bone broth, which is very nutrient-rich and packed with amino acids, and started adding it to every single recipe she made, including waffles.
"After six unsuccessful years on antibiotics and other medications, my son was healed through food—and it only took three short months on a new diet. Now, ten years later, he has never been back to the doctor," she shares. Today, she runs a private practice as a clinical nutritionist and GAPS practitioner to help other people avoid the scary experience she endured with her family. "After seeing how much of an impact bone broth had on my son's life and my clients' lives, I decided to found Bonafide Provisions along with my husband, Reb Brown, and niece, Alexandra Rains, to help make the healing power of bone broth convenient and accessible to all."
Next, check out these 15 ways you can improve your eating habits in just one day.