How to Personalize Your Diet for Your Physiology
With restaurants closed, grocery store options diminishing, and tens of millions now unemployed, food has been on a lot of our minds.
On the bright side, this quarantine is an opportunity to expand our recipe repertoire, nourish ourselves to our own standards, figure out the root cause of our ailments, and regain our energy levels.
On the dark side, quarantine poses new challenges and worries for many--how will I afford my groceries? How can I eat well, feed my family, and save money? At worst, discipline can fly out the window on days when we succumb to sweets, snacks, and takeout. In stressful, isolating times, it's not always easy to make the right choices.
But it doesn't have to be difficult, either. Here are some tips that have helped me eat healthier and feel better than I ever have before, with the recognition that everyone's diets are different.
1. Start a health journal.
Start keeping track of what you eat and how you feel afterwards in terms of energy levels, mood, and feelings. Note any changes in your symptoms, such as skin breakouts, acid reflux, or the overwhelming urge to take a nap.
Food should give you energy, not make you feel depleted. From my experience, complex grains combined with meat can have a draining effect on my energy.
By food journaling, I have discovered that the following meals have caused me to fall asleep within 30 minutes to 1 hour of eating:
Fried meat sandwiches
Kale soup with shrimp alfredo
Equipped with this self-science data, it becomes easier for me to instantly make choices that align with my self-interests later.
Got acne, hives, atopic dermatitis, rash, eczema, or psoriasis? Your diet may be a major determinant of the glowiness and texture of your skin.
With a food journal, I've been able to temporally correlate the food I eat with skin symptoms.
The following foods may wreak havoc on your skin:
Processed meats, like salami and sausage
Here are some components you may want to include in your health journal:
What you ate
What time you ate
How hungry or satiated you feel
Your mood, how you feel today
Cravings / thoughts on food
What you drank / how much
Meal plans / recipes
What time you go to sleep and wake up
Frequency and types of exercise
Personal care interventions
If you want a simple, templated journal with a paper experience, A Gutsy Girl has a journal complete with hydration, Bristol Stool Scale explanations, and daily motivational quotes.
Alternatively, you could track your food in an app. If you have FitBit or an Apple Watch, you can also track your food there. These apps usually calculate your macros and calories.
If it's too much trouble, however, you could also try taking a picture of each meal.
2. Get your poop tested.
You read that right. If you're tired of the guesswork involved in which foods are friendly with your system and which downward spiral you into food-drunkenness, you can send a poop sample to scientists. That's what I did with Viome.
Viome has a gut microbiome test that uses your fecal microbiota profile as well as microbial gene expression to analyze the foods most suitable for your body. Last time I checked, the price was $149.
Without Viome, I would have never known that kale, black beans, bone broth, radicchio, and sauerkraut were among my superfoods, that lobster and kombucha stress out my system, or that I should minimize mango and spinach consumption. I love how discerning it is with different foods, and it's even inspired me to experiment with new recipes.
Just don't come after me if you find out about more than you wanted to know about the eukaryotes in your gut or discover some unexpected, stealthy parasites. Consider this an opportunity to detox, armed with your personal data.
A tip: Gut microbiota profiles change day-to-day, so it may mostly be useful if you're on a consistent diet. If you want this test to be maximally helpful to you and worth your money, don't go eat something anomalous and send a strange sample for science.