Post by Paula Jahn, Co-owner and Registered Dietitian at Nourish Northwest
This is my gorgeous husband, Owen. Doesn’t he look like the picture of health?
He is an athletic, bright, busy guy. The only time he has ever given any thought to his diet is when he was trying to gain weight for college baseball. Even then, he simply tried to cram in as much food as he possibly could.
Since then, he is somewhat of a garbage disposal; lunch is usually parts of his co-workers’ leftovers, a scrap of school lunch (government subsidized chicken, anyone?), and the reliable back-up PB&J. All these years together, and I have turned a blind eye to his underlying health issues. I feel guilty. Do I think nutrition is related to skin conditions like eczema? Fatigue? Brian fog? Yes, yes, and yes! Maybe it’s laziness or not wanting to be the nagging, controlling partner. As a registered dietitian, I certainly believe that nutrition can help, so now is the time.
I am writing this blog as a sort of case study because I know his symptoms are common. I see them often in my clients. If my nutritional plan works for him, I think many can benefit from what we learn.
Owen will follow the plan for one month and I will write an update on his progress on this blog in one month.
Today is day one. Operation Project Husband, GO!
BASELINE OVERVIEW OF SYMPTOMS
I asked Owen to rate his most bothersome symptoms so we have some baseline data.
Eczema: 1=Enraged, enflamed, itchy scalp; 10=No symptoms. Owen has had eczema on his scalp for all of his adult life. Ranges from a 9 to 5, depending on how many days post-shampoo.
Fatigue: 1=Sleeping; 10=Super Energized. He said his average daily operating energy is a 5 and most afternoons/evenings it dips to a 2 or 3 if he doesn’t take a quick nap. I’ve seen him nearly fall asleep mid conversation. That’s pretty lousy. Note to reader: he gets 7-9 hours of sleep per night and it is mostly restful.
Brain Fog: 1=Cumulus cloud; 10=Crystal clear. 5 or 6? This is hard to quantify. He has struggled with this for years. He recalls having difficulty focusing in school and feeling like his mind is in a haze most of the time. I have no doubt that this is related to fatigue.
Remove Major (Potential) Offenders
I have a hunch that Owen’s problems stem from a disrupted gut microbiome, or simply put, an imbalance of good and bad intestinal bacteria. His brother has some of the same issues and finds at least partial resolution with a gluten-free diet. I believe that removing some of the major allergens is a good place to start in order to allow the gut to heal and rebalance. Owen is committed to eliminating gluten and dairy from his diet for one month. Eggs, soy, nuts, and other allergens are not practical to remove at this time, but we will try to reduce them.
Rebalance Intestinal Bacteria
As a whole foods dietitian, my first approach to this is through probiotic rich food such as traditional sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, etc. For Owen, I’m bringing out the big guns and I ordered him a probiotic supplement. He has been on several rounds of antibiotics in his life with a history of ear infections as a child, recent surgeries, and a long list of other factors that contribute to wonky gut microbes. Nourish Northwest has recently partnered with Metagenics to offer high quality nutritional supplements. They have a new product called UltraFlora Integrity which specifically targets increased intestinal permeability (i.e. leaky gut) by providing a particular blend of probiotic strains. I ordered him a 30 day supply.
Add in Nutrient Rich Foods
With possible leaky gut, there is a good chance Owen is not absorbing some nutrients. Since I am not qualified to diagnose diseases or conditions, all I can do is offer the best nutritional support for a suspected issue. Added vegetables, fruit, legumes are my first line of therapy. In theory, as his gut heals, he will more efficiently absorb nutrients and be able to eat a wider variety of foods without incident. He’s also taking a multivitamin to cover his bases, including vitamin D and a blend of omega 3 fatty acids.
Be Consistent and Wait
Consistency is always the biggest challenge. I have to step up my meal planning game and Owen has to change his mindset around food choices.
Update coming in one month. Wish us luck!