Nature and Nurture.
This is an absolutely critical idea for individuals and parents to grasp. For their own health but especially for anyone with a child in their life: the same diet breaks people in vastly different ways and to different degrees. It is Nature AND Nurture.
But not in the way most think.
We were recently at a birthday party. For a 7 year old. She has an 8.5 year old sister. By the parents own admission the siblings are doing vastly different. The 8.5 is ‘doing great’: top of class, great helper, seemingly well adapted socially.
The younger 7-year old girl is ‘struggling’ in all aspects of life. These are terms the parents used. They eat the same food though, so how could food matter? Has to be mostly genes doesn’t it? No reason to look at food, right?
Bio-individuality comes into play. I heard William Walsh, a brilliant nutrition researcher describing his life’s work. From a young age he was involved with researchers looking at young prisoners.
While certainly not a universal thing they found many came from families with ‘all-American’ siblings. Doing great, well-adjusted. Raised on the same food. They found almost all the incarcerated had nutrient deficiencies, and surpluses.
Their Nature part, made them more susceptible to vastly more negative consequences from the same food the rest of the family was eating.
This can be genetics, gestation events, life history, a parasite, or virus event, etc. Perhaps gut lining was more prone to being compromised so wheat, as an example, results in much greater psychological impacts.
We’ve lived this with our own daughter. She is a hyper-responder to many foods, additives, and colorings.
While we might all break differently I think we are vastly more alike in how we heal and thrive.
I’ve yet to meet a human who doesn’t do well on a Paleo approach to eating. This means taking an evolutionary lens to foods that will heal and are good for the gut lining. Paleo foods also tend to be nutrient dense and result in good and balanced nutrient levels in folks.
Each version of Paleo will be somewhat unique. Both in foods well-tolerated and amounts of carbs. However Paleo diets look pretty similar in fundamental ways. They do focus on protein and fat (since most real foods aside from veg+fruit are high in these) and a removal of grains. Grains are the most common food group for both leaky gut and nutrient imbalances.
After that, legumes and dairy should be looked at. And definitely all processed food with preservatives, additives, and colorings. I thrive on some types of quality dairy but do much better without grains and legumes.
While testing can certainly be helpful, so can trial and error with foods. Removing foods from a struggling child might make all the difference in the world to them. More than all other interventions combined. I was a hyper-responder to certain foods and had lifelong struggles because of it. Our goal is to not have our daughter live the same.
Often the parents have suffered with lifelong impacts similar to their child, perhaps at a lower level. When they help their child heal, they heal also. And the ‘All-American’ siblings? They do even better.
We’ve a food ‘hyper-responder’ as a child. Real life inadvertent experiments have shown with reproducible results that a single piece of gum from a classmate with whatever colorings and additives it contains can result in a meltdown.
Because we are both a Paleo and Food As Medicine family we can help her to thrive just as much as a child who has some more leeway with food. And that is a both a powerful and wonderful insight and tool to have as a parent. We’d be lost without it.