Therapeutic Diets

When we talk about therapeutic diets, we are referring to the types of food we add in, avoid, timing, amounts, and hydration that suit your personal metabolism and help the body heal. Because we are all unique, there is no one-size fits all model for a diet, even one that claims to be therapeutic.  Based on your individual genetics, lifestyle, and goals, a food program may need to be individually tailed to you and your needs. However, there are some straightforward plans that have been proven to be very successful.

Food is powerful. What we consume affects not only how we look and how we feel, but also how we heal. The wrong diet could be the source of your symptoms while the right therapeutic diet can help you recover from illness, reverse health problems, reduce autoimmune issues, inflammation, or chronic disease.

Think the right therapeutic diet could turn your life around? We’ve compiled a straightforward list of some of the most common diets designed for health and healing. You should always consult a nutritional counselor before making a drastic change to your eating habits. But in the meantime, this breakdown will help you make sense of the most buzzed-about dietary routines and our opinion on them.

The Diabetic Therapeutic Diets

While following a diabetic diet does require making an adjustment, it is one of the more straight-forward therapeutic diets. This dietary plan is simply a healthy-eating plan. It promotes healthy choices and consistent mealtimes.

Why You Might Need It:

While anyone can benefit from following a diabetic diet, this nutritional system is imperative for those who have diabetes or prediabetes. The diabetic diet helps you balance each meal to keep blood glucose in a safe range. When you consume an excess of sugar, blood glucose is likely to rise. This creates a state of hyperglycemia that could lead to kidney, nerve, and heart damage.

What It Involves:

Balance and consistency are key for a diabetic diet. This means:

  • Three meals a day
  • Carefully measured portions
  • A balance of fiber-rich foods, healthy carbohydrates, good fats, and heart-healthy fish
  • Avoidance of saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and cholesterol

At PH2 Nutrition, we agree with certain aspects of the protocols of a diabetic diet but not all of them.  The issue with prediabetes and diabetes is insulin resistance from an excess of glucose in the blood. In order to change this, for certain people we recommend a keto diet for a few weeks or months until the body becomes insulin sensitive again. For others, we would put them on a plan that reduces carbohydrates but can include them when properly paired with food pairings such as a fat or protein at the right time of days. The goals is always to have well rounded meals that satiate you with the right amount of calories and establish an energy pattern throughout the day as opposed to strict portion control. The issue with restricting calories is that when you are not eating enough calories, you may convert muscle protein to sugar to burn which increases blood glucose levels.  We agree that you need a balance of fiber, healthy carbohydrates, good fats, and heart healthy fish but do not agree that you need to avoid saturated fat, good sources of sodium, or cholesterol because those are all necessary for your body to make hormones, stomach acid, and many other things.

If following a diabetic diet is a medical necessity for you, be sure to consult a nutritional counselor to determine the best approach. There are many methods for finding a healthy balance in your meals, including the plate method or using the glycemic index. The right method for you depends on the needs of your body and lifestyle, so seek insight from a professional.

The DASH Therapeutic Diets

The purpose of the DASH diet is pretty clear when you see what the name stands for: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet was created to provide patients with a means for lowering blood pressure without medication.

Why You Might Need It:

This dietary strategy is intended for those who struggle with high blood pressure. However, its health benefits go well beyond treating hypertension. The same low-sodium, high-nutrient approach to eating can help prevent diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and heart disease.

What It Involves:

Individuals who follow the DASH diet consume 6-8 servings of whole grains a day, as well as 4-5 servings of vegetables, 4-5 servings of fruit, and 2-3 servings of dairy. Dieters can consume lean meats, nuts, fats, oils, and sweets sparingly. Of course, it is a part of therapeutic diets designed to reduce blood pressure, the DASH diet has specific guidelines regarding sodium intake. On the standard DASH diet, you may consume a maximum of 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. On the lower sodium DASH diet, you cannot exceed 1,500 milligrams.

Our take on the DASH diet is that it can be effective for some people.  However, the issue with blood pressure is not due to high sodium levels, but due to toxicity in the body. We would encourage reducing processed foods that have high sodium levels for preservatives but not reducing sodium intake from sources such as Himalayan Pink salt or sea salt which contain important trace minerals. Your body is attempting to filter the blood which is why we increase dilation of the blood vessels and the heart works harder to pump blood to the liver and kidneys. We agree that there should be an emphasis on getting enough food in the day and getting fruit and vegetables. However, a diet we would recommend would be more custom to the individual.  We also do not abide by the recommended macronutrient breakdowns of the DASH diet.  Our focus is on reducing inflammatory foods such as processed foods, gluten, and dairy as well as having a steady energy pattern so the body can reduce stress. Dairy can cause an immune and inflammatory response which would not reduce blood pressure.

The Gluten-Free Therapeutic Diets

The gluten-free diet was specifically designed for those who have a gluten intolerance or wheat allergy but more and more people have found benefits from reducing or cutting out their gluten intake. In recent times, more and more people are finding they are sensitive to gluten. Some hypothesize this could be caused either by genetic changes in society or farming practices from GMO plants. Many people who follow the gluten-free diet report that it facilitates weight loss, increases energy, and improves overall health. However, it is worth noting that clinical studies primarily focus on how the diet benefits those who have celiac disease.

Why You Might Need It:

Glutenin and gliadin are proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye that becomes gluten when it comes into contact with water. Gluten literally means “glue” in latin and is responsible for holding together breads and cereals. Certain individuals have a sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. Gluten causes the digestive system to release an inflammatory protein called Zonulin which opens the junction between surface level cells in the intestinal tract causing foreign proteins to enter the body and start an immune response. There are many types of gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity presents the same symptoms (abdominal pain, rash, headache, etc.) but without intestinal damage. Those who suffer from gluten ataxia experience muscle control problems when they consume this protein. And individuals with a wheat allergy struggle with symptoms such as breathing difficulties and congestion. However, many people have reported issues with gluten and anyone can benefit from a gluten-free diet.

What It Involves:

There is one straightforward rule to the gluten-free diet: Do not consume gluten. As an individual adjusts to this new diet, avoiding gluten seems like a tall order. Wheat shows up in unexpected places, including soups, salad dressings, and sauces. It is important to read labels and communicate with restaurant staff to ensure your food is truly gluten-free. Those who are highly sensitive may even need to establish their own dedicated cooking supplies and eating utensils to avoid cross-contamination if their family members eat gluten products. Sources of carbohydrates that are naturally gluten free are rice, oats, potatoes, quinoa, couscous, corn, buckwheat, tapioca, and many more. Many other healthy food options such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, and fish are naturally gluten-free.  

At PH2 Nutrition, we begin most people with a diet that is gluten-free. The focus is not on removing gluten-filled foods, but filling each meal with food that satiates with the correct macro and micronutrient breakdown for your individual body to heal, reduce cravings and help you reach your goals. Many people realize they are in fact sensitive to gluten and report having more energy, less bloating and digestion issues, and less allergies in general.

The Ketogenic Diet

Now a popular weight-loss diet, the ketogenic diet was first developed in the 1920s to treat pediatric epilepsy. Though medication has since become a more popular method for reducing seizures, the ketogenic diet remains an effective therapeutic diet.

Why You Might Need It:

For young people who suffer from epilepsy, the ketogenic diet is a great tool for managing seizures. Most children and young adults who have this condition have seen a 50% reduction in seizures while on the keto diet. There have been instances where therapeutic diets has benefited people with heart disease, brain disease, and diabetes/insulin resistance. The ketogenic diet is also effective for weight loss in certain individuals as well. However, this dietary plan is not necessarily for everyone. Based on your genetic makeup and lifestyle, the keto diet may not suit you. Talk to your doctor before trying it, especially if you have type 1 diabetes.

What It Involves:

The ketogenic diet requires reducing the carbohydrates in your diet and replacing those carbs with fat. By severely limiting carb intake, the body must use fat as its source of energy. This process of metabolizing fat causes the production of ketones. Higher ketone levels help manage seizures. The ketogenic diet typically requires the individual to consume no more than 50 carbohydrates a day. For diabetes/prediabetes/insulin resistance individuals, the ketogenic diet can help improve insulin sensitivity until they are able to add carbohydrates back into their diet again.  For those experiencing brain issues, higher levels of the fat in the diet can increase the myelin sheath in the brain that improves brain health. For heart disease individuals, removing sugar from the diet can also improve cholesterol numbers, reduce inflammation, and lower blood pressure and decrease changes of obesity which can improve heart disease symptoms. However, there are several different ketogenic diets, depending on the needs and goals of the individuals. If you want to try this nutritional system for medical purposes, talk to your physician about the approach that is most effective for you.

At PH2 Nutrition, we have used the ketogenic diet as an awesome tool for some individuals.  Some are born with an insulin resistance and some develop it over time.  We usually do not keep people in the ketogenic long term unless if their metabolism really prefers it, opting for carb days every 3 weeks to refill glycogen stores in the muscles. People who are also very stressed would not benefit from a keto diet as carbohydrates are helpful in binding cortisol in the body and the brain uses a lot of sugar when stressed.

The Liquid Therapeutic Diets

The liquid diet is broken down into two specific options: the clear liquid diet and the full liquid diet. In most cases, a liquid diet is a temporary therapeutic diet plan required only for the duration of an illness or medical procedure.

Why You Might Need It:

You might have to follow a clear liquid diet when you are vomiting, have diarrhea, or are sick to your stomach. Both clear liquid and full liquid diets are often required in preparation for a medical test or surgery. If you’ve had surgery on your stomach or intestine, you likely have to follow a clear liquid or full liquid diet for recovery as well. If you have ongoing swallowing problems, a full liquid diet may become a long-term dietary plan.

What It Involves:

A clear liquid diet includes clear fluids and foods that become clear fluids at room temperature. Examples include clear broth, popsicles, tea, and cranberry juice. You must be able to see through the fluid. The full liquid diet expands to include any food that takes a liquid form at room temperature, clear or not. If you are on a full liquid diet, you can also consume pudding, strained creamy soups, and ice cream. You may need additional supplements, as you are unlikely to get all the fiber and nutrients your body requires from a liquid diet.

At PH2 Nutrition, we have not recommended the liquid diet often but do see a benefit to consuming only liquids for a certain period of time. The liquid diet can be a form of fasting and giving the digestive system a break. The benefits of a liquid diet could be the improvement of mitochondria as well as healing of the intestinal lining. We would support a liquid diet of broth and other liquids but not of dairy filled liquids like cream soups or ice cream.

Therapeutic Diets Consultation

Unlike generic weight-loss diets that are designed to work for almost anyone, therapeutic diets are tailored to specific medical needs. Yes, it’s true that some options like the gluten-free diet can only help you while others might only be beneficial to a certain few. Nevertheless, if you need therapeutic diets for healing or recovery purposes, it’s important to consult a professional who can create a nutrition routine that aligns with your exact needs.

Let us know if we can help. At PH² Nutrition, we get to know your entire health history, goals, and lifestyle. Then, we strategize therapeutic diets customized for your unique needs. We provide everything you need to track your eating habits, make lasting lifestyle changes, and ensure a healthier, more energetic future.