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Gut Health: How Your Diet Can Contribute to Poor GI Health

In functional medicine, we commonly refer to the Standard American Diet as the SAD diet. The SAD acronym correctly sums up the profoundly negative effect many of the foods we consume in the United States has on our overall health and the health of our digestive system.

Over the past 50 years, the western diet has changed dramatically to consist primarily of highly processed, calorically dense, and nutritionally poor foods. Our “fast food” lifestyle has also woven itself into the way we grow, harvest and store food in this country. As a society, we have evolved to become ever more dependent on the luxury of foods with a longer shelf life and the convenience of quick, cheap, grab and go meals. The Standard American diet also relies on highly processed, sprayed and genetically modified foods including corn, wheat, dairy, soy, sugar and eggs.

And, because we eat so much of these six foods as part of the SAD diet, these foods often become the most common food sensitivities and allergies we see in our office.

In the previous blog I introduced the 5-R Gut protocol. The first R in the 5 R program is remove. Remove can mean the removal of a number of things including the removal of microbes, pathogens, and removing too much stress.

Remove can also point to removing certain foods that may be contributing to the development of GI issues including many of the foods commonly found in excess in the standard American diet.

In our office we will often suggest a Food Antibody Test at the first visit for our patients who are suffering with GI symptoms. This is a blood test that can guide us in finding out which foods are a problem for you and help us to customize your personal treatment program.

If you want to forgo testing, the gold standard of functional medicine includes a trial of the elimination diet. With the elimination diet, we suggest that you commit to a 6-week trial of eliminating all (or some) of the common food allergens including wheat, diary, corn, soy and eggs.

If you think about it, food is information. Most of us consume an average of three meals a day, plus snacks. If the foods we are eating regularly are sending information to our gut that is contributing to an increase in inflammation, sprayed so heavily it is full of toxicants that damage our gut barrier and is processed so heavily that it is not providing good nutrition, your diet is bound to have a profound affect on our overall health.

In the literature, the consumption of the western diet is strongly associated with development of many chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, fatty liver disease and hypertension. Regular consumption of the SAD diet also contributes to chronic inflammation and poor health outcomes.

Fortunately, a great deal of evidence also supports the fact that many chronic diseases are considered largely preventable through modifiable lifestyle measures, including improving our diet and nutrition.

At Boulder Holistic, we recommend that our patients eat a wide variety of vegetables and healthy proteins. Avoiding the most inflammatory foods, like gluten, sugar, corn, soy and grains in general will help heal your gut and leave you feeling more vibrant!


  • Willett, W. K. Prevention of Chronic Disease by Means of Diet and Lifestyle Changes. (2006) [2018-09-01].
  • Grotto, D. E. The Standard American Diet and Its Relationship to the Health Status of Americans. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, (2010); 25 (6). [PubMed]
  • CDC. Disparities in State-Specific Adult Fruit and Vegetable Consumption — United States, 2015. (2017) [2018-10-12].
  • Zinocker, M. L. The Western Diet–Microbiome-Host Interaction and Its Role in Metabolic Disease. Nutrient. (2018); 2018 (10): 365. [PubMed]
  • Steyn, K. D. Lifestyle and Related Risk Factors for Chronic Diseases. (2006). [2018-09-04], from Pub Med:

Dr. Amy Reidhead

Dr. Reidhead is a double board certified Chiropractic Physician and Family Nurse Practitioner. She is also a Fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture and holds a Bachelor of Science in both Nursing and Human Biology. She has spent the past 25 years honing her skills as a functional and integrative medical provider in Boulder, Colorado.