There’s an undoubtfully great value in DNA tests that tell you whether you’re a fast or slow caffeine metabolizer or how you handle sugar and saturated fats or if the genes responsible for digestive enzymes production are doing their job. However these tests come with a price not everyone can afford, while we all deserve to know how to make nutrition customization simple and affordable – our health and wellbeing would definitely benefit form this type of knowledge. We tend to rely more on technology than our own body signs. We have dissociated from our physiology, which is sometimes the only radar we should listen to and trust.
Here’s how you can learn your body’s reactions to different foods and whether they make you feel good or not, without having to do finger pricks and saliva swabs and paying big bucks for it:
- Start a food log
You won’t know for sure how you respond to different foods until you start writing down your after-meal experiences. What’s your energy level after that pasta dish – are you full of power to take on a new project at the office or sluggish and ready for a nap? Does your tummy feel content or is it bloated and distended? How’s your thinking – clear of foggy? Paying attention to the signals your body is sending you will teach you what foods you should cut down on and which ones to increase. We all have very unique physiological designs and respond differently to the same foods. A lot of foods and food groups that are generally recognized as healthy could be potential culprits of weight gain, digestive issues, joint pain and cognitive decline among other conditions. Once you learn what’s causing trouble – you can either eliminate the food completely or cut it down to minimum. Most common food groups that are triggers of health issues are processed foods, gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, corn, commercial vegetable oils and some nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplants).
- Learn how your body handles carbs
When we eat carb-containing foods, our body (pancreas to be exact) secretes insulin – hormone that takes care of the blood sugar by shuttling it into the tissues, since too much sugar in your blood is damaging to the body and even fatal (and I’m not suggesting that sugar is good in the tissues – just as damaging in excess!). When too much sugar (simple form of carbs in this case) is ingested chronically, the body releases a lot of insulin which, in the beginning does its job just fine – taking sugar to tissues and storing excess as fat – in fat cells; but with time the tissues stop responding to it – now you’ve developed insulin resistance, which, if not intervened, leads to type 2 diabetes. The opposite of insulin resistance is insulin sensitivity, which is when your body needs less insulin to maintain stable blood sugar levels, which translates into having normal blood glucose and less fat accumulation. I’m pretty sure each one of us knows at least one person who can eat whatever they want and never gain a pound. The type of carb handling by insulin is largely dependent on our genetic design. If you belong to the insulin resistance club – you’d know it by measuring how easily you gain weight. In this case reducing your carb intake is key if you want to lose and/or maintain weight. The insulin sensitive club members are luckier since they don’t need to be as strict with their diet when it comes to carbs. Yet most people are somewhere in between – not too resistant, yet not very sensitive.
- Caffeine sensitivity
Coffee has been getting contradicting reviews regarding its health benefits. Some studies have demonstrated its ability to improve glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes and increase fat utilization during physical activity – which means burning more fat and weight loss. But is it so for ALL of us without the negative consequences of increased risk of cardiovascular events, being suggested by other studies?! It depends on your individual ability to metabolize and excrete caffeine. Those of us who don’t have a problem with it – meaning our genetic design allows for fast caffeine metabolism – can enjoy a couple cups of joe a day without increasing their risk of disease development. However people with genes or gene mutations encoding for slow caffeine metabolism have to be more careful and watch their coffee/caffeinated beverages consumption. What’s you type? Just analyze how you generally respond to coffee – if you are jittery, hyperactive, sweating and sleepless at night after having coffee – that’s a red flag for slow metabolizer. Limit to 1 cup a day or switch to decaf (water processing preferred, not chemically decaffeinated). For those who don’t notice any adverse effects, it’s ok to have up to 3-4 cups a day.