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When Eating Well Can Go Wrong


So you’ve decided to give your diet a health boost? Good for you. But just be a little bit careful – even the healthiest foods can cause problems for some people. Here are seven situations when eating well can go wrong.

Watch out for:

Going gluten free

It’s essential if you have coeliac disease, but if you’re just giving up gluten to be ‘healthier’ or lose weight, watch out. When dietitian Sue Shepherd followed a group who cut out gluten for a year, she found they gained 3kg and were more likely to be deficient in fibre, calcium, B1 and iron.

“Gluten-free diets can be very high GI as people often eat a lot of white rice and gluten-free bread,” says Brisbane naturopath Katherine Maslen. If you want to quit gluten she suggests using a healthy mix of wholegrains, fruits, vegetables and legumes as substitutes rather than relying on processed glutenfree alternatives.

Why Go Gluten Free?

Watch out for:


It’s okay cooked but too much raw kale, as found in many trendy juices, can interfere with thyroid function in some people. “Kale is part of a group of foods called goitrogens, which when eaten raw can block the enzyme that allows your thyroid to use iodine – the building block of many thyroid hormones,” says naturopath and juice expert Claire Georgiou.

“If your iodine or selenium levels are low and you have a pre-existing thyroid condition, too much raw kale can worsen things.”

If you have, or suspect you have, thyroid issues, only juice with kale or other cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli or cabbage, twice a week and use other veggies on other days – silverbeet is a great replacement.

Watch out for:

Chia seeds

These little black seeds are the health food of the moment, but be careful eating them if you have throat problems. A recent presentation at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology warned of chia seeds swelling

in the oesophagus and interfering with the ability to swallow. They can absorb up to 27 times their own weight in water. The doctors recommend that anyone with existing swallowing problems make sure they soak chia seeds fully in water, juice or milk (which takes about 15 minutes) before consuming them.

Watch out for:

Raw vegetables

We don’t normally think of vegetables as something that can cause food poisoning, but as more people eat more raw food the risk increases. If you’re not scrubbing or rinsing all your veggies before you throw them in the juicer, for example, you can easily expose yourself to bugs in any soil they still contain.

“About four per cent of food poisoning cases are linked to fruit or vegetables,” says Lydia Buchtmann from the Food Safety Information Council.

“When preparing vegetables brush off any visible soil, wash them under running water then dry them before serving.

Don’t wash them then store them, however, as that can encourage the growth of mould.”

Watch out for:

Green tea

It’s linked to many positive health benefi ts but some people fi nd it can trigger nausea. “Green tea can contain high levels of tannins, substances which can dry out mucous membranes. In some people they can act on the stomach, causing irritation and nausea,” says naturopath Rebekah Russell. “If you’re affected, avoid drinking the tea on an empty stomach, try adding a little milk, or mix jasmine and green tea to help reduce symptoms.”

Watch out for:

Sports drinks

Maybe you drink them to hydrate while exercising, but think twice for the sake of your teeth. Sports drinks are often high in sugar and acid and as such are linked with tooth decay and acid erosion.

A recent study by the University of Melbourne actually found eight of the 10 Australian sports drinks they tested had the potential to cause damage to the teeth. Least damaging, according to the trial, were Sukkie and Endura, but whatever brand you choose, Dr Peter Alldritt from the Australian Dental Association says not to hold or swish sports drinks around your mouth. Try to drink them cold, as cooler temperatures limit erosion, and rinse with water after drinking if you can.

Watch out for:

Fermented foods:

Fermented foods such as kimchi or sauerkraut can promote good gut health. But in some people the large levels of histamine that develop when food ferments can trigger a problem called histamine intolerance.

“Eighty per cent of people diagnosed with this are middle-aged women and it’s very common during perimenopause or immediately prior to menstruation,” says Alison Vickery, a holistic health coach who specialises in allergy and intolerance.

“It occurs when histamine builds up faster than we can break it down and common symptoms include gut issues, foggy thinking, fatigue, heart palpitations and rashes.

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