Is what you’re not eating causing your insomnia and upset stomach?

Is what you're not eating causing your insomnia and upset stomach?

We’re big on inclusion here at Healthy Food Guide. Rather than cutting foods out (unless you have intolerances or allergies) we advocate eating a wide range of foods and thinking about how those are portioned.

Simply put, eating plenty of plants and other nutrient-dense whole foods and having ‘treat foods’ in small quantities.

One of the great things about this approach to food is it’s more likely to deliver everything your body needs.

When you cut whole food groups out of your diet you run the risk of missing out on essential nutrients, if you’re not mindful about compensating.  For instance, cutting out dairy makes it harder to get calcium.  It’s not impossible, but you need to work a bit harder to make sure you’re meeting your daily requirements.

I came across an interesting bit of Australian research that highlights this problem quite well.  It looks at the effects of the Paleo diet, where dairy and grains are a no go, compared with a more inclusive diet approach.

Following a ‘Paleo diet’ is potentially associated with diarrhoea and trouble sleeping, the researchers found.

The Edith Cowan University study, published in journal Nutrients, involved 22 healthy women participants eating a Paleo diet, while the remaining 17 followed the government-recommended Australian Guide to Healthy Eating over a four-week period.

It’s a very small study so, while its findings are interesting, more research needs to be done.

A fifth of those in the Paleo group reported instances of diarrhoea compared with none reported by the AGHE group, a media release from the university says.

The Paleo group also reported higher rates of tiredness and trouble sleeping, the media release says.

Further research is needed to determine if the reported side effects are a result of cutting dairy foods and grains out, Edith Cowan University School of Medical and Health Science associate professor Amanda Devine says.

Avoiding whole grains cuts out an important source of dietary fibre and can impact gut microbes causing problems such as diarrhoea, Dr Devine says.

“Similarly, dairy products contain the amino acid tryptophan which increases sleep-inducing compounds serotonin and melatonin which help regulate sleeping patterns. So removing dairy from your diet could adversely affect your sleep.”

The researchers are looking for participants for a larger study so they can explore the long-term effects of adhering to a Paleo diet.

First published: Aug 2016

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