Naturopath Suzy Sherratt walks us through why it’s helpful to keep a food diary

Suzy Sherratt of Look After You is a Yorkshire-based nutrition and reflexology expert. Suzy’s been in practice over 18 years, helping people solve digestive distress and illnesses - and she knows the importance of keeping track! Suzy was inspired to study nutrition through being raised by parents who found solutions to their own health issues using food as medicine, and we caught up with Suzy to get her take on why it’s helpful to keep a food diary:

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In the last eighteen plus years of my Nutrition practice I would estimate that at least a third of all the people I have been visited by, come to me with a diagnosis of some form of digestive issue, varying from self or GP-diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome through to the case of someone diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and desperate to start to treat it naturally from their hospital bed!

However, a further third who visit with other health issues, for example with migraines or PMT or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) also acknowledge that they have problems with digestion, even if limited to abdominal bloating each evening etc.

As a general rule in each of these cases I will often suggest - along with any dietary advice I’ve given - that my client go away and keep a food diary for at least a month, looking at what they ate and drank each day, and how their energy, cravings, mental state, stress levels etc. were that day. Stress may seem an odd thing to note, but its physiological effects are so drying and your gut uses an enormous amount of water to “do” digestion! It’s important to remember that we don’t always react immediately with intolerance to a food, so a good food diary like the TFDC makes it easy to look and compare the previous/following few days as well.

A main reason for keeping a food diary, is that each client is able to start to identify for themselves with more clarity which foods may be causing a reaction, so that it is not just me suggesting which foods are the more likely culprits. Unfortunately, these are often foods that they feel they will really miss and one of my jobs is to help inspire with all the other lovely foods there are available to eat! I did have one person say to me years ago, “I can’t possibly give up bread; I just bought a bread-maker!!” Sadly, they wished to keep the gluten and the symptoms and I never saw them again!!

I also affirm to people that changing what you eat is not easy, it requires a lot more thought and a huge change of focus, the focus from being “that’s really tasty” to “how are my body and my gut going to feel about this?” A focus that is on feeling really energised and well and “what can I eat that is going to make me bounce out of bed and feel vital all day?”

I always say to clients liken the digestive system to the computer acronym GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Any time we get a symptom, be it constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, wind, or colic pain, the gut is letting us know that it cannot handle what we are trying to feed it and the TFDC food diary is a useful and constructive way to help you figure out what it is struggling with. It’s also worth remembering that a more intense reaction to food may cause symptoms that do not seem related to gut, such as sinus issues, headaches or migraines etc.

Sometimes people can feel that there is nothing they can eat comfortably, and one of my roles alongside identifying what is causing difficulties is to provide some food inspiration to help make that transition to a new or different diet much easier!

Thank you so much Suzy! It’s fascinating to get more of an insight of the difficulties of changing people’s habits from the perspective of the nutritionist! If you’re interested in Suzy’s services, she qualified as a naturopathic nutritionist nineteen years ago and has taught nutrition and baby weaning to practitioners, health professionals, individuals and parents. She runs juice detox retreats for individuals wanting to create major health changes with nutrition and naturopathy, details on the website: the name of which is a reminder to look after you so that you thrive, and have the energy to do what you came here to do with passion and love and help and care for others if needed!