Can food be the best medicine?

Is food the best medicine?

That's what Christine Bou Sleiman, a registered dietitian & certified LEAP therapist (aka food sensitivity specialist) based in Los Angeles, California believes.

Bou Sleiman, who has been a vegetarian since the age of 15, quickly noticed how changing her diet resulted in a lot of health issues going away. From that moment, she decided to become a dietitian, obtained her Masters in Nutrition Science, and started working with public health grants.

Because she wasn't a big fan of the "one size fits all" method, she then decided to start a company, Healthy Selfie, to further personalize diets through 1-on-1 consultations and meal plans.

Bou Sleiman recommends the Lifestyle Eating and Performance (LEAP) program, an individualized anti-inflammatory diet plan based on food sensitivity test results, is the most personalized way to tackle diet-related health issues.

Program members begin by taking a Patented Mediator Release Test (MRT) which tests for over 170 foods, chemicals, and additives. With this as a basis, they slowly add food items to form a diet of foods that are safe.

The LEAP program can also benefit people who already know (or think they know) their dietary restrictions.

Those who believe they have certain food sensitivities may find they can actually eat that food. This is because there may be a more specific food, additive, or chemical that is commonly cooked with the food you thought you were reactive to that is causing digestive issues. Because reactions can occur immediately after eating a food or up to three days later, it is hard to pinpoint food sensitivities without being tested with the MRT.

"Food sensitivities are not equivalent to food allergies", Bou Sleiman explains. Many people confuse them because they both involve the immune system, but food sensitivities don’t involve IgE (the antibody responsible for food allergies). Food sensitivities often lead to inflammatory symptoms such as digestive issues, fatigue, migraines, reflux, and eczema among other things. More about the differences can be found from this Functional Nutrition Answers article.

Because food sensitivities are different and more prevalent, the LEAP program doesn't tackle diets with an avoidance approach. Rather it allows people to slowly build a bank of foods they know they can eat safely.

Once you have removed your reactive foods and allowed your immune system to calm down and your gut to heal, you may be able to slowly reintroduce those foods back into your diet.

The hardest part of the program is commitment as Bou Sleiman says "most people want a quick fix or magic pill to cure their problems". But if they are committed, they will find relief from their digestive or other inflammatory symptoms and find they are able to enjoy more types of foods than what they previously believed they could.

Outside of LEAP, Bou Sleiman is a strong advocate of plant-based diets, serving on the leadership team of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. After she became a vegan in 2017, she started the Vegans in Los Angeles Facebook group to help others along their plant-based journeys. She is also a foodie who loves to cook, eat, and get recommendations for plant-based restaurants.

Ready to explore new foods? Take a LEAP and personalize your diet!

Want help with your personal diet while eating out? Check out Yumaroo, an app helping give personal restaurant meal recommendations based on your diet and taste preferences.