You know how some days you wake up and as the day gets rolling you realize you feel really discombobulated and unbalanced? This was my normal functioning level for a long time.
I was so busy. Running from project to project. Working so hard at trying to stay on top of everything that I missed the basic fact that I was falling apart. All aspects of my health were fading. My energy was gone. I was bloated all the time and although my stomach didn’t hurt, it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I had a growing feeling that something was wrong.
I’d wake up in the morning utterly exhausted. I’d look in the mirror and see the enormous dark circles under my eyes and think, “What is wrong with me? Why do feel so depleted all the time?”
All I really wanted to do most of the time was lay down.
Fast forward to six months ago – through a series of tests I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Dum, dum, dum dum!
Since then I’ve learned so much about food and the mind/body connection, just as a way of healing my own body. In my case, I was sick with this disease for most of my life and eating tons of gluten. I actually craved it. I could eat it endlessly. It tasted so delicious that I just couldn’t get enough.
I never knew why I was so tired. I never understood how I could get sick so often, why I would stay sick for so long or why I had so many random symptoms and issues: asthma, aches, pains, brain fogs, clumsiness, anxiety, depression and more.
The good news is, I’ve got all of that under control now through my diet and I have insights that could be helpful to you too.
The thing that I’ve realized from this experience is that it’s possible, and even easy, not to realize how the food you eat affects you. It sounds crazy, I know, but this is exactly what happened to me!
Food is a mood balancer
In my quest to understand my body’s functioning better I’ve learned so much cool stuff about various parts and functions of the body. One area I want to touch on today is regarding neurotransmitters. Did you know that most of the neurotransmitters that you need to have a positive mood are first created in the stomach? It’s true. So when I was eating foods that didn’t agree with me my body wasn’t receiving the building blocks it needed to make all of the feel-good messages for my brain. The result was a bad mood, along with many other symptoms.
You know that old adage, “you are what you eat”? It’s absolutely true and now you know one of the reasons why.
How food affects mood
I’ve been devouring all food related blogs and books and youtube videos lately and have been surprised to learn just how little I knew about our food supply, and how the things I’ve grown up considering healthy for me weren’t good for me!
One thing I didn’t know is that the American diet is a very high allergen diet.
These are the top eight allergens:
- Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
- Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
- Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
Why food and bodies are so confusing:
1. Food Chemistry
Food, along with the mind and the body are sort of like a giant chemistry experiment. You change one thing and it can affect many things, or sometimes you have to change many things to change one thing. Let me explain…
Most of us eat the eight most common allergens for almost every meal – I know I did. After I cut out gluten I started to feel a little better, but then I got really, really sick. So sick that I could barely get out of bed. My entire digestive system was so taxed from the primary intolerance – wheat – that I couldn’t process lots of foods. It got so extreme that I was even having reactions to other things like GMOs and other additives like food colorings, and MSG.
Ultimately, it created a situation where until I removed ALL of the foods that I was sensitive to, my body could not fully heal. To fully heal I had to remove all grains and all of the top eight allergens for 30 days with the elimination diet. That’s when my body really let go of the sickness I’d carried around inside of myself for most of my life.
Now that I’ve healed my digestive system, I know that there is one thing I must do- keep gluten out of my diet. It has changed my entire constitution. I’m stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been and it’s allowed me to heal from many chronic diseases and problems I’ve had for my whole life.
2. Body Detective
Did you know you can have delayed reactions to food, where you react eight hours or more later? This totally happened to me. I never reacted right away, so I couldn’t tell what was causing what.
Another sneaky thing bodies do is they are strangely resilient and good at hiding the truth from you, until you’re so sick that you can no longer deny the truth of the situation. This happened to me too and it affected my mood every day. I felt angry and sad often and I didn’t understand why.
Even something as simple as being dehydrated can make you feel, tired, panicky, hungry, overwhelmed and more.
You can see how if you have a day where maybe you aren’t able to do some food planning- maybe you forgot to bring a lunch and a water bottle- and before you know it your “check engine” light is coming on in the form of a bad mood.
3. Not all foods are healthy for all bodies
We’ve all been raised to think a certain way about what healthy foods look like. I know I was someone who thought wheat was healthy for me, but it was totally toxic to my body, because of my body sensitivities. I was raised to think milk is healthy too, but just after I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, and before I did the elimination diet, I became extremely intolerant of all dairy. All dairy products made my stomach so bloated and painful to the touch that I just avoided them. It’s no fun to eat foods that make you sick.
Because the food and body connection is so complex, it’s easy to miss signs that food is affecting your mood. This is actually quite common. This used to happen to me, I might be in a terrible mood – grouchy, short tempered, frustrated – and now, in retrospect when I trace it back, gluten was at the center of the problem.
Obviously there can be plenty of other reasons for a grouchy mood. Check out our recent podcast about being out of balance and how to fix it.
Interestingly, food was the last thing I was thinking about as the reason for my mood and other health issues. I had a million theories, but none of them had food as the culprit. Even if it’s not a food you are sensitive to, like me, it could be just that you ate a bunch of sugar in the afternoon because you were feeling tired and looking for an energy boost, but now you feel so wiped out that you need a nap. It’s really the same issue- food.
Power your life-vehicle with good fuel. You don’t put corn syrup in your gas tank and expect your car to operate, don’t expect that of your mind and body either.
How to get back on track with balance through food
Now that we’ve gotten those tidbits of information out the way, the question is, how can a person go about finding balance through the food they eat? Well, I’ve got ideas and tips!
1. Green smoothies
Green smoothies are the easiest way to increase your fruit and veggie intake. They are packed full of vitamins and nutrients needed to actually boost your energy. They are also delicious. This is a much better afternoon pick-me-up than coffee, or sweets could ever be. Over on my blog I’ve got lots more info about green smoothies.
2. Avoid sugar and high Glycemic carbohydrates
If you want to balance your mood, eat foods that are balancing. Sugar and high Glycemic carbs create high blood sugars levels in the body. From there the sugar creates a situation that causes your body to crash faster than if you picked a lower Glycemic carbohydrate.
Some ideas to help balance your mood:
- Fats and protein – start your day with a good fat and protein. Here are some foods that have this covered: avocados, nuts and eggs (be careful with nuts and eggs because nuts are a higher allergen food).
- Eat as little sugar as you can – avoid all high fructose corn syrup products. If you must eat sugar try to eat sugars that are made from cane sugar (unless it says cane sugar it’s more than likely not and is mostly made of beet sugar which is a highly GMO crop).
- Grains – the most common grain – wheat – is one of the higher Glycemic foods that you can eat. For the average person this means that if you choose to eat a piece of toast, for example, it won’t give you same sort of energy longevity that, say, a handful of nuts and green smoothie can.
If you’re curious about the Glycemic Index of the foods you like to eat, it’s really easy to get this information online.
Get a head start on your water intake for the day by drinking a glass or two of water first thing in the morning, before your coffee or tea. Here’s a little known fact: most people don’t need 64 oz of water, they need more than that!
Here’s a formula so you can customize your water intake. Take your weight and divide it in half. That’s how many ounces of water you need daily. Now, if you drink diuretics, like coffee and alcohol, to rehydrate you need to drink 1.5 times the number of ounces you drank in diuretics. In other words, if you drank an 8 oz coffee, you need 12 oz of water to replenish the water loss.
4. Processed foods
Eating processed foods is a big mood killer. This is because the body cannot easily breakdown chemicals, GMOs, color and flavor additives and so forth. As a result, when you eat processed foods your body has less nutrients to work with and more damaging toxins to manage. This can affect all aspects of your body’s functioning. Those neurotransmitters that the brain needs to have a stable, positive mood? Those cannot develop and form properly in the gut when your body is full of processed foods. Bodies and moods love REAL food.
These are just a few ways to begin to find balance through food. If you are finding that these tips are not enough and you are still feeling out of balance try an elimination diet. This is where you eliminate all possible allergens from your diet for 30 days and then slowly reintroduce your regular foods back into your diet to see what happens. The Elimination Diet is really the best way to identify hidden allergens in your diet.
Balance isn’t easy.
Until I went through this experience, I never realized just how much balance comes down to the food you eat.
When we eat food it doesn’t just go straight through us- the food we eat becomes us. Our cells regenerate with the fuel we put in our bodies.
If you’re eating foods that aren’t particularly good for you – whether they are junk foods or healthy foods that you may have a sensitivity to – your body suffers and not just from that one meal. Eating foods that aren’t especially good for you is like building a house on a weak foundation. It will collapse at some point – like mine was trying to do, but I saved myself through dietary changes.
As far as your diet goes, if you feel great, don’t change a thing! Because, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But, if you’re struggling through your day, if you mood is low, or your energy is non-existent, try some food tweaks to help stabilize things.