This headliner might sound polarizing to those of you that are stuck in the “old” conventional ways of looking at mental health. We’re taught that our mental health problems are due to a neurotransmitter imbalance that starts in our brain and that there is only one solution to that – medication. That the fate of our mental health lays in the hands of the gene’s passed down to us from our parents. What if I were to tell you that the explanation as to why you’re feeling this way is literally right underneath your nose, and that there is a predictable, more impactful way to determine a long-term solution to mental well-being?
New research reveals that your gut communicates to your brain on a regular basis. With an unhealthy gut, this emotional guidance system is TURNED OFF. Our first line of defense against the outside world is under attack, and because of that toxins are getting in instead of the vital nutrients that our brains need, and these toxins are causing inflammation both in our body as well as our brain. This leads to many symptoms, mood swings, brain fog, and lack of focus being some big ones. The good news is, there’s a better way out of this nightmare.
The 6-step framework that I’ve worked with to help not only myself, but countless others recover their mental health starts with addressing gut health. Within this first step there are a variety of topics addressed, but what I wanted to focus on here is the effects that food intolerances and inflammatory substances have on the health of your gut and subsequently the health of your mind.
The cause of your mood swings is an unhealthy gut, but the solution to your mood swings is also through your gut.
Food intolerances, with gluten and casein from dairy being two of the most common culprits, can wreak havoc on the intestinal lining that protects certain molecules from getting into your blood steam. To simplify the picture for you, once your intestinal lining becomes compromised, toxic particles (such as the gluten or casein), can reach your brain and manifest as symptoms of psychosis, schizophrenia, mood swings, or autism. It can take the body up to 4 days to react to molecules from food, so it can be challenging for one to discover really what food it is that is triggering the symptoms.
There is a plethora of food intolerance tests out there that promise to solve the world’s problems by telling people what foods they shouldn’t eat, however they are not entirely accurate all the time and often may generate false negatives or positives to certain foods. An additional downside, is they can get expensive. This is why I recommend elimination/re-challenge diets. This, to me, is the gold standard of understanding what foods someone might be reacting to, triggering chronic intestinal inflammation that leads to chronic neuroinflammation.
So, how do you do an elimination/re-challenge diet? There are tons of them discussed online. The method I prefer is to remove all processed foods (this means all canned foods, pastas, packaged foods), gluten, corn, dairy, eggs, whey, soy, peanuts, and vegetable oils. This means, you’ll be eating a very “whole foods” based diet, plentiful in grass fed meats, vegetables, and fruits. If you know you have a nightshade issue, you may want to avoid that category of vegetables as well – but that is a topic for a whole separate conversation. Avoid these foods for 30 days. And then one by one, every 4 days, you’ll want to reintroduce those foods back and be very conscious of how they make you feel. Keep a food diary throughout the process, and dedicate this month to being very mindful of how your body (and mind) are feeling each step of the way. After 30 days, it should be crystal clear what foods you’re reacting to if you give yourself the time to experience the effects of adding each one back into your diet.
This process usually is more effective and understandable with the help of a trained clinician, so if you feel that you aren’t really able to figure it out on your own, it would be wise to get the support and guidance of someone with experience in repairing digestive health.