Mend Your Gut, Mend Your Mind? Elimination Diets Offer Health Clues
We all know that what we eat impacts how we feel – that extra bowl of ice cream that leaves us feeling bloated and tired or the protein packed salad that pushes us through the afternoon slump are obvious examples. But there are plenty of other ways food may be impacting your body and your mood that are less self-evident. Mild inflammation induced by certain foods, for instance, can cause dramatic mood changes. We sometimes live in the grip of these changes for years at a time without realizing what’s happening.
A great way to determine whether or not your body is experiencing this kind of food-related inflammation is by trying an elimination diet. Elimination diets focus on common sources of inflammation, removing them from your diet and then systematically reintroducing them, and it’s a simple and safe way to explore the physiological and psychological impacts of different foods on your body.
You may also work with a nutritionist from Richmond Integrative Psychiatric & Nutrition Services who specializes in elimination diets and can help guide you through the process. A nutritionist may also provide you with recipes that are free of potentially inflammatory foods. Once you start, you may be surprised by what you discover.
A typical elimination diet, such as the one developed by the Institute for Functional Medicine, involves eliminating foods that are known to be common allergens and likely to cause inflammation. This includes dairy, gluten, sugar, eggs, corn, soy, alcohol, chocolate, shellfish, peanuts, red meat, pork, and soy. People suffering with aching joints or chronic pain may also benefit from eliminating nightshades like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.
You may also choose to eliminate foods based on additional information such as known food intolerances, sensitivities, or allergies that run in your family or those commonly associated with other health problems you may be managing. One you’ve selected a list of foods to eliminate, it’s time to get to work. While planning nutritious meals and snacks that abide by the rules of your elimination diet, you’ll learn to read labels carefully. Most people never realize how many foods contain trace amounts of gluten or dairy – Twizzlers, for example, contain wheat flour!
Why Elimination Works
Elimination diets are effective because they remove inflammation-causing foods for a period of time (usually 3-6 weeks), giving your gut time to repair and heal, and allowing years of built-up inflammation to subside. You may feel worse before you feel better on a elimination diet–as your liver and gut are working hard to clear the bad stuff out. Tracking how you’re feeling–both physically and emotionally–can be really helpful at during this time. All of our patients who have followed an elimination diet for at least 21 days report improvement in a number of their physical and emotional symptoms.
Once you’ve completed the elimination period, it’s time to reintroduce–one food at a time, over the course of several days. We usually direct our patients to start with the food they missed the most first–but leaving gluten and dairy until the end. Each food or food group that was eliminated gets carefully and methodically reintroduced every 3 days, with any symptoms appearing being carefully noted. This allows you to make direct connections with the foods you are reintroducing and the symptoms they may be causing you.
At Richmond Integrative Psychiatric & Nutrition Services, we prescribe a 28-day elimination diet to all of our patients because mood disorders like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are inflammatory processes. We know that if we can decrease a person’s overall inflammation by eliminating inflammatory foods, and adding in more colorful, whole, clean, and antioxidant-rich foods we can potentially improve or alleviate many of their negative mood symptoms. This is part of our integrative approach.
Trust Your Gut
Your gut is far smarter than most give it credit for – even for those who instinctively “trust their gut.” This is because your gut is not only the center of your digestive system, your gut tissue is home to 70% of your immune system! Furthermore, there is back and forth communication between your gut and your brain going on all the time. So if your gut isn’t healthy, chances are a lot isn’t healthy either. Poor gut health–which can include anything from an imbalance in gut microbes, a permeable (versus impermeable) lining that lets particles through that shouldn’t be getting through, decreased digestion and absorption capabilities– can translate to poor mental health. How? in short, an unhealthy, leaky gut promotes inflammation, and chronic long-term inflammation causes mood disorders.
An Integrative Approach To Health
At Richmond Integrative Psychiatric & Nutrition Services, we take a holistic approach to mental health in a way that sets us apart from other practices. That’s because we understand how deeply linked psychiatric and mental health is with nutrition and overall physical health, and we work hard to offer services that embrace the complexity of these connections.
Our approach to mental health also reaches beyond the appointment and includes such offerings as our “GI Foundations: Heal Your Gut, Heal Your Body” class – watch our class and event schedule to learn when we are offering this course and to register. By participating in these additional programs, our patients have the opportunity to hear from experts, ask questions, and learn more about how they can transform their mental and physical health through nutrition-based interventions.
If you’re ready to take control of your mental health using an integrative, root-cause approach, contact Richmond Integrative Psychiatric & Nutrition Services to make an appointment. Together we’ll explore your unique system imbalances, and collaboratively develop a personalized plan to restore your mental and physical health.