Ugh. You know that feeling that leaves you feeling blah? It’s usually tied to some combination of symptoms in the body, like bloating, low energy, acne, and headaches. But did you realize it’s likely caused by the foods you are eating?
Bummer, right? Yes and no. Yes because you’ll likely have to switch out some of the foods you are currently eating and no because by taking them out, you won’t feel blah anymore. If food has the power to make you feel crappy, it definitely has the power to make you feel amazing.
Now don’t go thinking that because you don’t feel discomfort directly after eating specific foods or don’t have food allergies that you should continue on eating whatever you want without thought. If you have any symptom, physical or mental, food has the power to keep you in or take you out of misery.
Food sensitivities or intolerances are entirely different than allergies and are often hidden. Symptoms can be vague such as the ones I mentioned above and also include foggy headedness, irritability, constipation and anxiety. When symptoms happen somewhere other than your stomach, it’s hard to connect the dots back to food.
Symptoms can also occur without much discomfort, such as inflammation in the gut, but low-grade long-term inflammation can potentially lead to some serious diseases. When there is inflammation in the gut, which is incredibly common and usually without your knowledge, some swelling occurs in the intestines. This swelling makes your digestion less effective and you get less nutrients from the foods you are eating. This leaves you feeling blah.
So, what are the main foods you should consider avoiding so that you can start feeling amazing again?
Gluten is the group of proteins found in certain grains that keeps the grain together and maintains its shape. These proteins act as the glue of the grain and give that doughy texture that we love so much in cakes and breads.
Gluten is so hard to digest because our bodies are not actually designed to digest it. Gluten in grains is a fairly new addition to our diets in terms of human existence. Different grains that have gluten contain it in varying amounts. When it was first consumed, we were not eating as much of it and we were eating it from a variety of grains. Now we are enjoying it at breakfast, lunch and dinner from a select few crops that have high amounts of gluten and the ability to be sold on a massive scale.
Gluten triggers an inflammatory response in the body; humans are just not able to digest it fully. For some, a protein called zonulin1 is released in large quantities. This protein has beneficial properties to the body but in larger amounts it leads to loosening of tight cells in the gut lining and even the brain lining, known as the blood brain barrier.
Try swapping glutenous grains such as wheat, rye, spelt, and kamut for gluten free options such as brown rice, buckwheat, and sorghum. Or try reducing your grain intake in general to lighten the load on your hardworking digestive system.
Dairy products are made with the milk of any mammal and include milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and butter. Many of us find it incredibly difficult to give up and it’s not all in your head.
Eighty percent of the protein found in milk is casein and casein is digested quite slowly, which puts strain on the digestive system and leaves you with that blah feeling. This strain often leads to uncomfortable straining on the toilet.
On top of this, casein produces casomorphins when it is digested. And casomorphins have an opioid effect. Yes, opioid as in opiate drugs. Casein has an opiate effect that makes dairy (especially cheese, which is casein rich) incredibly addictive.2 Coming off of dairy has similar effects as withdrawal from opioid drugs like heroin and morphine.
To get a cheesy flavour in your dishes, try adding nutritional yeast. It is rich in B vitamins, protein and fiber. You can give some cheese substitutes a try but don’t feel like you have to have these. If you don’t like them, you can stop eating them! And remember that most are really just processed foods. Swap cow’s milk for nut, seed or coconut versions. These versions make exceptionally creamy smoothies.
Speaking of addictive foods, sugar also releases opioids as well as dopamine. Research has proven it has the ability to be addictive and negatively affect the brain in a similar way as drug abuse.3
Today we are eating about 20 teaspoons of sugar per day or 150 pounds per year. That’s about 3 times as much as we should be eating and that we ate 100 years ago.
The more refined that sugar is, the faster it is released into the bloodstream and the more damage it does to the body. When we have too much sugar in the body, glucose and insulin become poorly regulated and inflammation begins to brew. Remember that inflammation can occur anywhere in the body and is the basis for all of your health problems.
If you want to not only feel younger, but look younger too, then avoiding sugar is the best way to do this. When you eat sugar, it reacts with proteins to create advanced glycation end products, known as AGEs. Yes, this may be the world’s most accurate acronym as AGEs age you.
Scientific data has proven that AGEs, found in food and through the excessive consumption of sugar, are correlated with aging, disease and inflammation.
Instead of refined sugar, try limiting your sugar to 6 teaspoons per day from natural sources such as pure maple syrup, raw honey and fruit.
All three of these foods wreak havoc on your digestive system, which implicates your overall health. They are also incredibly addictive not to mention widely available and consumed.
The best way to reduce or fully eliminate gluten, dairy, and sugar from your diet is to be prepared by stocking up on ingredients for recipes that don’t contain these ingredients.
If you feel ready to cut these out of your diet but you don’t want all the work of figuring out what to cook, check out my seasonal program, Reset to Real Food, which is launching at the end of the week. When you sign up, you will receive a 21 day meal plan that’s free from these three troublesome foods so that you can stop feeling blah and start enjoying an energetic and vibrant life again.
- Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer. Physiological Reviews. 2011 Jan; 91(1):151-75. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00003.2008.
- An Assessment of the Addiction Potential of the Opioid Associated with Milk. Journal of Dairy Science. 1994 Mar; 77(3): 672-5. doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(94)76998-8
- A Behavioral and Circuit Model Based on Sugar Addiction in Rats. J Addict Med. 2009 Mar; 3(1): 33–41. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e31819aa621
- Advanced glycation end products and RAGE: a common thread in aging, diabetes, neurodegeneration, and inflammation. Glycobiology. 2005 Jul; 15 (7): 16R-28R. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwi053