6 Big Clues That Your Diet Needs an Overhaul
Few people come to me when they’re feeling great. More often, they arrive at my door sick – and saddled with digestive and weight issues that are getting in the way of living a full and healthy life. And it’s my job (and great pleasure) to help them turn it all around. Every day I have the opportunity to work with clients, educating and empowering them so they harness the healing power of food and thrive. While the unwell may think it an elusive goal, I assure you it’s not! In fact, it’s a very achievable one – as long as you have a road map.
To steer your body in the direction of healing and health, first, you need to figure out what’s holding it back from feeling amazing. The place to start? Your diet. Here are six common complaints or clues to look for in order to help you determine if your diet may be to blame:
1. You're bloated.
Bloat, acid reflux or “hurtburn” (as one of my patients called it), are classic signs that something may be triggering irritation and inflammation in the gut. You may be sensitive to gluten and possibly even have an immune reaction The easiest way to find out if gluten the culprit? Eliminate it from your diet for a week. You may find that you feel better, clearer and more energetic without it. Getting rid of gluten, even just temporarily, is an excellent way to be your own dietary detective.
2. You're constipated.
Not only is constipation a sign that you may not be drinking enough fluids, but it’s also a sign that there may not be enough fiber to help draw waste products through the gut and out of the body. Without enough fiber, the pipes get sludgy, elimination slows, and discomfort grows. We should all be shooting for at least 30 grams of fiber in our diets each day, but if you’ve been light on fiber thus far, integrate it into your diet slowly and steadily over the course of a few weeks.
One good gut way to boost your intake: boxed baby greens such as spinach or kale (and organic, if possible). You can toss a fistful or two into just about any meal, hot or cold, and increase your fiber intake effortlessly.
3. You have energy slumps.
If your energy tanks after breakfast and you have to wake back up with a grande cappuccino, that’s another massive clue that your diet is missing the kinds of nutrients that keep you energized and alert. Starting the day with a truly balanced breakfast — one that’s low in sugar, high in protein and loaded with micronutrients — will fill your belly and fuel your brain throughout the morning. My go-to, belly-filling, breakfasts are home-made green smoothies or Greek yogurt with fruit, nuts, seeds and a dash of coconut flakes.
4. You have a weakened immune system.
How do you know when you’re falling short on protein? There are a few classic clues, among them: a craving for sweets, brain fog, a weakened immune system, frequent sniffles and simple malaise, feeling weak and washed out. The good news is that getting enough protein is an easy fix. Try adding nut butter to your morning shake; add chicken to your lunchtime salad; enjoy a small serving of grass-fed beef or fish at dinnertime. Vegetarians should boost their intake of high-protein beans, lentils, tofu or tempeh to fill the gap.
5. You're having skin issues.
Rashes, pimples and skin eruptions are your body’s way of telling you that what you’re putting into it isn’t working all that well — and that you may not be supplying your body with enough healthy fats to keep your skin functioning optimally. As is the case with tummy troubles, an imbalanced, bad or fad diet may be triggering inflammation that manifests itself on the skin’s surface. If you can take a week to eliminate the usual suspects – sugar and dairy – there’s a good chance you’ll be able to calm your inflamed system, give it a rest and help clear up rashes, eczema and other skin flare-ups.
6. You have mood swings.
Three more clues that your diet isn’t up to snuff: mood swings, anxiety and even depression. It may be the case that your brain isn’t getting the nutrients it desperately needs to function on an even keel. For instance, you may not be eating enough carbohydrates (think fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat) needed to produce serotonin, the “feel-good” neurochemical. A diet low in omega 3 fatty acids (wild fish and oily, little fish like herring and sardines are great sources) or vitamin B12 (shellfish is a super source) may not permit your brain to work at top speed and leave you vulnerable to depression. And food sensitivities, especially sensitivity to the gluten found in wheat and many processed foods, can trigger a system-wide inflammation that can affect the brain and impact mood, causing symptoms like anxiety and depression. For more ideas on how to enhance your health with ease, read Cool It! 4 Ways to Tame the Flame of Inflammation.
Adapted from Kathie’s post which originally appeared on mindbodygreen.com .
with additional reporting by Kate Doyle Hooper