We know that eating more vegetables and good quality fats and less processed foods is good for us, but I often see people who are trying to make diet changes give up because they experience some unwanted side effects that they hadn’t expected.
As with any changes, there is an adjustment period. You would expect to have sore muscles after taking up a new exercise program, well changing your diet is much the same.
Here are the top 5 complaints I see when helping people to change their diet.
Unhappy gut bugs
Often when people make changes to their diet, they can experience gut symptoms such as nausea, gas, bloating, indigestion, diarrhoea, constipation, pain and discomfort. While none of that sounds particularly delightful, this is completely normal!
Your gut is full of bacteria (over 100 trillion of them!!) and they have been used to the food you have been eating all your life, so when you remove certain foods from your diet, or add in new foods, they can get a bit pissed off.
Don’t worry though, they will adapt.
An increase in the amount of fibre you are now eating can also cause these symptoms. Instead of jumping straight into huge plates of salad or green smoothies, build up slowly by adding a small amount of veggies at each meal (including breakfast!).
Changing your diet can sometimes make you feel really tired. And that’s not just because you are now doing more cooking or having to read labels (though that is a factor..). When you cut out or reduce processed foods and switch to more whole foods, your body may take some time adjusting to the lack of artificial stimulation you get when eating processed foods that have a lot of sugar, refined carbs and/or caffeine.
Your body will adjust to its new diet and you should start to have a lot more energy.
In the meantime, I recommend drinking plenty of water and herbal teas, getting outside for some sun and fresh air and if you can, resting when you feel tired.
Skin breakouts are a common side effect of diet changes too. As someone who had rarely even had a pimple, I was shocked when my skin broke out with painful, acne-like pimples when I stopped eating processed foods.
Our skin functions as an elimination pathway from the body. When our other elimination and detoxification mechanisms such as our liver, kidneys and lymph haven’t been getting the nutrients they need to do their job, they can be overloaded and under functioning. When this happens, your skin will assist in the excretion of waste products and this can lead to breakouts.
Drink plenty of filtered water, eat or drink plenty of brightly coloured fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure you are getting wide range of nutrients, include plenty of foods that contain fat soluble vitamins like eggs, nuts and seeds, and try to keep your face makeup free for a while. Wash your face gently each morning and night with a soft cloth and water.
Not now dear, I have a headache!
Headaches are common when you remove processed food and stimulants from your diet. There is usually a withdrawal period from these chemicals and it can last anywhere from 3 days to a few weeks.
Again, drinking water and herbal teas can help, and take some time to rest – your body is working hard!
If your current diet contains lots of things like muesli bars, biscuits, low-fat yoghurt, bread or pasta, then cutting these out and adding in more whole foods like vegetables, eggs, good quality meat and poultry may leave you feeling hungrier than usual.
This is because when you eat a diet high in carbohydrates (especially refined ones), your body is used to breaking these down quickly into glucose to use as energy. These foods also don’t trigger the release of hormones to tell your brain that you’re full – have you noticed how you can easily eat your way through a packet of biscuits and still feel hungry?
I noticed that after my body adjusted to more whole foods, the feeling I used to think of as “hunger” disappeared. I now realise that this was not a true hunger feeling, but more a craving for a hit of sugar to keep me going.
Once your body adjusts to your new diet, you will be more in tune with your body’s real hunger signals and because you will be eating more healthy fat, fibre and protein, you will feel fuller for longer.
**If any of these symptoms do not resolve after a few weeks, then its time to seek some professional advice. Book in to see your Nutritional Medicine Practitioner, Naturopath or GP.