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When eating clean makes you feel crazy: the “emotional detox”


Photo: Pexels/Pham Khoai
Photo: Pexels/Pham Khoai
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Welcome to the latest from Wellness Council, our handpicked holistic health squad: a tightly curated group that gives the best advice this side of your own personal guru.  

Kimberly_Snyder_headshotHere, celebrity nutritionist, entrepreneur, and best-selling author Kimberly Snyder, talks about a subject that’s often overlooked: the surprising emotions that come up when you make major diet changes.

What she writes about next is up to you—tell us what what you’re dying to know! Send questions and ideas to experts@wellandgood.com.

You’ve made the decision to take back control of your health, body, beauty, and life in general with the conscious effort to replace unhealthy eating patterns with more nutritious foods.

Congrats! The connection between what you eat and how you look and feel is undeniable. While many people might switch to a clean, whole food-based diet to lose weight, we now know that it also helps support smooth, youthful skin, strong hair, super-charged energy, better immunity, and more.

Okay, that all sounds great. But what we might not have bargained for is the often dramatic range of emotions and moods that can go along with changing your diet. You might feel everything from extreme agitation and exhaustion-driven lethargy to straight-up anger and bitchy impatience—and even joyous lightness followed by irritation.

What is an emotional detox?

Emotional detox, which refers to the emotional roller coaster accompanying physical detox, is very common.

Once you cut out processed foods, sugars, unhealthy fats (such as polyunsaturated vegetable oils, or PUFA’s), dairy, etc., your body will begin to release stored toxins, potentially triggering some unpleasant side effects. You may report feeling sluggish, headache-y, and even a bit (okay, a lot) crabby.

You might feel everything from extreme agitation and exhaustion-driven lethargy to straight-up anger and bitchy impatience.

And this might sound a little crazy–but that’s good! It means that your system is beginning to purge itself of the unhealthy substances that are the by-products of the typical Western diet.

The “second brain” in your gut

On a positive note, I can assure you that emotional detox is temporary, and results from the intrinsic connection between the gut and the mind. In fact, your gut is its own mini ecosystem, populated with more microorganisms than you can ever imagine–and while it is managing your overall immune function, it is also making use of more than 30 neurotransmitters, most of which are identical to the ones found in your brain.

Believe it or not, more than 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, as well as about 50 percent of the body’s dopamine—and that’s just a couple of the brain chemicals that are known to contribute to your overall feelings of well-being.

On a positive note, I can assure you that emotional detox is temporary.

Is it any wonder, then, that as you begin to naturally dislodge toxins from your digestive tract, you may briefly experience some feelings of irritability or anxiety?

Now it’s starting to make sense that a diet of clean, natural, organic food will make you lighter, happier, and more joyful, right? That is, once you push past the temporary emotional detox period. Of course, it also helps to know in advance what to expect.

Here are four steps you can take to make those first few weeks of emotional volatility a bit more bearable.

Get Started
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1. Create daily habits

Start your day with my recipe for a Glowing Green Smoothie. This one practice greatly reduces anxiety and increases joy, since it’s one less decision you have to make every day. Remember, it’s very important to stick to it every day in the beginning, so it becomes a daily habit for you.

Besides the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients, the high amount of fiber in the Glowing Green Smoothie helps to flush out the toxins that can contribute to gut imbalance and moodiness, so you can get to a calmer, more balanced place faster—and stay there.

2. Try Detoxy+

This is a natural supplement I developed to help your system flush out old toxins that might be hanging around. This will help you feel better as you wait for the emotional detox period to pass.

3. Sleep as much as possible

Your body is working hard to clear your system of old toxins, and that takes lots of energy. Sleep supports more efficient detoxification, so getting plenty of rest will help you feel less grumpy and foggy. Try to at least go to bed 30 minutes earlier (save that extra episode of Silicon Valley for tomorrow).

4. Be patient with yourself!

Remember, you won’t need the same willpower to stay away from your favorite foods forever. Yes, it’s a process, but as your body becomes cleaner you will be happy to find that food cravings are a thing of the past.

Believe it or not, it took me two years to give up cheese, but now that I finally have I feel so much better. And I’m not a food bitch anymore (at least most of the time). Don’t worry, the end is in sight for you too, if you stay on the path and keep pushing through.

Kimberly Snyder, CN, is a celebrity nutritionist and the New York Times best‐selling author of The Beauty Detox Solution, The Beauty Detox Foods and The Beauty Detox Powerand co-author of the upcoming Radical Beauty with Deepak Chopra (September 2016). Her popular beauty blog, KimberlySnyder.com, features recipes and her signature products, including probiotics, nutraceuticals, and yoga DVD. She is also the creator of Glow Bio, an organic juice, smoothie, and cleanse company.

What should Kimberly write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to experts@wellandgood.com