Something has to change...
It happened again last night. Another night of migraines, nausea, bad anxiety and feelings of panic. All at the same time. It's such a horrible feeling every time and all I can do is reach for my medical bag and take more painkillers or more prescribed tablets for stomach acid. 'Can I mix heart tablets for anxiety with painkillers and stomach acid?' I'm home alone and thought this has to stop - what if something happened to me? This situation has happened too many times to count. What am I doing to my body? What happens when the recommended dose of painkillers doesn't work anymore? You have to take more when you feel so unwell just to make it go away.
About two months ago, when I was at one of my lowest points in my life, contemplating prescribing myself to another kind of medication, known to make people zombies and get them hooked, I thought to myself: "Have I really tried everything? There must be something I can do to fix this myself and get myself through this".
I'd heard about eating for anxiety and the constant allusions through clean eating propaganda that 'Clean eating makes you healthier and happier', 'Clean eating makes you healthier and happier', 'Clean eating makes you healthier and happier'. I'd always thought the happier part of the equation came from the fact that women were losing weight, becoming skinny and were therefore happier. Like Kate Moss once said: 'Nothing is as good as skinny feels' right?
But I started to think about and assess how I felt after I ate certain foods; I was knowingly struggling with refined sugar and heavy carbs anything from pieces of chocolate to a processed panini sandwich from a café. With refined sugars, I'd immediately feel it in my stomach with lots of gas (not fun I assure you). With heavy carbs such as rice, pasta, pizza, white bread, cakes (especially rubbish cakes) it would make me feel tired, sluggish and bloated.
Since then, I started by cutting out carbohydrates overall and eating clean fresh meat, vegetables, and fruit and I started eating gluten-free pasta which I've loved and doesn't make me feel bloated. I boasted to my colleagues, family and friends how much more energy I had - I was buzzing like a bee, feeling great, my mind was sharp and I was loving it! In terms of alcohol, I don't drink a lot anyway but when I did go out, I'd opt for low-sugar mocktails (which I will be writing about in another post!) - which was also a godsend but the sweetness still made my stomach a bit funny to be completely honest!
Fast-forward three weeks or so (with the need to mention my time of the month slotted in here) I seriously struggled not eating carbohydrates or anything sweet during this time. I didn't pig out - but had some starchy foods, take-outs, dessert and some ice cream as a treat. Since then, I've fallen back onto a slippery slope where I'm not only finding it difficult to feel good about myself at all but have again experienced headaches, stomach problems and the anxiety and paranoia has been awful just like it was before. [If anyone wants to reach out to chat to me about this, if you're experiencing the same thing, just get in touch]
Without using comedic puns here, I feel like my anxiety and paranoia could be feeding off the food I'm eating. In more scientific terms, certain foods I eat are affecting my nervous system and additionally skewing my levels of dopamine to feel much higher highs from quick-fixes like food and serious, heavy lows.
According to LiveStrong.com: Your body synthesizes these chemicals [dopamine, serotonin] naturally, but if it makes too much or too little of either one, your moods - and even your personality - may change. One major response to cutting out certain foods was that I felt my moods were much more in balance and that I felt more 'in-tune' and 'in-control' of my thoughts and my actions leading to a much calmer and positive state of mind. In terms of food addiction, something which I strongly believe exists, ideafit.com posed the overriding question in their discussion on dopamine and rewarding the brain with your favourite food: 'Can food products hijack the reward system in much the same way as drugs? Yes, according to newly published data and a growing chorus of scientists.'
So certain foods that we eat, that we KNOW are our kryptonite, guilty pleasure, whatever it is, is literally hijacking our brain's natural process of producing serotonin and dopamine and skewing it with the reward system that comes from eating these foods. And perhaps my back and forth, going cold turkey, feeling better, getting hits again, feeling incredibly low, has been a culprit for these problems.
I've dipped into books focused on medicinal eating from chefs and nutritionists that I've seen in bookstores and online, one of them being Dale Pinnock who calls himself the Medicinal Chef ™, and thought maybe there is something to this that I need to learn more about. Have you ever heard of the term Psychosomatic Disorder? [Psycho (mind) and somatic (body)]. The Center for Anxiety and Mood Disorders describe The term “psychosomatic disorder” as mainly used to mean “a physical disease that is thought to be caused, or made worse, by mental factors.” But take a look at the next line: "The term is also used when mental factors cause physical symptoms but where there is no physical disease. For example, chest pain may be caused by stress and no physical disease can be found."
I've had to go to the GP three times for anxiety and the Urgent Care clinic for persistent and unbearable gastro pains in the last four months and have been told I'm a healthy 23-year-old woman and that I may need to 'slow things down'. Realistic advice? Not really. Despite no clear answer, I've made a huge effort to make sure I have time to unwind with a lot on my plate (sorry another food pun). My migraines have dropped significantly, but my gastro pains and anxiety and evening cluster headaches haven't so there's still more to be done.
If anyone has experienced anything similar or is currently struggling with similar symptoms and feel their eating habits or diet may be to blame, come on over to my Facebook page here and leave a comment on the post. I'll be writing more each week to update you on what I've discovered!