Oi. This is going to be one hell of a post.
Back on my last birthday, my 29th birthday, I resolved to make several lifestyle changes to promote a healthier life and geared to prevent chronic problems or morbidities from cropping up as I entered my middle-adult years. (Joke’s on me, I still got diagnosed with arthritis before 30! >.<)
Three big changes:
1. Increase Physical Activity– This includes focused exercise and incorporating more active leisure activities into my day-to-day life.
2. Decrease Alcohol Consumption- I’ve never been much of a drinker, only in social situations, but still- consuming less alcohol is better for everyone in the long run. Also alcohol (unless it’s red wine) is purely empty calories!
3. Diet Modification!!
Diet modification was the most important aspect for me to focus on during this transition. First-off, I’ve always had a stronger will with what I put in my mouth than getting myself to workout. Secondly, I’ve been developing worsening stress-induced IBS ever since becoming a nurse, so I thought it was high-time I start doing some research on how to lighten this burden.
That’s when I started reading about anti-inflammatory diets and leaky-gut syndrome. I thought cutting out gluten and dairy would only help my IBS, but turns out it has soooooo many other added benefits! Gluten and casein are even linked to mood disorders in the brain! This made me even more pumped! Cut down on my annoying IBS symptoms, and improve my SSRI-resistant generalized anxiety disorder?! SIGN. ME. UP.
Granted, even though I cut back A LOT on gluten and dairy, I did not cut it out of my diet fully. I always fall prey to the temptation of a delectable piece of pizza. It took several months, and even though I had only cut-out dairy and gluten by ~70%, I was noticing changes. But by early February, after adding in Up4 probiotic, and two mental health supplements including LifeExtension Optimized Folate and Solgar’s Choline/Inositol Supplement, I was feeling GREAT!
First Improvement: Mental Health
First, Mentally– for the first time since 2010, I was feeling my healthiest mentally. I realized, out of the blue one day, that I was HAPPY. What was this feeling?? I was happy, and not anxious. How did this happen?
I didn’t realize this until mid-February, about a month after I had taken myself off of Wellbutrin, which was my latest “try” with mood-stabilizing drugs. I had taken myself off of Wellbutrin in mid-January after realizing it was making me a raging bitch. Irritable with such a short fuse to light my temper. Unfortunately, it took an international trip to Iceland with some of my closest friends to realize how bitchy I had really become. I feel awful and have apologized profusely to them, since.
But, for seven years I have struggled with mild-to-moderate (depending on what was going on in my life at the time) generalized anxiety disorder. At times, my anxiety would get so bad that it would make me depressed. And I was resistant to the common treatment of mood-stabilizing drugs.
I had been on countless SSRI’s, benzo’s, and even gave Wellbutrin (an SNRI) a shot recently. All of them have had more negative side-effects that outweighed the positive benefits, so I eventually came off of all of them. I had a genetic test performed, and even participated in a clinical trial involving a different type of genetic study, and basically they told me two things. 1) I have a genetic mutation that makes me produce only 60% of an enzyme a normal person produces that is responsible for converting “folic acid” into the “active form” of folate, L-Methyfolate. Turns out, folate is the building-block to many mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin. So, by having this genetic mutation that caused a folate deficiency, I was predisposed to having mood disorders! It was a relief to have genetic proof as to why my brain chemistry leaned towards me being anxious all the time. 2) The other study showed that my DNA makeup was not suitable for SSRI’s.
That’s only one aspect of what helped my mental health. The other was cutting out gluten and dairy. This article from DrJockers.com really delves into the nitty-gritty of how gluten and its substrates and casein etc etc really affect the brain. Turns out they become forms of opiates in the brain that block our natural pathways to being happy. So unknowingly at the time, by cutting out gluten and dairy I was helping my brain become happier, healthier.
Combining this knowledge with the knowledge of multiple studies connecting gluten and casein to many neurological/psychiatric disorders has helped me reach my happiest, anxiety-free self in years! So inflammatory diet mod + L-methyfolate + Choline/Inositol = Happy Susane.
Second Improvement and Initial Goal: Improved Gut Health
More immediate than noticing my mood/mental health improvements, (because those improvements were veiled by Wellbutrin,) I noticed much improved gut-health. My IBS was much more tolerable! Less bloating/gas, less cramps, less undesirable types of #2’s. All of those little annoying things that no one wants to admit, or discuss, but nevertheless weigh you down throughout the day.
First, I finally had found an affordable probiotic that had at least 4 different bacterial strains and at least 10 billion units per serving! AND, that you only had to take once a day! Up4 has really proven to be an effective probiotic in that sense.
But, I attribute most of my improved IBS symptoms and gut-health to cutting down/out gluten and dairy. Cutting out inflammatory foods (gluten and casein being some of the WORST for inflammation) is proven to help your GI tract 10-fold! Countless articles and scientific journals/studies site that a diet free from gluten and casein improve IBS and other GI health negative symptoms.
Another great article out the 15 Worst Foods for Inflammation is from MerakaiLane.com.
If I’ve really peaked your interest, there is a greater theory to explore which I won’t go too far into today and that is “Leaky Gut Syndrome.” “Leaky Gut Syndrome” is said to trigger or worsen many things in the body such as chronic systemic inflammation, mood disorders, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, and asthma. “Leaky Gut Syndrome” is recognized by plenty of physicians, albeit it still remains a “gray area” for most since there is not yet hard scientific studies to back up this theory. All the same, it’s food for thought.
Here is a couple of articles to read on “Leaky Gut:”
*Disclaimer: the article above is constructed solely from my own research and educated opinion. Articles cited are not necessarily scholarly or backed by credible scientific sources.*