What to Expect When Improving Your Diet

What to Expect When Improving Your Diet

So, you’re toxic. You’ve recently indulged in a little too much chocolate, wine, beer, fried foods, coffee, cakes, and other sweets. You look and feel tired and achy all over. Perhaps you’ve put on a few more pounds than you’d like to admit. Most of us indulge to some degree during the holiday season. Later, we desperately want to cure ourselves with a fast or perhaps a strict low-fat, low-carb diet, plus vitamins, minerals, and herbs. We make New Year’s resolutions to adopt healthier eating habits, or we may decide to take up a strenuous exercise and sauna program to get rid of toxins and fat more quickly.

The good news is that within three or four weeks of making such changes, you’ll feel better than you’ve felt in years. The bad news is that some uncomfortable symptoms will show up during the cleansing process. Whatever your New Year’s resolutions, expect them to be challenging to implement. If you know what to expect while improving your diet, however, things could be considerably easier.

Read more about goal-setting versus resolution-setting

Why You Feel Rotten

The major reason for symptoms may best be summarized in one word: detoxification. Food may well be the most powerful drug you will ever experience. A high intake of refined carbohydrates, for example, will eventually lead to blood sugar control problems (hypoglycemia) and numerous symptoms. To feel better, most people suffering from low blood sugar will instinctively reach for a candy bar, soft drink, or caffeinated beverage. If they decide to eliminate sugar and refined carbohydrates, their blood sugar levels will immediately plummet even further, thus causing even worse symptoms.

The other reason why detox symptoms can suddenly arise is the addiction/allergy factor. Many people are unknowingly addicted/allergic to foods such as wheat, milk, citrus, eggs, chocolate, and sugar in any concentrated form. If you suddenly stop eating these foods, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those seen in alcoholism, cigarette addiction, or narcotic drug addiction.

Changing to a healthy diet will, in all likelihood, cause fat and some muscle cells to release their waste products into the circulation. Cells also release stored chemicals known as xenobiotics, which the body may not be fully able to detoxify in the liver, kidneys, lungs or skin. Drug flashbacks and all manner of mental and physical symptoms can present themselves. This can even occur in people who only give up sugar and refined carbohydrates without any drastic dietary changes.

In very rare, severely toxic cases, hospital admission for a nervous breakdown may be the end result of a combination of hypoglycemia, food addiction withdrawal, and release of xenobiotics. Certain people are thus poor candidates for a big change to their diets and can end up sicker as a result. If you think you might be one of those rare individuals, consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.

Common Nuisance Symptoms

The vast majority of people who improve their diets find that detox reactions are mild and temporary (four to ten days). Most symptoms are due to some combination of blood sugar problems, withdrawal reactions, food allergies, and xenobiotics. In my experience, the commonest of these nuisance symptoms are:

• Food cravings/hunger

• Headaches

• Irritability

• Dizziness 

• Spaciness

• Fatigue

• Anxiety

• Depression

• Insomnia

• Gas, constipation, or diarrhea

• Frequent urination

• Flu-like illness

Reward for Persistence

I strongly encourage you to continue with your new, healthier diet. Remember, the annoying symptoms will gradually disappear. Almost everyone willing to persist through minor nuisance symptoms will be rewarded. After four to ten days, you’ll notice greater vitality and a sense of higher well-being, along with improved physical appearance.

Dealing with Mental Blocks

People who are relatively new to a natural diet and supplements often feel frightened by the changes that occur in their bodies. Some decide it’s best to abandon their new diets. Others might even make the mistake of going to the local hospital emergency room, walk-in clinic or family doctor. Most likely, they’ll be advised to stop the healthy diet and go back to chocolates, chips, soft drinks and fries.

I recall one woman who consulted me several years ago to treat her menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding). She was so shocked at the sudden cessation of bleeding resulting from dietary changes that she immediately came into the office to tell me she just had to stop because of “fear of what all this is doing to my body.” Another patient phoned to ask me if it was normal to feel “high” when going completely off sugar and would I advise him to stop the diet? What these two patients were really afraid of was change of any kind from the way they were used to feeling. Overcoming these types of psychological blocks is the first step towards better health. Just about everyone has to blow through some degree of mental resistance.

Read more about how calm down and reduce stress

If you decide to improve your diet, you will have to accept the fact that changes will occur in your body. Initially, these changes will be annoying but, with the passage of time, symptoms will lift and you’ll be on your way to high level wellness.

[Editor's Note: If you want help eliminating unhealthy ingredients and chemical additives from your diet for good, click here to sign up for a Naturally Savvy Get Healthy Challenge.]

Image: Ben Grey

Leave a Comment
Dr. Zoltan P. Rona is a graduate of McGill University Medical School (1977) and has a Master’s Degree in Biochemistry and Clinical Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut (1984). He is past president of The Canadian Holistic Medical Association (1987-88) and is the author of three Canadian bestsellers: The Joy of Health (1991), Return to the Joy of Health (1995) and Childhood Illness and The Allergy Connection (1997). He is co-author with Jeanne Marie Martin of The Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook (1996) and is the medical editor of the Benjamin Franklin Award winning Encyclopedia of Natural Healing (1998). He has had a private medical practice in Toronto for the past 35 years, has appeared on radio and TV as well as lectured extensively in Canada and the U.S. Dr. Rona currently writes regular articles for Reader’s Digest, Alive, Vitality magazine and for several web sites. His latest book “Vitamin D, the Sunshine Vitamin” was published in 2010. In 2011, Dr. Rona was named Chief Medical Advisor for NAKA Herbs and Vitamins and has developed a line of nutritional supplements (TriStar Naturals) which are sold in health food stores across Canada. He can be found at www.highlevelwellness.ca