What convinced me that this nutrition plan works was, of course, the feedback from my patients. I, myself, was not much of a believer in the connection between food and moods until about a decade ago when I saw a patient named Susan. I had been treating Susan for depression, posttraumatic stress syndrome, and a combination of fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome for about five years. We had tackled the first two conditions, but Susan continued to complain that she never had any energy. We tried one antidepressant after another and although her moods improved, she still had no energy, and her pain continued. She told me her routine never wavered: Each day, she came home from work as a bank teller at around 5:00 p.m. and crawled right into bed for the rest of the day. She had a part-time housekeeper who brought her dinner up to her room and kept her house clean. On the weekends, she would sleep most of the day. She told me she had no life.
Out of desperation, I decided to test Susan for Candida, an overgrowth of yeast in the intestines that has been claimed to cause multiple symptoms including fatigue. I had read several studies which suggested that yeast overgrowth can be at least partially caused by consuming too many refined carbohydrates. It turns out that Susan had an extremely high level of Candida. When I questioned Susan about her diet, she told me about the chocolate cookies she would have as a morning snack at work, about the bagels she ate for lunch, and the candy bars that kept her going in the afternoon, and the coffee that washed it all down.
I immediately told Susan to increase her intake of protein and to completely eliminate sweets (which is thought to promote the growth of yeast) and foods containing yeast, such as bread, mushrooms, orange juice, and beer. I told her to give her adrenal glands a break and stop the caffeine. I also added some B vitamins and Vitamin C. When I saw Susan a month later, she told me her housekeeper thought she had hired another housekeeper to help out. “I would go home, get into bed, and then realize that I wasn’t tired! I had the energy to get out of bed, straighten the house and make my own meals, so she figured I must have hired someone. The truth is I was suddenly less tired, had less pain, and didn’t need to be in bed in the early evening.” Interestingly, I retested Susan for Candida and found that her levels had been very much reduced.
I still continue to see Susan for occasional therapy sessions, and she tells me that whenever she slips off the eating plan, she slips back into bed. While I cannot be sure whether it was the more well balanced diet, vitamins, elimination of caffeine, or the actual decrease in yeast (or a combination of all) that brought back Susan, I can say that Susan’s case made me a convert to the fact that food is an important factor in determining how well we feel in both body and mind.
My eating plan is designed as an ongoing lifestyle change. Since it requires you to eliminate certain foods from your life, you may, like Susan, fall off the wagon from time to time. But the problem is usually self-correcting. Having a pint of ice cream after dinner will make you feel lethargic and out of sorts in the morning, or even one or two days later. Because of this time delay, most people do not make the connection between food and mood. When you do make the connection, you’ll inevitably seek out those habits that will make you feel good again.
After a while, you will find that your once-favorite foods don’t taste as good. In fact, researchers have found that you lose your taste for high-fat sweets after you’ve gone off them for several weeks. So, staying on this eating plan gets easier and easier over several weeks. You just need to follow a few simple basics and aim for overall good nutrition habits. You will do it when YOU ARE READY.