Step 3 Avoid / Limit These Foods & Drinks

When it comes to mental health and emotional well-being, there are certain foods or ingredients within food that are known to have a negative impact on the way you feel, think and behave. In this step I have listed those that you should consider reducing or preferably eliminating. For most of my clients with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, I invite them to come off sugar, refined carbohydrates, caffeine and any foods to which they are intolerant for a 2-week trial. I find the majority of my clients will experience a positive shift in their emotional well-being and mood, and that some experience a complete transformation in the way they feel. Whilst not everyone needs to do this, because sugar and caffeine are ok in moderation for most people, some people do. To find out whether you are one of those people, I would highly recommend doing the two-week trial. If you crave sugar you might be sugar sensitive, if so you can download an article from my website on the subject.
The following are the foods and drinks that I recommend you consider either limiting or eliminating in order to improve your emotional well-being and mental health:

Any Food that You Are Intolerant or Sensitive To

If you suffer from bloating, flatulence, constipation, diarrhoea, headaches, skin rashes, fatigue, cravings, fluid retention or facial puffiness then you might want to consider the possibility that you have a food intolerance or sensitivity. The most common food intolerances are due to cow’s milk and cheese, wheat, gluten (found in wheat, rye, spelt, kamut, oats and barley), corn, beef, yeast, eggs, garlic, peanuts, seeds, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers), kiwi and soya. Alternatives for the main foods intolerances include:
  • Cow’s dairy produce – goat milk, sheep milk, almond milk, rice milk
  • Wheat – rye, barley, oat cakes, quinoa, buckwheat, millet
  • Gluten – rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, corn, potato flour, sago, tapioca
  • Butter / Margarine replacements - olive oil, coconut oil, pumpkin seed butter, tahini, dairy free margarines (check for no hydrogenated fats)
Refined carbohydrates           Maximum of three products a week
As found in white bread, white pasta, rolls, pastry, cakes, biscuits, confectionery, carbonated drinks, fruit juice drinks and certain processed breakfast cereals. There is a lot of evidence linking the consumption of refined carbohydrates with obesity, heart disease, certain cancers, stroke, non-insulin dependent diabetes, atherosclerosis and a lower life expectancy.
Sugar                          Limit/Avoid
As found in table sugar, processed foods, soda, cereals, baked beans, sausages,  beef burgers – and even cheese. Other words for sugar are agave, amazake, barley malt, brown rice syrup, brown sugar, cane juice, concentrated grape juice, corn syrup, corn sweetener, date sugar, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, granulated sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltodextrin, malted barley, maltose, mannitol, maple syrup, microcrystalline cellulose, molasses, polydextrose, raw sugar, sorbitol, sucrose, unrefined sugar, white sugar. For most people, in modest amounts these don’t pose a problem. However excessive consumption of sugar and/or refined carbohydrates does is known to lead to symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, anxiety, aggressive behaviour, difficulty concentrating and depression. In the long-term sugar and refined carbohydrates have been associated with high level of inflammation of the body and brain, attention deficit disorder, suppression of the immune system, lower IQ, pre menstrual syndrome, obesity, tooth decay, osteoporosis, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, increased inflammation, cancer and age-related macular degeneration. I encourage the majority of my clients to significantly reduce the amount of sugar they consume.
Trans-fatty acids                    Avoid
As found in crisps, biscuits, crackers, doughnuts, margarine, vegetable shortening, baked goods, French fries, fried food, snack foods and most processed foods. Trans fats are created by the hydrogenation of vegetable oil; a process that gives the oil a longer shelf life and makes it more solid at room temperature. These damaged fats not only interfere with the body’s ability to convert the grandmother of omega 3 essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid into her biologically active offspring EPA and DHA, they are also linked to heart disease, insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sweeteners                  Avoid
As found in Nutrasweet, Equal and Spoonful. There is an increasing body of evidence linking the regular consumption of sweeteners to mental agitation, headaches, depression, lowered seizure threshold and even cancer. Instead consider using the sugar substitute xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that not only has a minimal negative impact on blood sugar levels but it also has been found to reduce tooth decay and risk of middle-ear infections.
Caffeine                                  Avoid or Limit to less than 300mg a day
Caffeine is one of the world’s most popular stimulants. It is found in over 60 different species of plants and is most commonly ingested as coffee, tea, cola, soft drinks, chocolate and pick-me-up tablets. Whilst for many people a couple of cups of tea or coffee doesn’t negatively impact their mood and health, for some people it very much does. One way to find out how caffeine is affecting you is to come off it and to see if you have any withdrawal symptoms. I recommend doing this if you drink more than one cup of coffee, two cups of tea, two cans of caffeinated drink (such as Pepsi, Coke, Diet Coke, Pepsi or Red Bull) or three cups of green tea or earl grey tea a day. See below. Excess consumption of caffeine has been associated with caffeine dependency, mood swings, blood-sugar instability, anxiety, depression, irritability, tiredness, headaches, adrenal fatigue, endometriosis, mineral deficiencies and fibroids.
When coming off caffeine and especially if you are consuming more than 300mg a day (equivalent to three cups of instant coffee) you might want to consider reducing your caffeine consumption by half each day until you reach zero. If you do get any of the withdrawal symptoms, such as tiredness, headaches, irritability and mood fluctuations, keep yourself hydrated with water and consider taking the amino acid l-tyrosine 1000mg twice a day, as this will help to reduce the symptoms. They should disappear naturally within 2 and 9 days of stopping caffeine.
Alcohol                                    Avoid or limit to 2 units (women) 3 units (men) a day
Most people can drink moderate amounts of alcohol without any detriment to their health, in deed their might be an overall benefit to the heart, but this needs to be balanced with an increase risk in developing breast cancer. The evidence is pretty strong now that if you are attempting to have a baby, you should stop all alcohol, and remain alcohol free throughout the pregnancy and breastfeeding period. Whilst most of my clients have a healthy relationship to alcohol, some don’t. It is my experience that most people who habitually use alcohol in the evening are simply using it to medicate feelings of stress and tension. Others have a dependence on alcohol. Whilst this needs to be diagnosed by a professional trained in the assessment and treatment addiction, one yes answer to the following, indicates that you should seek help
  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people ever annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning (an “eye-opener”) to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?
If you have insomnia, candida, cancer, an immune or autoimmune system problem, or are simply dedicated to experiencing your full health and healing potential you should also consider reducing your intake or coming off alcohol completely. I usually recommend the later, not just because of the physical benefits, but because of the emotional benefits. Couples are much more likely to interact meaningfully when they are not drinking alcohol. Plus having alcohol-free evenings provides the time and space to read, attend an evening course or group or enjoy the company of your partner. Whilst there are a couple of exceptions, the people and clients who I consider to be enjoying the highest level of health and fulfilment tend to embrace life fully, and that usually involves giving up alcohol.


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