How Diet Affects Our Mental Health

Spoken straight from the expert

Good morning friends ;)

This is a long read but a good one, perfect for Sunday reading in the park with a piping hot latte. If you’re someone who struggles with bloat, yo-yo-dieting, and general weight and skin issues, this article is for you. Soooo baaasically, this article is for everyone. Take a gander and learn something!


I chatted with Lauren Sandoval, FNTP, a holistic health coach specializing in gut health, and resonated with her loving-herself-and-her-body story after battling what I would argue all women go through at some point — being frustrated by how our bodies look and feel.

Here is our convo…

Your philosophy is "Love your body & it will love you back." Can you get specific on what that means to you, and how women can adopt this way of thinking?

A lot of what I see in the wellness industry is body hate disguised as health. We have disordered thoughts around food and weight — guilt for eating certain things or not participating in certain activities, eating terrible “health” foods that make you feel like crap, overworking yourself to the point of burnout, running on caffeine and consuming supplements in place of real food…forced positivity rather than dealing with the emotions buried inside you.

Trying all kinds of things to look and feel different than your natural state, but never feeling nourished or satisfied.

My method takes a different approach — it reconnects us back to our natural state of being. Why does it work? A properly nourished body is more resilient to injury, illness and stress. It naturally balances weight and hormones. It has sufficient energy and a healthy appetite for food & sex.

It has a more positive outlook on life — all without having to diet or spend anymore time in a gym. When the body’s needs are met, everything works how it’s supposed to. The trick is finding what works for your unique body and situation.

You struggled with what SO MANY women today struggle with including yo-yo dieting, lack of energy, and weight & skin issues. What are the culprits? What are the solutions?

First, we’re all different with our own bio-individual needs, so what works for one person might not work for the next.

For me (and the majority of my clients), the culprits are a slow build over time.

  • Toxic exposure via pollution

  • Toxic beauty & cleaning products

  • A diet loaded with processed foods and alcohol & caffeine

  • Chronic dehydration

  • Lots of medical interventions — vaccines, antibiotics, surgeries, birth control

And the cherry on top was a lot of mental and emotional stress. Then I’d diet and over-exercise to fix the problems, only to make things worse.

When it comes to solving these issues, I always look at diet + lifestyle as a whole to determine the best course of action for my clients. 

For most, this means first addressing the foundations of health:

  1. Breathing deeply with clean air

  2. Drinking sufficient clean, mineral-rich water

  3. Eating nutrient-dense whole foods that come straight from the earth and are free of pesticides

  4. Making sure the body is digesting and detoxifying properly

  5. Moving in a way that feels good in your body

  6. Sleeping well, unassisted by medications and vices

  7. Having bowel movements and sweating daily

  8. Dealing with traumas, emotions and insecurities

  9. And reconnecting to self, others and Mother Nature

After years of research, you say you learned how to heal "from the inside out." Explain.

So many of my own issues go back to my terrible gut health. I had developed leaky gut which lead to an auto-immune disease called Vitiligo. This meant my body would continue attacking the pigment of my skin until I had white patches all over my body. I suffered from hormonal imbalances and awful periods. IBS symptoms like constipation and diarrhea. An imbalanced microbiome and constant bloating & fatigue. I was depressed, anxious, moody and emotional all the time. And all I wanted was to be happy. 

But according to doctors, I was healthy. And all they could do was offer me topical steroid creams that burned my skin. So I set out to do my own research and began learning about the concepts of functional medicine. 

After finding some success on my own, I became passionate about helping others heal and enrolled to become a Functional Nutrition Therapy Practitioner. Through my training, I not only figured out the final pieces to my healing puzzle, but also learned how to support others in their journey.

Now I can say that my digestive & mental health has never been better. I can eat and do what I want without stress. My weight and muscle tone is better than ever with minimal effort. I'm more resilient to the stressors that come my way. And I feel so much healthier and happier than ever before. Also my pigment is returning.

A common struggle women deal with is bloat. What causes it, and how do we get rid of/prevent it?

Unfortunately, bloat is such a common problem that we’ve normalized, but don’t need to have!

Most bloating is an adverse reaction to food or some form of digestive dysfunction. The causes could be due to the quality, quantity and frequency of foods consumed. It could also be caused by insufficient digestive enzymes and gastric juices. It could be because of an imbalance in the microbiome. It could be inflammation. It could also be caused by stress or stressors on the body.

Removing inflammatory foods like gluten, conventional meat and dairy, sugary drinks, snacks & desserts, and corn & soy for a time can be extremely relieving. But the problem a lot of women have is that the very foods that we’ve deemed as “healthy” are actually very hard to digest and can cause a lot of bloating as well — foods like raw veggies, beans, whole grains, soy, cauliflower, nut milks & butters and protein powders can actually be huge culprits if your gut health isn’t so great.

Treatment and prevention can look the same:

  • Take care of your gut

  • Reduce your stress as much as possible

  • Stay hydrated

  • Eat slowly and chew thoroughly

  • Stop eating when you’re full

  • Consume the best quality, nutrient-rich foods you can

  • Eat the rainbow of fruit & vegetables

  • Get adequate fat and protein

  • Sleep well. Move often. And avoid processed junk & “health” foods

*If this is a constant struggle for you, I highly recommend working with a doctor or practitioner to help guide you in the process that is best suited for you.

How do you keep your mental health strong every day? Any remedies you swear by?

How I take care of myself directly impacts my mental health, so I have a few non-negotiable things I do everyday:

Movement, time outdoors, hydration, gratitude, affection, deep breaths and good quality food are key.

Also, I always make my bed. And if I don’t do these things every single day, I’m definitely likely to slip back into my old ways, so I’m pretty motivated to keep it up.

*It’s important to note that your blood sugar, the state of your microbiome, your hormone balance, your immune system and detox pathways are all linked to the state of your mental health and vice versa. Physical health = Mental health.

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What advice do you have for women looking to feel lighter in their bodies? (aka the feeling opposite of being bogged down by Italian pasta)

This is going to sound woo-woo, but I would really try to reconnect to your inner wisdom. Trust in the body’s innate intelligence to tell you what it needs — when it’s full, when it’s hungry, when it’s thirsty, when it’s tired, etc.

When we override these communication systems in the body is when we throw our systems out of whack. But if you really pay attention, your body will offer a lot of clues on how to feel its best.

We need to reprogram our minds to release the diet culture thoughts and return to listening to our own bodies to learn what is healthiest for our unique systems. Tuning into the body’s communications, you can learn what foods make you feel best, what schedule & activities allow for the most rest & invigoration, and allow the body to release some of the stress & weight it’s been holding on to.

Your body is intelligent and your intuition (& a knowledgable practitioner) can help you tap into that healing magic!

WHEW.

I feel 3 lbs lighter after reading that. If you want to keep up with Lauren (and really, why wouldn’t you after that wealth of info she just gave us), here is her site.

See you next week.


Sip Sip is a weekly newsletter dedicated to making moms feel SEEN in the realm of mental health. As the editor, I’m committed to easing your mom woes — one newsletter at a time — through advice, lessons, and humor on how to live your life right.

Be you (a less bloated you).

Xo, Ash

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