In the first ten days or 2 weeks after you stop eating processed food, you’ll probably feel markedly worse. Your body needs to get used to the lack of salt, sugar, and other added ingredients before enjoying the advantages.
At first, you might experience anxiety, cravings, bloating, and even headaches. The severity of these symptoms of weaning yourself off processed food depends on how much processed food you have been eating up to that point and how sugar-addicted you are.
Cravings and other symptoms will go away after ten days or 2 weeks as your sugar metabolism normalizes again. It’s important to not give in to temptation!
As you limit your intake of processed food, your mood will improve. The digestive tract processed sugary foods and other refined carbohydrates after you eat, which is why you might get spikes and dips in blood sugar unless you combine the carbs with proteins and fiber. Skipping these contributes to feelings of anxiety and irritability, as well as low energy levels.
Processed foods like corn syrup and the artificial ingredients in fast food stimulate the release of serotonin, a mood-enhancing neurotransmitter contributing to feelings of happiness. We experience a rush of serotonin with every next bite of chocolate or chips, which we why we keep eating them, but once we’re done, we experience a sharp dip. That mechanism is behind health problems such as compulsive eating disorder.
One solution is to keep eating processed food, but eventually, it will deplete our serotonin depots, sending us into depression. The other option is limited them or cutting them out of our diet entirely if the former proves impossible. Eventually, our serotonin levels will reach a balance, and we’ll stop experiencing anxiety, irritability, and other negative sensations associated with low serotonin.
Heavily processed foods usually contain a lot of fructose. The brain does need some sugar to ensure proper cognitive function, but it’s best to opt for the sugar naturally found in fruit. Eating too much sugar leads to poor concentration.
Processed foods contain a lot of salt, which keeps them fresh. This salt causes our bodies to retain water, and we become bloated. This causes poor hydration and a whole other series of risks we wouldn’t face if we cut out processed foods.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from cutting processed foods out of your diet. Eventually, your body will achieve a healthy balance.