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What You May Experience When
Transitioning to a Healthy Diet
by Don Bennett, DAS


When people start moving towards a healthier diet and other healthy lifestyle practices, sometimes they can experience things that might lead one to believe they're on the wrong track, when actually they're headed in the right direction.

If you've spent a significant amount of time eating a diet that wasn't supportive of optimal health (and one that may have contributed to an unhealthy state), and participated in other non-health-supportive activities, or didn't participate in health-enhancing activities, you no doubt started on your new path to vibrant health with some health challenges (some that might be obvious to you and some you may not be aware of). So when making such a significant change, even though it's a positive one, you're likely going to experience the effects of healing and "detoxification"... and some people will feel a little worse before feeling a lot better.

Getting plenty of sleep, being physically active (getting plenty of up and down motion which circulates your lymph fluid which is responsible for eliminating waste products), being careful to not overeat and to eat lightly, being sure to be properly hydrated, and keeping a good mental attitude about life in general will go a long way towards helping your transition be tolerable and as short as possible.

There is also the issue of "rebalancing". After many years of not giving your body enough of what it needed, and giving it some of what it didn't want, when you do start living according to your biological imperatives your body will jump at the opportunity to be at its best. Besides the obvious and usually much needed "housecleaning", this process will entail some rebalancing of many of the body's various systems, and you may experience some effects of this rebalancing. And just as with the effects of detox, this will be temporary and can be made easier by making choices based on the science of natural health vs well-intentioned but otherwise incorrect healthy lifestyle advice and the promotional hype for the inevitable ever-growing number of products that always seem to sprout up around a growing trend like healthful living and one of its "spokes" the healthy raw food diet.

When transitioning to a new diet and way of eating, it often takes time to "get it right", and during this learning curve you may unknowingly throw some things out of balance which can result in you experiencing some issues that you hadn't previously. For example, a common complaint is cramps (charley-horse). A cramp is an involuntary and forcibly contracted muscle that cannot immediately relax. Cramps can affect any muscle under your voluntary control (skeletal muscles). A cramp can last a few seconds to 15 minutes or longer, and it might recur multiple times before stopping completely. When transitioning, cramps are most likely due to one or more of the following:

Not getting enough water. When you switch to an easier to digest diet consisting of foods that nourish the body vs burdening it, the resulting nerve energy that's "freed up" will immediately be put to good use in the ongoing task of maintenance (the kind that works to keep you free of serious disease), and the result of this increase in healing work will necessitate sufficient water to eliminate the resulting waste products. If you don't drink enough water or get it from the consumption of enough high water content foods, the body will pull water out of its tissues in an effort to get rid of the now systemic waste products. And if you're losing any amount of excess weight (fat), the toxins that had been stored there will become systemic and in need of immediate elimination. This dehydration can result in cramps.

Sodium-Potassium imbalance. If you start eating lots of foods rich in potassium (bananas, oranges, avocados, tomatoes) but don't also eat a bunch of foods rich in natural sodium (green leafies, celery), you can develop an imbalance in this all important ratio, and muscle cramps can occur.

Insufficient magnesium. A key player in proper muscle function is the mineral magnesium. If you're moving away from unhealthy foods that were fortified with nutrients like B12, vitamin D, and magnesium, and the foods you're moving to are somewhat deficient in magnesium but have a goodly amount of calcium (calcium-magnesium is another important ratio), and you aren't taking a highly bioavailable nutritional supplement, this may be a contributing factor in muscle cramps.

Insufficient sleep. If you're not getting enough sleep (which can be more than usual due to your body's increased healing efforts), when combined with one of the above, cramps can develop. Since sufficient sleep (with ample Phase 4 restorative sleep) is also crucial for optimal healing, it should be a high priority.

Over-exercise. If you over-exert a muscle (like some folks unknowingly do when running on a regular basis) and then throw some of the above items into the mix, cramps can occur in that muscle. Just as there is, for many folks, a healthier way to eat, there is also a healthier way to exercise; one that gets and keeps you fit, but just as importantly doesn't put at risk your skeletal system or soft tissues (bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments).

While it's true that detox itself can also be a contributing factor to cramps, the culprit is more likely one or more of the above.

The uncomfortable side-effects of detoxification and the unusual manifestation of your body re-balancing are varied and very individual, but take heart, they're also temporary, and a sign of much needed work being done. So, all things considered, it's a positive thing. Be glad that your body has the ability to make things right, and look at it as a necessary investment in your future health. One day if someone asks you, "Was it worth going through all that?", you'll smile and say, "Oh most definitely."


See also:

Tips For Transitioning to a Healthier Diet

Transitioning to a Healthy Raw Diet, the Easy Way

How to be Successful on a Raw Vegan Diet


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