Why Healing Diets Can Make You Feel Worse: The Hypothalamus-Pituitary Connection

Why Healing Diets Can Make You Feel Worse: The Hypothalamus-Pituitary ConnectionPhoto Credit: amanda tipton via Compfight

There’s no denying that any healing protocol can make you feel worse if it’s not the right one for you, but there’s a major piece to the puzzle that can make you feel ill when you’re actually healing.

The Hypothalamus-Pituitary Connection

The hypothalamus is a small region of your brain that controls many aspects of homeostasis in the body. One of the major functions is to control the pituitary gland and serve as the primary connection between the nervous and endocrine (hormone) systems. The pituitary gland is considered the “master” hormone gland next to the hypothalamus.

The pituitary-hypothalamus connection is what regulates the messages between the brain and body. Often, when you have been chronically ill for some time, your brain either stops sending the messages that tell your body that it’s in trouble or gets drowned out by all the other competing ones.

Mayday! Mayday!

These symptoms are often masked with conventional medications like painkillers and diuretics or just overlooked because we don’t understand what our bodies are saying.

What’s Really Happening

Why Healing Diets Can Make You Feel Worse: The Hypothalamus-Pituitary Connection
Photo Credit: Amanda Tipton via Compfight

When you follow the steps to healing

  • removing foods that cause digestive issues or an immune response
  • increasing your intake of healing, nutrient-dense foods
  • following alternative healing methods like acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbs, and other methods of detoxification support

your body awakens that connection and starts talking…and talking…and talking.



Inflammation can increase, aches and pains can intensify, fatigue can become overwhelming, and foods that were on the safe list before can quickly move over to the no-no list.

This is actually a good thing in some cases. It shows that your body is starting to work again, and you are now able to listen to its signals.

Inflammation is often a sign of a fatty acid deficiency (related to prostaglandin formation).

The aches and pains can give you clues about what is malfunctioning (chronic lower back pain is often adrenal related and swollen joints can be caused by food allergy reactions).

Fatigue tells you that your body needs some serious rest and a critical influx of nutrients.

 The Journey

When beginning a healing protocol or if you’re still working your way through one, keep this process in mind. A healing journey can often feel like 1 step forward and 5 steps back.

Learn more about what a healing crisis is and some differences between a reaction to a food or medicine or a healing reaction in 3 Signs You Are Healing (even though you feel lousy).


Introduction to the Human Body: The Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology by Tortora and Derrickson

Jennifer Nervo is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Reiki Master Practitioner & teacher, and Aromatherapist. Her focus is on digestive, nervous, and immune system dysfunction and the fields of functional nutrition & psychoneuroimmunology. She works with all conditions and diseases including environmental and food allergies, autoimmune diseases, multiple chemical sensitivity, diabetes, eczema, anxiety, weight loss as a symptom of dis-ease, and gut-brain disorders like autism.

When she’s not herding her small troupe of monkeys or seeing clients, her free time is packed with researching and perfecting new wellness techniques (her not-so-secret passion). Jennifer is currently a group leader for the newest class of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners out of Ann Arbor, MI, studying for the national board exam in holistic nutrition, and running a combined distance and brick and mortar practice in metro Detroit. She’s also a homeschooling suburbanite, foodie, and mama to two littles and a schnoodle.

16 thoughts on “Why Healing Diets Can Make You Feel Worse: The Hypothalamus-Pituitary Connection”

  • ohhh tell us more… I tried pituitrophin and hypothalmex by Standard Process along with my FCLO. Yuck they made me crazy.

    • There’s usually no need to add this type of supplement if you are on a healing protocol. Your nervous system is likely getting overstimulated. The connection will normally repair itself, so I suggest holding off on them unless there is an obvious need. If you are working with a holistic practitioner, you may want to revisit the issue and ask why s/he feels you need to be on it.

  • Thanks for the comment about stepping forward and back. How about half a step forward and ten steps back? It gets discouraging, but then I find a new recipe or something to research to make myself feel better 🙂

  • Jennifer, what do you do about healing and detoxing while breastfeeding? I know it’s the perfect time to be nourishing your body with nutrient rich foods and hydrating really well, but I’ve always heard that detoxing during this time is a no-no. I don’t plan to wean my baby, but let him wean himself, when he’s ready (he’s only 6mos old, in any case), but I’m certain my body could use less toxic junk in it. Any pearls? Thanks!

    • During pregnancy or breastfeeding, our bodies naturally detoxify every day. I don’t avoid the natural detox that comes with changing to a whole foods diet, but I don’t encourage mothers to go any further than that. If you are starting from the Standard American Diet, start with replacing feedlot meats and eggs with grass-fed and pastured, replace industrial seed oils with healthy, traditional fats, and move to organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible. Instead of jumping to a gluten- or grain-free diet, I would slowly incorporate better choices of grain-based foods in but not remove all of the previous ones. Calories, especially those that are readily available like carbs, are as critical to making enough milk as getting enough healthy fats.

      Be sure the stress of eating healthy doesn’t make you UNhealthy!

      The increase in nutrients will help both you and your munchkin deal with the toxins being released. If you notice any effects from detoxing too fast (in either of you), then additional healing GI support like broth, bentonite clay, and/or activated charcoal can help.

      • Jennifer, Can you say a bit more about how our bodies detoxify every day while breastfeeding? I know that we have means for detoxification, but if we are “backed up” with toxicity from years of accumulation and are experiencing the symptoms that can come from that, is it still true that we are adequately detoxifying every day? This is something I think about alot, because there are so many warnings about avoiding detox while nursing, but I have to ask, if my body is toxic, isn’t my child still getting toxins in my milk, as he would be if I actively detox?

        • We’re not adequately detoxifying. Just think of it like a backed-up drain. The water will still drain, but becomes slower and slower to empty as build up accumulates. In addition to being overloaded with toxins, when our liver malfunctions and can’t process the toxins adequately to remove them, it creates an additional burden on the body.

          If you are actively detoxing through a major diet change, herbs, etc., you are ‘cleaning the drain’ and a good portion of those accumulated toxins will begin pouring out through your detox channels including breast milk.

      • Love your site! Landed here because of Village Green’s newsletter and this is exactly the information I needed at the exact right time! Thanks!!!

        So, I gave up gluten a while ago… since about mid-July I’ve been cutting it out a majority of the time (probably 80/20) and over the last several weeks as close to 100% as I can. I gave it up just to see what would happen and because of a suspected intolerance.

        I can’t say I feel remarkably different being off of it, but on the occasions where I do have a little bite here and there it doesn’t feel great to eat; I get a little bit of stomach gurgles.

        However, I noticed that I’ve started to get eczema on my fingers where I never had it before (in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had eczema). A little back story is that I know I’m sensitive to dairy and if I eat too much of it, I do get dermatitis flare ups – but usually on my face. I had not been great about keeping the dairy out over the summer but have been religious about keeping it out the last week or two and I’m not seeing an improvement in the eczema on my finger.

        This post and your ‘3 signs your healing’ post were helpful, and confirm what I suspected – that getting rid of the gluten released some toxins or something that caused the eczema and I just need to stay the course to get past this.

        So, two questions. Do you have any resources that I can go to get more information on this process? Secondly, I am on the tail end of nursing my almost one year old son (planning to wean in a couple of weeks) – I didn’t think that just removing gluten would cause a detox reaction and possibly affect him (ugh, I love breastfeeding but I am so ready to have my body back!). Anything I can do to support him? I feel like I can’t turn this ship around now that I’ve gone down this path.

        Thanks so much in advance for your help and advice!!
        Carrie =)

  • I so totally relate to this but didn’t know why it was happening. It seemed to take forever to get over that hump – but it does happen. Then I was able to begin the next phase of healing, where I am now. SOOOO much easier. What a journey it is. Thanks for your blog. Love it!

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