Transcript: EP 338 – Overcoming Mental Illness Through Nutrition with Emily Penton
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Emily: I don’t think it’s necessary, but it was for me because before I was not eating anything healthy. I had to get away from the inflammation. I had to do whatever I could, and I was such an addict that I had to be satiated. So I had this knowing I was on the right path, and it was the biggest gamble of my life.
Dr. Taz: Hi everyone, and welcome to Super Woman Wellness. I’m Dr. Taz. I’ve made it my mission throughout my career in integrative medicine to support women in restoring their health using a blend of eastern medical wisdom with modern science. In this show, I will guide you through different practices to find your power type and fully embody the healthiest and most passionate version of you. I’m here for you, and I can’t wait to get started. This is a soul fire production.
Dr. Taz: Welcome back, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Super Woman Wellness, where we are determined to bring you back to your super-powered health. And joining me today is a guest to talk about a serious, slightly heavy topic, but one honestly that I see in the exam room day in and day out. We are tackling depression and bipolar disease today, and I’m excited to bring on Emily Penton because there’s more to this mental health issue than just mental health. Let me tell you a little bit about Emily. In 2019, she resolved a debilitating mental illness using nutrition. She went on to resolve all her symptoms of multiple sclerosis or MS as well, and lost almost 128 pounds. Is that right? Yeah, 50 pounds. Holy cow. All right. Just six years ago, she developed debilitating bipolar disorder. She had no hope thinking she was worthless and useless. And that is a common theme, by the way, guys, when it comes to health conditions.
I went through that as well. Then things got worse. She was hospitalized and diagnosed again with ms. Intuitively. She turned to a carnivore diet to rid herself of autoimmune disease. She resolved MS within the next few months, got off all her psych meds, lost her weight. Now as a trained therapist, she shows others how they can escape the mental health pitfalls and sense of just being in hell. Welcome to the show. Emily. I know you’re working on a book as well, but talk to us a little bit about what’s going on with you here. So it sounds like he had an autoimmune disease. Did that turn into a mental health sort of manifestation or the other way around or, or lay it out for us a little bit.
Emily: You know what, that’s a really good question because whenever I realized that with the MS, that my lesions were on my left temporal lobe, when you put side by side brain damage from the left temporal lobe and symptoms of bipolar disorder, the symptoms are almost identical. Mm, mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so who knows what came first, the chicken or the egg, right? Like I can look back, I was in 2019 with ms, but I can look back 10 years and see my symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Taz: So yeah, I wanna ask about that because I am so passionate about, can we not please wait for the disease? Can we please be more internally and intuitively aware that things are shifting and changing so that we can jump on it? That’s a very eastern concept, right? They didn’t wait for a disease. They actually said like, Hey, your energy’s off, or your colors off, or This is off, or That’s off. Please go get checked. What were you experiencing in those 10 years prior to your diagnosis?
Emily: Well, the first thing was just joint pain. And I was just, I would be sore, and I was told <laugh> by my doctor, unfortunately you’re just getting old. And I was in my thirties. Hmm. Cause I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 40 years old. Wow. and so I was still young. I still, it wasn’t necessary for me to be hurting and sore. And then I noticed that I had heat intolerance where like everybody else in the office, we’d be in a, like a team meeting and they would be fine. I’d be sitting there with the fan in front of my face. Like I, I was just, I was so hot, like I couldn’t handle anything. And then I started to have these random experiences where I couldn’t swallow. And it was so few and far between that I never went and got help for it. It was just like, oh, weird. I choked on that chicken. Yeah. Okay. But it was just first, it was like twice a year that it happened, and then it became every other month. And then it became about once a month that I would choke on whatever food I was eating, and it just, my throat would just close up. And then that was what the symptom dysphagia, acute dysphagia was what ended me up in the hospital. I couldn’t even swallow water.
Wow. And they did the M R I and found the lesions and then did the lumbar puncture, did all the, all the tests, and, and then I was diagnosed.
Dr. Taz: Got it. Okay. So it’s 2019, you’ve gotten the diagnosis after years of, of kind of vague symptoms. What happens next?
Emily: So, I, I really, I can’t explain this in any other way except for that it was just my intuition. It was this, this knowing that I knew that, okay, if, if this is inflammation, then I need to eat something that’s reducing my inflammation. And that’s what I was already doing with how I was treating my bipolar disorder. Mm. Eating high amounts of animal meat and animal fat. And I don’t think it’s necessary, but it was for me because before I was not eating anything healthy.
Dr. Taz: Wow. Okay. I
Emily: Was eating cookie dough and ramen noodles and chips and soda and pizza and beer and wine and all the things. So I had to shift to this way of eating. That was my path. I don’t think that that’s what everybody needs to do to resolve bipolar disorder and autoimmune disease. But for me, I had to get away from the inflammation.
Dr. Taz: Yeah.
Emily: I had to do whatever I could. And I was such an addict. Right. That I had to be satiated. Yeah. And I was satiated by chicken wings and ribs and, and rib eyes and burgers. And so I had this knowing that I was on the right path. And it was the biggest gamble of my life.
Dr. Taz: So in 2019, did you already know you had bipolar disease? Is that all, was that already established? When did that, when did that get established?
Emily: That got established in about I would say 2000, 2011. Okay. 2011. And so I had been on all the gamut of psych meds at my most, I was on 900 milligrams of lithium. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, 80 milligrams of Prozac, 80 milligrams of Adderall just to get out of bed every day. Wow. I would take, I would take 40 in the morning and 40 at noon. Gosh. And then of course, I had to have Ambien to sleep every night. Right. And I still wasn’t functioning. I turned into rapid cycling in the fall of 2018. And that’s when I had to quit working. And I moved in with my mom at the age of 40. I mean, there was just, I felt so worthless. And then that’s whenever I discovered the carnivore diet and that there were other people who had resolved their bipolar disorder eating this way. And I was, I just needed that hope.
Dr. Taz: So you have, you know, you’re diagnosed with bipolar, you’re on these different medications, and it takes a while before you get this inkling that it may be nutrition. What is the carnivore diet? You mentioned it a couple times. Maybe just explain what you mean by the carnivore diet. Are you not eating any plant-based foods? Are you just avoiding grain-based carbohydrates? Tell us a little bit about exactly the kind of diet that you were following for you.
Emily: Yeah, for me personally, it was just animal meat and animal fat. I even didn’t have dairy or eggs because sometimes dairy or eggs are the culprit. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And so I j basically was doing an elimination diet where I didn’t know what the problem was. And so I just went down to the basics. And I knew that I wouldn’t die if I just ate meat for 45 days. And then my plan was to reintroduce one new food at a time. Right. So then I could know, okay, what is it? Oh, I’m, I’m responding to broccoli, or I’m responding to this, or I’m responding to that. So I, I was pretty much doing like an experiment where I just ate that. And it’s kind of along the lines of like, keto, you know, you can do that and have low carb. This just happens to be zero carb.
Dr. Taz: Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Gotcha. Okay. And you didn’t do any testing or anything like that? You just sort of, were you reading books? Like what was, or were you just kind of trying to dive deep from an intuitive standpoint to figure out what your body really wanted? How are you able to, like a lot of the patients that come into the practice were testing, you know, we are trying to help them figure this stuff out. Right. Cause it’s not super clear all the time. And elimination diets can be a pain, you know? So how are you knowing kind of what to put in, what to put out? How’d you go about that?
Emily: Yeah. I think testing would’ve been wise. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I think that would’ve been the best route to go. Unfortunately, I was in a situation of poverty and I, I didn’t really know what to do. And then I also, this sounds weird, but my bipolar disorder was my superpower in that moment. Hmm. To make such a shift. Bipolar people are, are all or nothing. Right. And so I did an all, I just jumped in and I couldn’t stop to analyze. I couldn’t stop to think, is this the right choice? It was a gamble. Right. It was an absolute gamble. And I suggest to other people to go into it gradually, to transition. Gradually it worked for me, and it still works for me, is this has been four years and I haven’t had a bipolar symptom or a multiple sclerosis symptom. But, you know, it’s, it’s a gamble. Right. And I would be wise to have a doctor and have testing.
Dr. Taz: So do you have a doctor now? Do you have someone that follows you from a mental health standpoint and from an autoimmune standpoint? Or how are you being monitored? What’s happening today?
Emily: Yes. I stayed with my psychiatrist for actually two years after we stopped the medication because he saw my crazy mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so I knew, I know the nature of bipolar disorder, that it can even cycle for three years at a time. Yeah. And so I wanted somebody who knew what my crazy looked like to still see me every month.
Dr. Taz: Gotcha.
Emily: And he was actually the one who started me to taper off of my meds. I did not want to stop taking my meds.
Dr. Taz: Interesting.
Emily: I was just like, no, I’m just now functioning. I went back to work full-time after that six months, and I was, you know, living the life that I, I never knew I could live. Right. I, I, I had more mental clarity than I had had in 15 years just by removing the sugar and the processed foods. It was like I was a different person. And then he was like, Emily, there’s light in your eyes. You’re, you’re hopeful, you’re thinking about the future. He was like, let’s just taper off just a little bit. Yeah. And we just slowly, slowly, slowly tapered it off.
Dr. Taz: So you’re not on Adderall, lithium, any of this.
Emily: I even broke my addiction to caffeine.
Dr. Taz: Wow. So when you’re talking about the carnivore, so there are like two things to unpack here. So you’re talking about the carnivore diet, which is animal fat, animal protein. And there has been a resurgence of the importance of those fats for the brain and how important in general fat is for the brain. You know, those of us are, that are from the eighties, like we’re big proponents of the fat free era. Right. So it’s been really hard to make that shift. But, you know, fat is, has made a comeback. And I think that’s incredibly important to highlight. But it’s not just about the animal protein and the animal fat. It’s also about how those things reduce the sugar cravings and the desire for grain and junk. And so, you know, removing those versus eating more animal protein, where do you weight those? When you think about mental health and bipolar disease, where do you weight those particular initiatives?
Emily: It was everything. Because the goal is compliance. So if I had just said, okay, I’m gonna stop eating sugar and process foods.
Dr. Taz: Right. A lot of people do. Right. They, that’s what, that’s where they begin
Emily: And then I fail, and then I’m reinforcing that I’m a failure.
Dr. Taz: Got
Emily: It. And so I try and I fail and I try and I fail. And that’s what I had done. You know, I’m sure I’d done Weight Watchers and yo-yo dieting and everything. I mean, I was two hundred and fifty, two hundred sixty pounds at five eight. Wow. and so, but I’m from southeast Missouri and that’s how all of us look. Mm. Like I didn’t, I didn’t think I wanted to lose weight. I had no idea. That wasn’t even on my radar. Wow. I was trying to resolve bipolar disorder and then resolve multiple sclerosis. And then the side effect was I lost 120 pounds and I’ve kept it off. But for me, it was having that satiety because food, I had had an addiction. And so that was my coping technique. I needed that comfort from food. And so if I didn’t, I, I pulled that coping technique that leaves me naked and, and vulnerable and bare. So I needed that fat. I personally, I’m not saying everyone, but I personally needed that fat to satiate me so that I would not be craving everything. And then that food freedom that I hit at probably, I would say 40 days mm-hmm. <Affirmative> where I stopped thinking about sugar, I stopped thinking about cake. I stopped thinking about soda and pizza
Dr. Taz: Is gone.
Emily: That was bliss.
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So that’s exactly, so I love that you’re putting a timeline on it cuz if we could tell people stick with this for 40 days and your food noise, which is what they’re saying, the ozempic and the We Govies and all of those things are essentially doing. Right. Those things are essentially, when you talk to patients that are on it, they’re saying the food noise has left my brain like the desire for, you know, cake, candy, food in general. But you’re pointing out that animal protein and animal fat took care of that food noise for you. So would you then think that we’re just in a protein and fat deficiency overall? Is that what’s happening to everyone with kind of this the idea around inflammation and weight?
Emily: I have no idea. I mean, I, I really, and I also think that everybody is on their own journey. I mean, look at Dr. Terry Walls. Yeah. She, she resolved with this, with piles of piles of vegetables. Right. You know, but I was not in a situation where I even ate vegetables, so it wasn’t even part of my culture Right.
Dr. Taz: To
Emily: Eat vegetables. I was eating pizza and anything out of a box and Right. I mean, I was eating the straight standard American just trash diet.
Dr. Taz: Yeah. Yeah. Do you know your blood type outta curiosity?
Emily: I don’t. I be, I get asked that question all the
Dr. Taz: Time. Curious. Yeah. Because again, I’m an o and I know as an o I need my meat. I mean, I know that that’s very important for maintaining my blood sugar. And historically and genetically, if you look back, we were more of that meat eating population. Right. Versus my husband’s side. And they were more vegetable based and for them, like eating a lot of meat drives their blood sugar up. So I think there definitely is like a familial genetic part to this story. For sure. Let’s spend just a, a minute or two on bipolar disease in general. You know, what are the signs and symptoms of bipolar disease? Would you say that your improvement by going this anti-inflammatory route is true for most mental health diseases? I don’t know if you’ve had experience with that or not, but if someone out there, first of all, how can they recognize that they might be dealing with bipolar? And then secondly, you know, what are their treatment options currently to date? I don’t know if people are even thinking about inflammation or, or those ideas when it comes to mental health.
Emily: Yeah. for me my experience with bipolar disorder and for the many people that I’ve worked with it is I liken it to a lens. And you literally see the entire world through a bipolar lens. And someone can say it’s a nice day outside and you hear it’s a nice day outside. What are you doing inside? Why aren’t you outside? Why don’t you go wash the car? Hmm. What are, what are you doing? And all they said was, it’s a nice day outside.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Emily: But you hear it through a completely and you see everything through a completely different lens.
Dr. Taz: Interesting.
Emily: And it is something that you don’t even know is there. Like, you don’t even realize until it’s gone and you’re like, oh, this is how everybody else is functioning. This is how everybody else sees the world. And when you’re in that distortion, it’s consuming, it’s absolutely consuming. And you feel worthless. You think that you are hopeless and that there is literally no point and that you are alone. Nobody hears you, nobody sees you mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. Cause you’re almost in a different dimension. You’re in a totally different world.
Dr. Taz: Interesting.
Emily: In that bipolar lens, in that bipolar world. And that’s why everything’s a struggle.
Dr. Taz: Is there a bipolar in your family?
Dr. Taz: There is. Okay. Got it.
Emily: Yes. I have a great aunt and then my mother.
Dr. Taz: Are they, I don’t know if they’re still around, but are they still are? Do they, your path and your lead?
Emily: Yeah. I don’t usually wanna talk about that too much, but no, they, they do not. <Laugh>.
Dr. Taz: Gotcha. Gotcha. I hear you. Okay. Well, tell us about your life today. You’ve gone through this journey. You’ve healed yourself of two major inflammatory conditions, bipolar disease and ms or multiple sclerosis, both of which we see in practice at center spring quite often. Where have you landed today? Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing.
Emily: Yeah, so as soon as the symptoms lifted, I had hope. And that was back in 2019. I went back to work full-time in June of 2019, and I had practiced as a therapist, and I soon realized that I did not belong in the mental health field any longer because of this awakening, because of this knowledge that sugar and processed foods are correlated to depression and anxiety and bipolar disorder. So I would have my clients sit across from me and the licensing board didn’t want me talking about food and the insurance panels did not want me talking about food. Oh my God. They wanted me to diagnose and then treat with whatever modality they said was the right thing to say. And so I, I felt like I was sitting across from someone with bipolar disorder or depression with like my hands behind my back going, yeah.
I I know what could help you, but I can’t tell you. Yeah. And so I was just like, you know what? I don’t care about the letters behind my name. Call me a coach. I’m just gonna be a coach and I’m gonna help people. And the transition has been foundational because before as a therapist, it was almost like Groundhog Day where they would come in and we’d talk about, you know, their childhood, you know, trauma. And then we, I’d give them some exercises and I’d see you next week. They come back, we talk about the childhood trauma, we talk about the relational, the same thing over. So I go to my colleagues and I’m like, Hey, like, am I doing this wrong? Like, why aren’t they getting better? Right. And they’re like, oh no, that’s it. That’s it. That’s you’re doing, that’s what we do.
And I’m like, how is that what we do? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, like, we’re, we’re not helping them. Oh, but you’re, you’re, you’re giving them a safe space. And I’m like, I want more, I want transformation for them now I get to see transformation. I get to see somebody like completely change right before my very eyes. Like, I remember this, I just had this client who had a borderline personality disorder and worked with him. We, I, we were eight weeks in and he goes, I’m a completely different person. I can’t remember the last time I split. Hmm. I can’t remember ever being this hopeful about my life. And is this what it’s like? Yeah. And I’m like, I’m like, I don’t know. Like, I hope so I hope that you, you know, you can continue on this journey. And then he, he went on a, a trip and had some sugar and some processed foods and everything. And, and he came back and he was just like, I feel it again. He was like, I’m back to that. And I, I really liken it too, that we have to get to that baseline. We have to really get to that stability. And until we can reintroduce new foods and not go back to the sugar and the processed foods.
Dr. Taz: So when you’re working with patients or clients, today is your main modality, food and nutrition work, is that really where you focus?
Emily: That’s the foundation. Okay. That’s where we start. Okay. And then I have found that there’s so much more that I can do with the toolbox that I have from being a therapist. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, because seriously, I am wasting my time to sit here and talk to somebody who’s drinking a, you know, 42 ounce soda and a bag of chips. And I’m trying to talk to them and they’re like, huh? What? Yeah. Huh. Like, they’re not there. Yeah. And then once we can clear out the noise and get that inflammation out of their brain, then they’re, they’re ready. They’re able to process their emotions because they’re really feeling them instead of numbed out by cookies and ice cream and pizza.
Dr. Taz: Yeah. Are people coming to you already motivated to do this? How do you create the motivation for them to stick to something like that? And then kind of extrapolating from that, when it comes to children or teenagers, I don’t know if you work with any of them. Like how do you create that sort of, you know, like aha moment that this is something that they need to do?
Emily: Yeah. the only people that come to me are extremely miserable. Okay. And they are done. Yeah. They are done. Like, they, they can’t go to, you know, weight Watchers or they can’t go to whatever. They’re not like, I don’t, I wanna lose five pounds. Like, the people who come to me are, I don’t wanna live tomorrow. Yeah. I don’t have any more hope for my life. And so they’re pretty willing to just jump in and just do it. And I start them where they’re at. I don’t start people where what I did, I teach them to listen to themselves, not to listen to me. Because if I teach them just to listen to me, then at the end of eight weeks, they’re gonna need, you know, to continue just listening to me. I teach them to listen to themselves, their inner clarity. Yeah. There’s this inner knowing in us, we know that sugar and pizza and ice cream is not serving us. Right. Eat the foods that you know are serving you. I just hold this space for you to really hold you accountable as we transition through this. Gotcha.
And as far as teenagers my youngest was 12 that I did coaching with when I was a therapist. My youngest that I worked with was two. But in this scope, I’ve had a 12 year old, and then I had an 18 year old. And the 18 year old, he was having debilitating panic attacks and he would have to like, pull over on his way to work and just have the panic attack for like 15, 20 minutes and then get back on the highway and go. And he was eating, I found out he was eating granola bars mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and like obsessively, like he had a box of granola bars in his car, a box of granola bars at his, in his room, a box of granola bars in his kitchen. And I was just like, what if, what if it’s the granola
Dr. Taz: Bars? Right. And
Emily: He was like, what? He was like, no.
Dr. Taz: Why? He probably thought those were healthy. He probably,
Emily: Yes. Yeah. He was like, I don’t understand. And I said, can we just like see, and then at the end of 30 days, 45 days, you, you can just tell me I was wrong. Right. And he was like, this is stupid. And I was like, okay. He was like, but I’m gonna do it. And I was like, fine. And he did it. And he just, and his mom was so awesome. She was the one that brought him to me. And she would make him, you know, burgers and, and ribs and chicken wings and like, all this stuff. And so he was like, actually this is really fun. He was like, I’m happy. Hmm. And we talked about what he would eat at Taco Bell when he goes out with his friends or, you know, what choices he could make even though he was socially eating with other people. Right. and he did it and he was like, I don’t even know how this happened, but they’re gone. They’re totally gone. Gosh,
Dr. Taz: That is amazing. Or do you still work with clients today?
Emily: Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>? Yes.
Dr. Taz: Awesome. Well, I’m just thinking about everybody out there who may need help getting motivated to clean the processed food out, to figure out what satiates them, what works really well for them. And oftentimes they need a coach. They need someone who they can be accountable to who can help them with the decisions. You know, that sometimes seem easy, but can be very difficult when you’re in your real life. If you’re still working with folks maybe share how they can get ahold of you and what the best way is to get in touch with you.
Emily: Yeah. Because I, I love, I love you so much and what you deliver, but I recognize that there’s no way that you could hold everyone’s hand. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, there’s no way you could get in the trenches and literally walk through this and hear their stories. I mean, I have people who call me my clients and they’re, they’re crying and they’re cussing me out and they’re like, I just want sugar. And I’m like, I get it. I get it. I’m here with you. You probably
Dr. Taz: Have people that are crying and cussing people like me out saying, I just saw her and she told me to go gluten free, dairy free and sugar free. And she said it like it was the easiest thing to do and now I don’t know what to do. So they’re probably calling you after an experience like that. That’s happened to me by the way, in practice where I’m like, oh yeah, just go. It was early days of practice, like, oh yeah, go gluten free. And, and next thing I know, people are calling like hysterical in the office. Cause they don’t know how to do that. That’s such a, I know, hard thing to do in today’s food world, you know? So it’s, it’s definitely, you know, but, and
Emily: Then, and then it’s almost like a whole nother dying to self because the entire society is addicted to sugar. Right, right. And processed food. And it’s like, it’s like the accepted heroin, right? Like, oh, okay. Like it’s all right. Right. And so you’re this freak of nature now because you’re not eating sugar and processed foods. Right. So what I do is I actually have an initial clarity call with people because I don’t know if I can help you. You don’t know if you vibe with me. And once we get on this clarity call, I can really help people because I mean, I’ve been a therapist, so I’m able to really kind of see things from an objective point of view and give you clarity on that. And it’s $111. And I know that sounds like what, but I have had countless people who all they needed was that call.
Dr. Taz: Right?
Emily: All they needed was that call. All they needed was that clarity that, oh, this is what I’m supposed to do, not maybe I should do this, or maybe this YouTuber said that and maybe this doctor said this and Right.
Dr. Taz: That’s so frustrating for everyone. Yeah. They’ve
Emily: Just got too much information. And so we get clarity, we get a game plan and some people can just take that and run and they’re good. Yeah. I’ve had people message me back months later and they’re like, you changed my life with that call. And I’m like,
Dr. Taz: Yes. That’s awesome. Well keep up the work you’re doing. The more people we can reach. I think it’s just so important because we can really turn things around for people. They don’t have to live in a state of chronic inflammation, mental health disease, any disease. Honestly, there are answers out there. And a lot of it is just understanding what your body is truly asking for, not just kind of surface taking care of it. So thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate it. Are you on Instagram or social media? What’s a good handle for people to find you?
Emily: Yeah, people can find me. If they’re not on social media, they can go to emily penton.com or if you’re on Instagram, I am at Inner Clarity System because that’s, that’s what I do. I help people. I, I give them a system to find their inner clarity.
Dr. Taz: Love it. All right. Well thank you so much, Emily, for your time today. I appreciate it. And for everybody else watching and listening to this episode of Super Woman Wellness, thank you again for being here. We will see you next time.