This term is also a slogan of a fast food chain near my home. I cringe every day as I drive by the gigantic sign. The processed, breaded and sugary foods they promote are actually the exact opposite of ‘good mood food’. I challenge you to prove me wrong after turning your diet towards a clean menu. I’ve already told you why I’m committed to Paleo, now let me tell you why the food you choose will help you regain control of your mood.
Medical doctors are not necessarily educated on nutrition, and I’m not sure why, as the food we eat affects our bodies entirely. From weight and disease to behavior and mood, we are able to manipulate so many variables by the food choices we make, not to mention the medications we are prescribed. It’s amazing how the positive effects of natural foods follow right in line with the paleo way of eating. (Are you really surprised?)
Depression seems to be a huge trend among the folks I know and I know it’s not just me. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration say 17 million adults experienced a major depressive episode within the last 5 years. Whether it’s seasonal or a lifelong battle, it’s a weight I hate to hear anyone is carrying. Just yesterday, a woman confided she was hospitalized last year because of a severe depressive episode. BREAK MY HEART. She was morbidly obese, pre-diabetic, and riddled with arthritis. All things which clean eating can effect a positive way.
If you’ve read my ‘Committed’ blog then you know I’ve dealt with mental illness for a long time. I am currently experiencing the longest span of clear-headedness that I can remember, with the most control and awareness over my moods that I’ve ever had. It does not come easy, of course, nothing does. I work hard at this. When I become lax in clean eating, which has happened, I immediately see signs of returned illness in the ways of unexplained sadness, lethargy, ease of aggravation and a slew of other unwanted characteristics.
The best “Good Mood Food” I can suggest:
Protein: Proteins rich in amino acids and tyrosine can help boost energy and clear your foggy head, allowing you to concentrate and perform better. Tyrosine helps in the production of dopamine, a mood enhancing neurotransmitter often lacking in folks with depression. Although research is lacking on increasing your tyrosine intake to battle depression, it seems to make sense, no? Protein also fuels your body for longer periods than empty carbs or foods heavy in sugar. There is no spike, either positive or negative, in blood sugar levels when you focus on protein and plants in your diet, also allowing for a stable mood. Foods rich in tyrosine include: poultry, fish, almonds, bananas.
Carbs: Carbs are not all created equal. What I call ‘green carbs’ include fruits and vegetables. Starchy, grain-heavy carbs are where you get your belly fat, weight gain and unstable mood. Fill your body with fresh or frozen produce to allow yourself a healthy and necessary intake of carbohydrates. Choose sweet potatoes or yams over white pots for that heavier/filling feeling a lot of people miss. (The fresher you eat, the less you will miss feeling weighed down and full of stuff.) It may take some adjustments in both desire and habit, but a clean diet is worth it. TRUST ME! Once you detox from sugars and grain, your body will react positively to the increased nutrition it will begin to receive. Mood will be effected immediately. Watch out for those nasty habits, though, take a bite of that sticky bun at the next brunch or office share and your body will crave it all over again. Just say NO (as often as you can).
Vitamin B: Vitamin Bs do not stay in your body, so your daily food intake is imperative to maintaining a healthy level of B. A deficiency in B will bring on fatigue, mania and depression. HELLO! The Top 10 foods heavy in Vitamin B include seafood, beef and eggs. I keep a liquid form of Vitamin B Complex on my bedside table and a pill form on the vitamin shelf. I take then when I feel yucky, bummed or aggravated. I will try to take some in the future when I am overwhelmed by my own energy. It will be interesting to see if that could help the ‘mania’ I experience sometimes, and help to regain control in calming down. Life is an experiment.
Water: Chronic dehydration is more common than you may assume. Coffee and teas, along with many other water based options, act as a diuretic and wash out through urination, instead of being absorbed by the very thing that needs it most, your body. You MUST drink water or you’ll experience things like heartburn, reflux, joint pain or exacerbated arthritis, asthma, constipation and of course DEPRESSION. Any of this sound familiar to you? It all comes back to the production of amino acids needed to produce serotonin in the brain, which take a lot of water to move through the body. Do you drink enough water? 8 glasses minimum. Drink more. I may have to write more about this…
SO MANY simple choices affect our quality of life. Choose wisely. And when you choose poorly, make a better choice next time. No one is perfect, including myself. I don’t waste time beating myself up over poor choices, I just decide to choose to do better. This is ALL about you. You are not failing as long as you are still living. My wish is that you, the collective people of the world, choose to live as healthy, informed, and completely as possible.
It’s a good time.
I have collected a few mental health diagnoses over the years including, but not limited to: chronic depression, generalized anxiety, and bipolar disorder, all of which have overlapping symptoms and similar effects on my daily life. This is not a woe-is-me post. I have been successfully managing a business for ten years, building a marriage for 6 and co-raising 2 healthy children for 5, while out doing myself on extracurricular projects and events. All the while, there have always been periods of severe lowness, sadness, extreme anxiety and I’ve never done well in unfamiliar situations. In fact, I run and hide as often as possible. On the other hand, I have often found it hard to stay calm, focused and even-keeled regardless of the setting. I have been unable to control myself from going from one extreme to the other for nearly half my life. It has been exhausting, frustrating and embarrassing.
In retrospect, I ate the standard American diet for nearly 30 years. I have never been obese and only experienced weight issues after having children. I was never a particularly sick person, enjoying the standard twice yearly cold or flu, occasional then frequent headaches (which we all battle, right?) and paid minimal attention as family members discussed things like Diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis and the like. I battled my own problems in silence mostly, terrified of walking through the door to my own office most days. After researching Paleo eating and reading how a cleaner diet can soothe and/or prevent symptoms of modern disease, like those I mentioned above, PLUS the fact that it would probably help me lose the stubborn leftover baby-weight, it seemed too good to be true, but I was up for the challenge.
In my 1st month of eating Paleo, I broke out like a teenager coming into their own. In a similar fashion, my mental health seemed to go haywire about 3 months into eating clean. I was all over the place and sought the help of my therapist and medications for a short time. After recovering from this severe low and hyper-manic episode, I began to hypothesize on why this would have happened when I was living so healthy. My theory being continued detox: different parts of your system and body are refueling and repairing themselves at different lengths and so I continued on my Paleo journey, excited to see improvement – scratch that – stability in my mental health, if my hypothesis was correct and my body continued to heal itself.
Which brings me to yesterday. I read an article posted by Julianne Taylor, a Paleo nutritionist, that pulled it all together for me: Depression V. Inflammation – Chicken or Egg, which basically relates the symptoms of depression to inflammation in the body. Inflammation is caused by what you eat and how your body digests it as well as environmental factors and stress. I had never heard inflammation and depression specifically related to one another, but of course it makes sense! Inflammation causes a stir in the body and creates many of the standard ill-ness in today’s society, much of which my family is suffering from.
A similar culprit of modern disease is a leaky gut. Many people are unaware of their own gut health since we have a medication for every ailment, as well as many symptoms being silent predators, like in my case. I’ve seen over a dozen different therapists and doctors related to my mental health and no one has ever mentioned my diet, gut or referenced hereditary inflammatory disease. The gut (including the esophagus, stomach and intestines) is considered a single digestive organ with its own nervous system that functions separately from the brain. The gut has more neurons then the entire spinal cord and the brain receives more information from the gut then it provides. Did your head just explode?
I’d like to take it a step further and play chicken or egg with Inflammation V. Leaky Gut because I’ve now read articles stating you can have inflammation before the other. I’m inclined to think a porous gut is there before you can tell that it’s ‘leaking’ therefore causing inflammation, however I’ve read inflammation can cause a gut to leak toxins into the body. If any of my scientifically savvy friends would like to chime in on this train of thought through comments, I would be happy to learn more.
Do you have inflammation in your body or a leaky gut? Well, here are a list of symptoms: susceptibility to viral infections, acid reflux, acne, mood instability, arthritis, bronchitis, diabetes, chronic pain, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections; chronic fatigue, depression, asthma, allergies, headaches/migraines, joint pain, IBS, Fibromyalgia, arthritis, just to name a few of each.
To bring it full circle, both of these disorders are caused by digestive health. What is making our digestive tracts sick? You guessed it, OUR DIET, more specifically: A diet high in refined sugar and flour, processed foods, and chemical food additives. You can read the many articles I’ve linked for all the science and information you can handle, in the meantime, I will continue to eat Paleo plants and protein as often as possible and continue to cure my gut, which takes time, lots and lots of time, considering I have 30 years of damage to undo.