As promised, today’s blog is about how different foods affect our moods (yes, that rhymes well, doesn’t it!). I have wanted to do this blog for a while now because I have had my own mood issues in the past. Here’s the thing…I noticed that when I started changing my lifestyle, my moods changed as well…and that is a great thing! There is a lot of information out there about various things that might affect our moods, but the one thing I wanted to know is how food affects it. Since nutrition plays such a huge role in what seems like every part of our health, does it play a part in our mental health as well? My answer is a resounding yes!
Now, there is a lot to handle in this seemingly simple subject, so let’s break it down just a bit.
Cholesterol is important in every part of the body, including the brain. Since much of the mood has to do with the way things are working in our brains, it only makes sense that cholesterol might play a key role in mood.
In fact, what most people tend to believe is a good thing may well be doing more harm than good. Other health issues aside, a low cholesterol level may well cause mental harm.
Depletion of cholesterol could mess up serotonin receptors and transporters (Deans, 2010). It could also cause issues in formation of nerve synapses (Deans, 2010). Lowering cholesterol may also take its toll on other receptors, causing them to misfire (ie: opioid signaling, GABA receptors, and excitatory amino acid transporters…some technical terms…but just remember that these things are important to have balance and functionality with) (Deans, 2010). If you want to know more about these various functions in the brain, here is a link to explain it, check out the heading entitled “Some Key Neurotransmitters at Work”: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/know_your_brain.htm#making).
Anyway, lowering cholesterol seems to negatively affect these important brain functions. This, in turn, can be linked to manic episodes, hostility, aggression, impulsivity (is that a word?), and even violent suicide (Deans, 2010). In a number of studies, it was found that people with manic and mixed syndromes had lower cholesterol than those used as controls (Swartz, 1990; Ghaemi et. al, 2000; Atmaca et. al, 2002; Cassidy & Carroll, 2002; Pae et. al, 2004; & Sagud et. al, 2007 cited in Fiedorowicz, Palagummi, Behrendtsen, & Coryell, 2010). It seems there are quite a number of studies showing a true connection of cholesterol to affective disorders. Just as any research might show, there have been some inconsistencies; however, the case in point is that low cholesterol does seem to play a role in some brain misfires or malfunctions that happen in those with affective disorders.
So what does this mean as far as food? Well, considering we are often told to “stay away from cholesterol so that you will have low cholesterol” there is a lot to really think about. I’m not going to get into the entire paradigm of incorrect information about cholesterol in this blog (believe me, that one is coming soon), but I will say that eating cholesterol does not produce cholesterol in the blood. It also does not necessarily cause heart disease or clogged arteries. If you eat foods that have cholesterol, you will not be harming yourself…and in fact, you may be helping! Cholesterol is needed…even for mental health! Eat it, enjoy it, and realize you will be healthier for it!
Now, with that said, let’s get into other food-mood issues, shall we?
Segment 2: Carbohydrates and Mood
Interestingly enough, there have been a number of studies done on the effects of carbohydrate consumption on mood. These have been done in any number of ways for any number of hypotheses. For all intents and purposes, I am going to briefly delve into them a few at a time.
I know some of my readers are interested in what seems to be the cycle of depression or mood swings and cravings for things like sweets and starches, which, in turn, leads to negative feelings and maybe more depression. Is this really the case, though? Well, in a way, yes.
A study on carbohydrate craving and self-medication found some interesting results. The hypothesis was that carb-cravers tend to self-administer carb-rich foods before protein-rich foods in order to get past negative moods, and that these people report uplifted moods shortly after consuming said carbs (Corsica, & Spring, 2008). Unfortunately, this study did not go further with the results. They did not continue to follow-up with the participants hours after ingestion or among days. While it showed uplifted moods within a specified time, it did not follow-up to see if these participants began to crash or feel worse later on. What can we take from this? Well, we can take the idea that some people do truly tend to crave carbs during bouts of depression or lowered moods. Those people may tend to eat carbs to feel better. Of course, from what I have seen, these same people tend to feel worse for the wear later on. There does seem to be a connection between carbohydrates (sweets and starches), their cravings, and self-medication. But what does this mean for our mood?
To answer this, we have to understand that there are hundreds of thousands of reactions happening in our bodies when we consume different foods. Something that carbohydrates, and in particular…grains and sugar, do to our systems is stress it out. These foods begin a defense in our brains, guts, and hormones. This raises cortisol levels and may cause weight-gain, lethargy, and other ill effects. All of this going on equals negative effect on mood and health. So, when we eat high carb and high sugar foods, we set ourselves up for a quick high and a big let-down. Our bodies don’t like this…it stresses out the system. In order to prevent this, we do need to consider what else might help elevate the mood…rather than that overwhelming craving for sweet and starch or grains and sugar.
Enough about that…this is turning into quite a long blog post. I think I will separate it into two different posts…easier for you and it allows me to get ready for bed at a reasonable time! 🙂
But…before I go…I want to leave you with some things you can do to boost the mood with food! Here are a few tips…and the next post will have more!
Rid yourself of hydrogenated oils and products
Replace those with real, healthy fats like lard, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and fatty fish
Eat animal protein such as meat, raw milk products (occasionally, and only if tolerable), and the like to up your intake of B vitamins
Add an Omega-3 supplement such as cod liver oil in order to balance the Omega-6-3-9 ratio
Eat green-leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale or romaine lettuce with lunch and/or dinner in order to help the body remove toxins and anti-nutrients that may contribute to negative mood
and finally, get out in the sun for Vitamin D! Many experts have stated that sun can help elevate mood…this may be due to the Vitamin D synthesis that occurs in the body due to direct exposure to sunlight.
Part 2 is coming next week…in that, we will discuss more food-mood connections and other ways to boost the mood naturally!
Thanks and have a healthy day!
Please check out these references for more info:
Corsica, J. A., & Spring, B. J. (2008, Dec. 1). Carbohydrate craving: A double-blind, placebo controlled test of the self-medication hypothesis. Retrieved from National Center for Biotechnology Information, U. S. National Library of Medicine website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2632958/?tool=pmcentrez
Deans, E. (2011, March 7). Low cholesterol and bipolar disorder. Retrieved from http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com/2011/03/low-cholesterol-and-bipolar-disorder.html
Deans, E. (2010, July 29). Low cholesterol and suicide 2. Retrieved from http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com/2010/07/low-cholesterol-and-suicide-2.html
Fiedorowicz, J. G., Palagummi, N. M., Behrendtsen, O., & Coryell, W. H. (2010, Jan. 30). Cholesterol and affective morbidity. Retrieved from National Center for Biotechnology Information, U. S. National Library of Medicine website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2814906/
Nutritional Weight and Wellness. (2004-2005). Foods that heal depression. Retrieved from http://weightandwellness.com/id41.html
Paleo Village. (2011, June 9). Paleo diet and depression. Retrieved from http://www.paleovillage.com/2011/06/09/paleo-diet-and-depression/
Seratonin: The chemistry of well-being. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.angelfire.com/hi/TheSeer/seratonin.html