Foods and Moods
Have you ever noticed the correlation between your meals and your moods?
What a silly question, you might think. Everyone knows what a big lunch does to afternoon productivity. Not to mention the thin line between hunger and anger for some people!
In this article, we’ll explore the long-term links between foods and moods. And how simple diet changes could seriously raise the bar on how you feel most of the time.
I became very aware of this connection last year.
It started in February. “Bad news, said the doctor after my yearly medical check up. You’re borderline diabetic.”
Having watched several family members follow this debilitating path, I decided to go another way. To change my lifestyle and regain excellent health.
So I got Dr Sandra Cabbot’s book about reversing diabetes1 and followed her advice. It was pretty simple really. It involved eliminating most grains and sugars from my diet and exercising regularly.
Easier said than done, mind you. Because the first couple of weeks almost drove me nuts! I sure was addicted to carbs and suffered from withdrawal!
And then I started to feel fantastic. Totally free of cravings. Alert. Energised. More creative than ever. Happy in mind and lighter in body. And it kept getting better and better.
So far, I’ve lost 13 kilos of body fat. You can see me here, showing off with one of my silk scarves!
The link between food and mental health
So I did more research on the psychological impact of foods. Check these interesting facts:
- Poor eating habits can even lead to severe mental disturbances such as depression and schizophrenia2.
- Luckily, the food-mind connection also works in reverse. We can raise our states of consciousness, our emotions and even our mental health by changing what we eat.
How empowering is that!
But how does it work?
Your mental health starts in your gut. Because gut and brain are connected via the vagus nerve – the tenth cranial nerve that runs from the brain stem to the abdomen.
So this pathway allows gut bacteria to transmit information to your brain. And if this flora is toxic, guess what?
In other words, gut toxicity prevents your brain from performing well. Which affects your mind – what you think, how you behave, your motor skills, your ability to learn, how you view yourself and the world and more.
So says Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, a neurologist specializing in autism. She wrote a book titled ‘Gut and Psychology Syndrome’.
Toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of poor mood, autism, ADHD, depression, schizophrenia and a whole host of other mental and behavioral disorders.
With this in mind, it should be crystal clear that nourishing your gut flora is extremely important to support a positive mood3.
Did you get that? Optimal gut health is essential for healthy mental states.
So how best can you nourish your gut flora?
For optimal wellness, look after your gut flora by adding probiotic foods to your diet. By the way, probiotic literally means ‘for-life’. So you can guess the etymology of ‘antibiotic’, right?
Here are good sources of probiotics:
- Have a daily serve of naturally fermented yoghurt or kefir (no added sugar, artificial sweeteners or gelatine)
- Add some Natto (fermented soy) to your diet
- Make your own fermented vegetables. Check the internet for recipes, it’s easy and inexpensive. Michael turns our home-grown cabbages into sauerkraut – delicious!
- Try some Kombucha, a fermented drink made of black tea, sugar and a super-healthy fungus. The fungus feeds on the sugar, so it’s not a high-carb drink. Once fermented it tastes a bit like a non-alcoholic cider. If left too long it turns vinegary, so beware! BTW, if you want to give it a go, we have an abundance of ‘mother’ (fungus) to give away!
- And/or buy a probiotic supplement in your health-food store!
What to avoid?
Simultaneously, avoid or at least limit products that promote pathogens. Because a proliferation of bad gut bacteria ends up decimating the micro-organisms that keep you happy and healthy!
- Antibiotics have an immediate and deadly effect on a healthy gut flora. Always take probiotics and/or natural yoghurt to counteract this serious side-effect.
- A high sugar consumption is the other major culprit. Refined sugars in particular create an acidic environment in which bad bacteria proliferate.
- Processed foods tend to be high in artificial ingredients that are often toxic. Most processed foods also contain corn fructose – the worst type of refined sugar (see above) – and gluten, which is also bad for you (see below).
- Limit your intake of wheat/gluten. Recent studies show that gluten might be really bad news for long-term health4. For more in-depth information on wheat, watch this very interesting Youtube Cardiologist, Dr William Davis
- Avoid aspartame. Basically if the packaging says ‘sugar-free’ and it tastes sweet, chances are it’s loaded with aspartame (i.e. Zero Coke, diet yoghurts, etc). Bad news for your gut, your brain and every other cell in your body too!
- And finally say NO to genetically modified foods. To start with, they’re higher in herbicide concentration than conventionally grown crops. So they’re particularly toxic to your gut flora5. Besides, GM foods are the biggest experiment ever conducted on our health. And the news are getting scarier with each passing year!
There you have it. If you want to look good and feel great, eliminate totally some of the above products and reduce all the others.
What about addictions?
Recent research demonstrates that our gut flora is addicted to the foods it needs for survival. In other words, the microbes and fungi that thrive on refined carbs keep asking for more. And more. And more sugar and gluten!
Put in more scientific language, there’s a positive-feedback loop between the foods you crave and the composition of the microbiota in your gut.
This theory explains why we can feel so unwell for a week or two after we stop eating junk food.
To start with, the starving little beasts get hungry. They need their regular fix of sugar, they suffer and scream in anger. Which means we suffer and get moody too!
If we’re strong enough to resist their cravings, the bad bacteria soon die off.
But their physical remains clog our system for a few more days, leading to temporary headaches, joint pains and more mood swings!
This is known as a healing crisis.
The good news is that it doesn’t take long for our body to cleanse itself. The balance of power in the gut-brain flora soon shifts. And after a few days of clean eating and probiotics, healthy micro-organisms revive.
And guess what happens when they take over?
To start with you’ll feel good. Energised. More level-headed and clear-thinking. And then you become free of carb cravings. Because good bacteria just thrive on enzymes, vitamins and minerals. So fruits, vegies, yoghurt, healthy proteins and good fat become more and more attractive.
And I’m not saying that you’ll never again be tempted by a donut or a packet of chips! Chances are you will.
But you’ll notice the difference between facing a taste temptation and fighting an addiction.
And yes, I know Old habits die hard.
So you might be wondering what to eat if you decide to ditch toasts & jam, cereals, biscuits and sandwiches?
For me, going Paleo was the answer. It still is. I now love this way of eating.
Here are a few suggestions:
- If you’re short of menu ideas, google ‘Paleo breakfasts’ or ‘Paleo lunches’, even ‘Paleo sweets’, and you’ll find hundreds of great recipes without sugar and flour.
- For extra motivation, follow Marks Daily Apple
- For scientific research on the subject, subscribe to Dr Joseph Mercola. It’s a fantastic free resource for anyone interested in healthy alternatives to medication.
Regarding breakfast, you might enjoy what Michael and I have most mornings.
We both love our Inner Peace smoothie!
Blend at high speed some unsweetened Greek yoghurt & water (or kefir), pure (unsweetened) cocoa powder, cinnamon powder, a banana, a handfull of frozen blueberries and some stevia – a healthy natural sweetener that doesn’t raise blood-glucose levels. Sometimes we add a raw organic egg and/or other ingredients (i.e. bee-pollen, Maca powder, Brewer’s yeast & barley green powder).
As a conclusion
Mental health is a complex issue that involves mind, body and spirit. And diet is just one facet of the subject yet it impacts the whole.
‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’ So said Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, over two thousand years ago.
So go for it.
Change your mind by changing what you put in your mouth!
Feed the good guys in your gut. Not only will you look your best, you’ll also feel on top of the world day in day out!
Please feel free to leave comments below.
- Dr Sandra Cabot ‘Diabetes Type 2: you can reverse it’
- Food for the Brain
- Food Affects Mood
- Wheat disturbs gut flora
- The dangers of pesticides