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Does Food Affect Your Mood?

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, many people are still unaware of how food affects our mood. If you missed the live broadcast, you can still catch up here by reading or watching the playback. Happy Thanksgiving!

This series is about going from surviving to thriving during the holidays. The holidays can often be a very stressful time, and one for which people sometimes feel the need to brace themselves. Other times, people find that they can attempt to get rid of how they feel by using different substances, especially food. During the holidays, food is really condoned, which allows us to eat in excess. We are allowed, in society, to eat excessively during the holidays. In fact, for many of us, it is actually encouraged, depending on your family.

Is food controlling your mood?

Yes, food controls your mood in many ways. Food is actually information. What we have found over the past few decades through research is that the gut is really an important part of our immune system and our neurotransmitters. The gut is connected very much to the brain. If your gut is really working on protecting you, and you have a lot of inflammation in your gut, then your gut will be in overdrive, and your immune system is going to be activated. That also affects your neurotransmitters.

In science, we have to kind of reevaluate some of these terms because science is changing as our knowledge base changes. Neuro is nerve, and transmitters is transmission. Some people think about these certain hormones and peptides as living in the brain. That was my thinking for a long time, and I think that’s most people’s thinking in general and still the thinking for a lot of the medical community. The idea is that neurotransmitters like tryptophan, serotonin, etc., are all just for the brain. However, what has been found through research is how much the nerve transmission, or hormones from nerve transmission, is originating from the gut.

We have all had that sense when we’ve had a big, heavy, turkey-based Thanksgiving meal and had something called tryptophan. Tryptophan is definitely present in many sedating foods, and is something that our body regulates and converts into sleep hormones. Tryptophan is a sedative, and we often associate that with turkey, but it is also found in spinach and a lot of other foods. Food can be sedating because we are gaining information from that food, and there are lots of foods that have neurotransmitter properties. If you’re struggling with things like dopamine or Parkinson's, look to high dopamine foods. If you’re struggling with neurotransmitters, you can actually find those things in the foods that you eat.

Another question that we posed in the email is about stress related eating.

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We use food for our emotional health. I remember listening to Janet Jackson once talking about how she would still go through a half gallon of ice cream if she was in a bad place. I don’t encourage that, but I understand it. My point is that we often look to food to change our mood in the positive, so we know that its impact is substantial. We know then that it can also waylay us, or it can cause problems. I don’t want to particularly point to carbohydrates as the problem. It’s just that when we look at our macronutrients, or our larger nutrients, we are looking at really simple, highly-processed foods that come in the form of simple sugar. Carbohydrates get a really bad name for that. You’ll be finding a lot of opportunities this holiday season to indulge in highly processed carbohydrates.

Can that affect your mood?

Yes, because you are also going to be affected by the simple sugar, which are cortisol stimulating. Your body is going to respond to that stimulant, and you’ll eventually crash. It’s provocative. You’ve provoked this to happen through what you’ve been eating. Then, often times, there is a lot of stress in people’s environments during the holidays. And, IT’S COLD. It is cold. Does anyone out there agree? It is 31 degrees right now, and it is raining, and it is snowing at the same time. That’s amazing. I didn’t know it was possible until I moved to Michigan. When all of those things happen, they can kind of stress you out. Then, if you’re eating highly processed sugars, you think you’re going to get a high because your blood sugar is going up, and our body likes to function with blood sugar. It is like an immediate little burst of energy, but then that burst gets too big and we crash.

If you’re finding that throughout the holidays, you really want to look to getting your macronutrients more regulated. Don’t blame the carbs. Go for the vegetables. If you want to just stress eat, you are not doing yourself any favors by going straight to the whipped mashed potatoes with no peels that are mixed with a whole bunch of fake butter and half and half cream or something. Don’t start there. That’s going to spike you up and then tank you. That’s going to cause inflammation, and it’s going to exacerbate if there is any kind of emotional stress around the dinner table. Instead, look for the vegetables and even the fruit. Yes, a lot of people dog fruit, but it has a lot of nutritional benefit. This is a way to stabilize you first, and then use a treat in a small amount. Ultimately, people use a lot of junk when they make treats. Try to first find something highly nutritious, even in a stressful environment, even if that means bringing something.

Those are the things to think about this holiday season. Awareness is the number one word for any type of healthcare provider in helping people see what they are doing in their lives that are creating or exacerbating a lot of the problems. The holidays can often bring that out of us, because a lot of the joy comes out, but if there is any dysfunction or stress that comes out as well.

What I want you to do is think about how your mood is controlled by food and what you can do to help your body and support your body in keeping the stress response down, and being aware of the hormones in the food that you’re eating. So, yes, tryptophan is going to be sedating for you, and that’s okay as long as you know what is happening. Avoid the simple, processed food as much as possible, enjoying them in small amounts with moderation.

If you have any questions, give us a call. We are accepting new patients and truly enjoy helping our community during the holiday season and beyond.

There will not be a Facebook live discussion this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy your food mindfully!