I am sure that we have all heard it before, and many have not paid attention to the words of wisdom. Those words being to not eat food just to feel better, some have probably told you, like me, you are an emotional eater, a stress eater.
Is it true that our choices of foods during stressful or emotional times are not so good for us? Do we choose sweets specifically to feel better? What exactly happens if that is what we do? The following may help you to understand how food does have an effect on our moods. There may also be some helpful advice to change the bad habits and turn it into a healthier form of feeding our emotional well being.
Our bodies run on food, even our brains, even when we are asleep. Our brain needs the fuel to make our bodies function properly. As you already know, that food that you fuel your body with makes a huge difference in how the body functions. Including your moods.
Think of our body like a vehicle. Would you give your vehicle a tank full of grease? Absolutely not! You are going to fill that vehicle with the fuel that makes it run at its best. There are probably times when you use a slightly cheaper gas, but never would you fill your tank with sludge and sugars.
So why do we do this with our bodies? How do we expect our body to function at its best when we do not give our bodies the best? Let’s try and understand fuel and how our bodies and moods are affected by the fuel we put in.
There is a chemical within your system called Serotonin. Serotonin helps to regulate and maintain your moods, regulate your appetite, and also helps to lower pain. The majority of Serotonin is made within your digestive tract.
Your digestive tract is loaded with over hundreds of millions of nerve cells. All of these nerve cells or neurons not only control the digestive tract, but also how your digestive tract continues to function, but also how the food is affecting your emotional state.
These neurons are created by the good bacteria that you intake through the foods you eat. These bacteria will then protect the lining of your stomach and your intestines, they protect you against the bad bacteria, they help to keep a rein on inflammation, they help to absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat. One of the most important things these neurons do is to open all the neural pathways between your digestive tract and the brain.
All this would seemingly be enough to convince a person that a healthy diet is what they need to be happy and healthy. Alas, there are millions of us that believe sugar and chocolates, fried foods and fat red meat are the way to go. For many of us, we are saying that this bad food makes us feel better. Both mentally and physically. Who are we actually kidding?
This ‘food’ that we choose to put into our bodies to feel better when we are depressed, sad, lonely or maybe even angry is in actuality weighing us down. We are not giving our bodies the leafy greens, the lean meat, the fruit that will in turn create those healthy bacteria that will kill and eliminate the toxins from our systems.
Psychiatry Through Nutrition
As silly as this is going to sound, take a week and track the foods you eat. The moods you go through and how you physically feel. Yes, I understand, you may get a short rush from the food. Once that rush dwindles, you are going to feel worse than you did before.
The next week, grab an apple, a glass of cold water, maybe one piece of DARK chocolate. Then keep track of how you feel after eating those foods. Do you actually go through that feeling of heaviness? Did your mood maybe alleviate just a little? This is the start of Nutritional Psychiatry.
If you are being honest with yourself, you will see a difference in the week that you are avoiding the bad foods. If you are doubtful about what I am saying, eliminate those unhealthy foods for two weeks. Completely remove the processed foods, the refined foods, the sugar and stick with vegetables, fruit and lean meat.
After the two weeks, add in the other foods, one at a time and make note of how you feel the first 24 hours after eating one of those foods. No one is going to see that information except you. There is no reason to not be totally honest. I could give you testimony after testimony about how people really feel when they go ‘clean’. I really want you to feel the difference for yourself.
Rough Way To Learn
This global pandemic that we have all had to go through is a great example. We are stuck at home, we do not see people like we were before. We start to feel depressed and lonely. We grab the food we find and just start eating. Pretty soon after, we start to feel even worse. Our digestive tract is probably cramping, our mental state is curious as to why we junked out on that food.
Meantime, you are outwardly thinking that you feel better. However, it may be family that tells you that you seem depressed, sad and in an off mood. This is what happens. During the lockdown, things seemed to get even worse. You sat at home eating the foods you wanted, not what your body needs.
The point is, when the right foods are eaten, the serotonin our bodies need is made, and all those other functions mentioned earlier are functioning the way they were meant to. The good bacteria is chasing out the bad toxins.
In simple terms, there are foods that will help your body and create those chemicals that come from the nutrients you eat. When you do eat a balanced diet of complex carbohydrates, protein, your mood, your attention span and your focus all improves. Those other foods, they take away your energy to do all those things you should be able to do.
Foods To Improve
Complex carbohydrates are those found in foods such as whole grains, oats, beans, quinoa and sweet potatoes that produce those feel good chemicals for your brain. Proteins from yogurt, lean meats, tofu, poultry, fish and beans help improve the dopamine levels and the norepinephrine which is also known to boost mood, concentration and your motivation.
Fruits and vegetables not only have natural sugar, they have nutrients, vitamins and minerals that will all naturally give a jump to those happiness chemicals contained in you.
The foods that you want to avoid if you are trying to improve your overall health, mentally, physically and psychologically include flour based foods such as white bread, baked goods, pastas and also the sugar sweetened beverages. Even Diet sodas have an unhealthy amount of sugar and other unhealthy chemicals in it.
Baked goods, candy of all sorts include nothing that is going to benefit your mood. Consuming the natural sugars that are found in most fruits such as bananas, apples, grapes, melons and berries will have more of an impact on mood boosting chemicals than drinking a case of soda does.
You do need to remember that changing your diet to be a healthier person mentally and emotionally as well as physically is going to take time. It will not happen instantaneously. But you will notice changes in a short amount of time.
We have all heard it before, the foods you eat make an impact on how you feel. So many unhealthy eating patterns can cause weight gain, lethargy and mood swings. We may never know the full effects of a healthy diet on the psyche or the body. What we do know is that your organs, your circulatory system and your mental health is improved when you get rid of the negative goodies.
Another aspect you may want to consider changing is the intervals of when you eat. The amounts you eat at these meals and obviously the choices you make for those meals. Some simple advice the medical professionals will give you include:
- Eat at regular intervals
- Have protein at each meal
- Avoid white flour products
- Eliminate fried foods
- Reject bakery products and sweets
- Eat healthy fatty acids such as omega 3 found in fish
- Take a walk each day or a bike ride, just move
- Drink more water each day. The goal is to drink at least 1 gallon of water a day
- 100% fruit juice, a cup of coffee or tea and unsweetened tea are all good choices for beverages.
- Colors! Try and eat an assortment of colors at each meal between the protein meats, vegetables and fruits. The old saying is “If food looks good, it will taste good!”
Within a day or two you will begin to notice a change in your energy levels, the moods you have, you will not feel as tired all the time.