Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Food and Moods: Feel Good Foods, Stable Blood Sugar Levels and Mood Mellowing Nutrients Directly Impact our Brain's Regulation of our Mood

Recently I read an article in Lets Live about the increase in aggressive behaviors, bad moods, frightening outbursts of rage and criminal violence and the link to poor eating habits our modern lives have created. It really struck a cord with me as I have a few friends who are school teachers and they have complained about the poor nutritional nature of school cafeteria food and the link of poor food choices to irritable and unruly behaviors in their students.

It all makes sense and I wanted to share a few elements of a review of The Food-Mood Solution that was reviewed in the article I read the other day.

Often moods impact eating habits and in reality our brain runs on what we eat. Neurotransmitters, our brain chemicals, serve as the primary regulators of our moods. Serotonin and Dopamine are examples of these mood regulators. Our brains make neurotransmitters from "neuronutrients" like vitamins, minerals and the amino acids that make up protein. Low levels of neuronutrients can impair neurotransmiter activity and result from eating foods like sugars, carbs, sodas and deep-fried foods.

Similarly, blood sugar levels directly impact our moods. We feel good after we eat, because blood sugar increases. However, when blood sugar levels sink, we get hungry and our mood typically takes a dive as well. Classic symptoms of low blood sugar are feeling impatient, irritable, angry and aggressive until one can eat again.

Ideal conditions would yield a balance in both blood sugar and neurotransmitters, enabling us to respond appropriately and rationally to various situations. However, when we feel stressed eating habits quickly change for the worse. Delaying or skipping meals, eating too many fast foods and snacks loaded with sugars and sugarlike carbs, and consuming too much caffeine is a major problem.

These junk foods are low in neuronutrients and trigger rapid blood sugar swings, pulling our moods and attitude down. The result: we deprive ourselves of important neuronutrients when they are needed the most to protect against stress and bad moods.

If you are stressed or feel like you need a "chill pill" here a few mood mellowing nutrients:

1. High Potency B-Complex. Bs are involved in making seratonin and other neurotransmitters.

2. Vitamin C. Irritability and fatigue are the earliest signs of low vitamin C intake. Vitamin C is also needed to make some neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine.

3. Omega 3 Fish Oils. Though not true neurotransmitters, the omega-3 oils are essential for normal brain function and positive moods. High levels can help reduce aggressive and hostile behavior, including aggressive driving, bullying, verbal abusiveness and fighting. If you are a vegetarian, try 1.5gm daily of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) one of the omega-3s.

4. GABA (Gamma -Aminobutryic Acid). GABA is both an amino acid (found in protein) and calming neurotransmitter. It lessens the effect of stress, promotes feelings of relaxation, ad helps the brain filter out distractions.

5. Theanine. This amino acid increases the brain's alpha waves, which promote feelings of relaxation. As an added bonus, it may also enhance immunity. Theanine is found in black and green tea. It works in part by boosting GABA levels.

6. 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan). This form of the amino acid tryptophan is the immediate precursor to serotonin. It can take the edge off depression, anxiety and fitful sleep-- all of which can be associated with hostile behavior.

To start your day off right, do eat some protein such as eggs or a nice protein shake for breakfast every single day. Avoid foods containing sugars and carbs like bread, pizza, deep-fried foods and sodas...instead opt for nutrient rich veggies, apple slices and green tea.
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