Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Food and Mood
Over a decade ago, I went through a debilitating condition that resulted from a bad breakup, a business failure, betrayal of friends which led to court cases, and a diagnosis of anemia with unknown origin. I was 22, broken and severely depressed. I was put on medication which was eventually tapered down and discontinued. I thank God for healing me after six months. However, there are countless people silently suffering from this condition for far too long—slowly dying from the inside out.
Depression is a mood disorder that is caused by many factors such as imbalance in brain chemicals, hormonal imbalance, nutritional deficiencies, genetics, and traumatic life events. Symptoms include changes in sleep patterns, guilt/hopelessness, lack of energy, loss of interest, changes in concentration, appetite changes, psychomotor changes, anxiety, and sometimes, suicidal thoughts and attempts. Treatment includes medications, psychotherapy or counseling, and monitoring physical health which includes nutrition therapy.
In cases of depression, it is important to take note that serotonin, melatonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine are neurotransmitters or brain chemicals that act as “telecommunications network” inside the body. They facilitate communication from the “cell site” which is the brain, to all the body parts. In many depressed individuals, the neurotransmitter serotonin which also regulates mood, sleep, and appetite may be deficient.
Serotonin is derived from an amino acid called tryptophan. Tryptophan is abundant in protein rich food like milk, dairy products, egg whites, chocolates, soybeans, salmon, sunflower seeds, poultry, pork, beef, lamb, rice, quinoa, and bananas. Eating carbohydrate food also increases the availability of tryptophan for the formation of serotonin.
It is important to eat carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and milk in adequate amounts throughout the day to keep the blood sugar level consistent and normal. People who have lower blood glucose levels tend to be more irritable and experience poor moods.
In case you are wondering how chocolates, ice cream, sweets, or a plateful of rice can elevate your mood when you feel emotionally low, here is the reason behind it. Consumption of carbohydrates or anything that has sugar stimulates the release of the body’s natural pain killer called endorphins. Endorphins increase the sense of well-being. Cayenne pepper, strawberries, grapes oranges, and other Vitamin C-rich citrus fruits also stimulate the release of endorphins as well as exercise.
Emotional stress, on the other hand, decreases the nitrogen and calcium levels in the body. Therefore, high biologic value protein from animal sources are needed in the diet. This includes egg, meat, fish, seafood, poultry, milk, cheese, and yogurt. To increase calcium stores, consume dairy products, calcium-fortified products, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Although low levels of omega-3 fatty acids do not cause depression, individuals suffering from major depression have significantly low levels. Rich sources of omega 3 are tuna, sardines, salmon and other fatty fishes, soybeans, tofu, walnuts, and flax seeds.
Depression is a silent killer. It is a serious medical condition that have led many people to take their own lives. It is not something you could just snap out of without the help of God, family, friends, and medical professionals.
If you have symptoms of depression, talk to someone you trust or a spiritual leader. If you are close to someone manifesting signs of depression, don’t be indifferent rather engage that person and encourage communication. Be empathic by sincerely listening and not be judgmental.
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