Foods and Moods: Is There A Connection?

by Rebecca Huber

Most people understand that what they eat affects their physical health. Why would it seem so foreign that what we eat also alters our moods? Let's see, I had three cups of coffee this morning, a sweet roll, it's mid morning and I feel like I'm on a roller coaster. One minute I'm ready to fly aggressively at this first person that crosses my path, and the next I'm ready to cry. Why is that? Have I lost my mind, or did I just not feed it this morning?

Often symptoms are vague. You feel under the weather, not up to par, yet you don't feel bad enough to seek medical help­­ or if you do, often, you are told there is nothing physically wrong. The diagnosis can leave you feeling even more hopeless or frustrated and it implies that you have brought these changes on yourself, that it is well, all in your head, or worse, that there is no cure, so live with it. This should not be the answer and it doesn't have to be the way it is.

The food-mood link is not new. During the past 15 years, there has been a veritable explosion of interest in the relationship between diet and behavior. In many cases the scientific findings converge at the juncture of nutritional and emotional or mental health. Studies show that what we eat can affect whether we are happy, sad, irritable, moody, alert, calm or sleepy. For some people, diet alone might be the cause of or solution to their waning energy levels or plummeting moods.

Because of hidden food allergies, any food can be a trigger for low energy, depressed mood or anxiety such as the "Chinese restaurant syndrome" which causes some people depression and severe migraines. But lets take a look at the worst culprits that may help you make your food mood connection.

Take sugar; on the surface, the only proven harm posed by eating too much sugar is tooth decay. Yet studies show America's addiction to sugar is linked to food cravings, low energy levels, PMS, depression, stress, brain power, and sleep patterns. The other half of this equation, for many Americans, is caffeine which further tweaks certain hormonal levels within the body, causing that sensation of up one minute, down the next. It's real; you're not imagining this sensation.

Caffeine needlessly fires the adrenal glands, producing larger quantities of fight or flight hormones. This can give us the sensation of hunger initially so we eat empty sweet calories to fill the void and when the simple sugars are used we're left with nothing to support all those hormones we've artificially produced with caffeine. The message from your body; hey we have to fight or flight and there's no fuel in the tank! So what do we do, more sweet stuff and a cup of coffee to wash it down and here we go again. At this point the confusion we feel intuitively in our bodies and our brains seems unstoppable. It is, though, but we first have to break these dietary patterns that no longer serve our minds and our bodies.

Another culprit that deserves honorable mention is Nutrasweet®. Made from aspartic acid, phenylalanine, a common amino acid and methanol, a human specific and highly toxic poison. Methanol is converted in the body to formaldehyde and formic acid and has a toxic effect on the thymus gland. Research shows that using amino acids in larger than normal amounts alters brain chemistry. There's an abundance of phenylalanine in our food chain without adding larger doses. My clients that are overutilizing diet drinks suffer more joint pain which is the side effect of over use of phenylalanine. Pure water should always be our main source of liquid throughout the course of a day.

If you are still in doubt, try doing a food journal for six weeks­­ alternating foods and monitoring moods. You'll be surprised and hopefully pleased with new levels of energy and more stable moods.

Till next time, Rebecca

This article posted to Zephyr online April 17, 1997
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