For quite a long time, I’ve been learning and teaching that what we eat affects how we feel, think and behave in a substantial way. Change what you eat and you change; your moods, anxiety level, impulsivity, problem solving ability, get up and go, fatigue levels, sleep patterns, and on and on. Each person will have certain foods and food categories (like all cow dairy products) they simply can not tolerate or digest and these must be discovered and eliminated. Other foods are just bad for the body for everyone. The right foods for you are like a cure and your moods will purr along like a contented kitty does naturally.
Psychonutrition is a burgeoning field and I for one am thrilled that the establishment is finally seeing the truth and doing something about it. These are exciting times in the health of the world. Bret S. Stetka, MD wrote a commentary about the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting for Medscape Psychiatry (online research database) which confirms food plays a significant role in moods, anxiety, and emotional wellness.
Dr. Stetka’s article I’ve quoted from is Beans, Greens, and the Best Foods for the Brain for Medscape Psychiatry (an online research database), on July 7, 2015
He quotes Dr. Drew Ramsey, MD, an assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York City in collaboration with the new International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry, “Food is a very effective and underutilized intervention in mental health,…We want to help our patients have more resilient brains by using whole foods…by helping get patients off of processed foods, off of white carbohydrates, and off of certain vegetable oils.” “Although the determinants of mental health are complex, the emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a crucial factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders suggests that diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.”
“Other recent work found that simply discussing diet with a counselor for just 6 hours over the course of 2 years dropped Beck Depression Inventory scores by 40% in elderly patients with depression.” “The data are very promising that we can positively influence mental health through dietary interventions,” commented Dr Ramsey.*
“Dr Ramsey presented his simple rhyme for remembering a healthy brain-food diet: Seafood, greens, nuts, and beans (and some occasional dark chocolate). “We see it in clinical practice all the time: With a [healthier brain diet] people’s focus improves,” he said, “people’s energy improves, their self-confidence improves, and their involvement in their own self-care improves.'”*
I’ve blogged this before but it’s worth repeating, about 90% (estimates vary) of serotonin is made in and stays in the gut, not in the brain. The brain and the gut (aka our second brain) work hand in hand. Is it any wonder then that the microbiomes found in our gastrointestinal tract is a fast growing area of study in medical research? We have realized that inflammation in the body can be the major cause of all kinds of problems such as depression, IBS, aging, and diseases. Also incomplete or undigested food particles can be the source of many problems like leaky gut, stomach pain and conditions, weight gain, blood infections, and fatigue and on and on. What and how much we eat affects this too.
Once you discover what foods are bad for you (through an elimination trial period, then reintroduction of the food and careful observation through the entire course) you will feel more motivation in breaking the food habit and getting it out of your life. Habits of thinking and behavior are the main culprit here, not you as a weak person. The habit of labeling something as a comfort food is a habit none the less and the food is not a comfort by definition, rather it’s a meat, vegetable, dairy, wheat, carb, protein,fat and so on.
Feeling good and getting healthy can get you over the habit you’ve developed over the years. There are so many food choices out there as alternatives today. Take a cruise through a different type of grocery store without intending to buy anything. No basket, just a pen and notepad, and curiosity. Have fun making new discoveries in the food world. Jot down what seems interesting. Google it later along with recipes and food prep ideas if you prefer developing your own recipes! Then buy a new food or two each week.
This paradigm shift is a process, so jumping in all at once is probably not going to sustain you through to a successful shift. This is because you also have habits in food recognition, prepping, using and cooking, and shopping which can be difficult to break and replace. Mindful awareness is the key here. But once you do, you’ll forgot about the old ways and feel right at home with the news ways.
I help clients using a holistic perspective on the problems or symptoms they present such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, social anxiety and weight issues. Breaking habits, changing ways, identifying and going through the ups and downs of an elimination trial, and guiding the shift in their paradigm to health and well-being is a significant part of what I offer. It may not be the answer for everyone, but I can say that food is often a component of the etiology and a total surprise to the client. Diet together with mindfulness to increase your chances of making conscious choices make the shift more of an adventure when needed.
What are your thoughts and experiences with food? What would you like to try, or know more about? Share your story in the comments.