Is Your Food Affecting Your Mood?
At this time of year there is a lot out there influencing how we feel. Maybe hearing Christmas music in the malls gets you excited for the holiday season – maybe it stresses you out because it means it is the holiday season.
Many of us are already aware that this time of year can cause seasonal affective disorder due to the decrease in natural sunlight.
But have you ever thought about how our food could be changing our mood?
This is nothing new.
A simple search of “mood and food” generates a handful of research papers talking about mood, food, cravings, obesity, and depression treatment via nutritional changes.
This notion that food has an affect on how we feel is something we have known for a long time, yet it seems the only feeling that has made it through the folly of information is that it makes us feel good.
But does it really?
A handful of the research that directly studies the effect of food on mood is looking at the good feeling connection. This is because food stimulates the reward centers in the brain. Stimulate the reward centers in the brain and you get a shot of dopamine.
Do it too much and the brain focuses more of its energy on dopamine production, and less of it on things like leptin, which is the major hormone that controls satiety and food consumption.
Overstimulating that reward center by overeating too often is partially why we see binge eating disorders, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
In the standard north american diet that is high in simple carbohydrates, we are constantly feeding into this cycle. Simple carbohydrates are easily digestible and cause a rapid spike in blood sugar. The shot of blood sugar to the system is gobbled up by the brain, giving us immediate energy and focus, but just as quickly as it rises, it falls.
This leads to feelings of lethargy, loss of focus, and irritability.
How do we address that? More often than not, we have something to eat. Just something to make us feel better because we think we are having a bad day and deserve a treat.
Then starts the cycle all over again.
You Can’t Outsmart a Bad Diet
What we don’t eat can also affect our brain function.
Nutrient deficiencies have been linked to slower cognition, attention deficit disorders, and increased risk of developing brain diseases like alzheimer’s.
Our earliest years of life are crucial for the development of the brain and the body. Nutrient deficiencies of zinc, iodine, B12 and B6, and iron are all linked to deficiencies in brain development and cognitive function.
Recent studies are also linking the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting on brain health by way of increasing the brain-derived neurotrophic factor “which increases the resistance of neurons in the brain to dysfunction and degeneration in animal models of neurodegenerative disorders.”
You Are What You Eat
The human brain is an incredible organ that controls our entire body. With such a big job, it requires the most energy from our diet. If it is consuming 20% of the energy we eat, then we better be feeding it the best foods so that it can perform at its best.
This only further reinforces the need for mindful eating. Making conscious decisions about what we feed our bodies will help our performance, but will also shape our mood for the day.