Are you interested in trying to deal with the issues you are facing in a natural way - through counselling, exercise, and eating properly? While you may know that eating healthy can affect your mental health, you may wonder if there are specific foods that can help! Glenys Bowers, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist in the South Surrey area, has some practical help for us in this area.
According to Patrick Holford’s book, New Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, as many as one in three people suffer from low moods or are frequently depressed. During the winter months, this number rises, as millions suffer from SAD – seasonal affective disorder, “the winter blues.” For all of us, our moods can range anywhere from joyful to completely depressed at any given time. Don’t despair. There are ways to improve your mood. First, let’s find out if there is room for improvement by completing the questionnaire below.
Score 1 for each yes answer
⃝ Do you often feel downhearted or sad?
⃝ Do you often feel worse in the morning?
⃝ Do you find it difficult to face the day?
⃝ Do you sometimes have crying spells or feel like it?
⃝ Do you have trouble falling asleep, or sleeping through the night?
⃝ Is your appetite, or desire to eat, poor?
⃝ Are you losing weight without trying?
⃝ Do you feel unattractive and unlovable?
⃝ Do you shun company and prefer to be alone?
⃝ Do you often feel fearful?
⃝ Are you often irritable or angry?
⃝ Do you find it difficult to make decisions?
⃝ Is it an effort to motivate yourself to do the things you used to do?
⃝ Do you feel hopeless about the future?
⃝ Do you feel less enjoyment from activities that once gave you pleasure?
Below 5 – You are functioning well, even if you do occasionally feel a bit blue.
5 - 10 – Your mood could use a boost.
10 or more – You may be depressed and could use some help. Consider seeing both a nutritionist and a counsellor.
One of the causes of low moods can be attributed to deficiencies of tryptophan and tyrosine (amino acids, the building blocks of protein). When protein is eaten, along with certain vitamins and minerals, the amino acids get turned into neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body. Neurotransmitters play a major role in shaping everyday life and functions. When they get out of balance, this can affect our mood, sleep, concentration and weight.
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that influences our mood, keeps us feeling happy. Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in foods like turkey, fish, chicken, cheese, beans, tofu, oats and eggs. Not only can low serotonin levels be caused by a lack of tryptophan in the diet but also due to not enough estrogen (in women), not enough testosterone (in men), not enough light, not enough exercise, too much stress, not enough co-factor vitamins and minerals and blood sugar imbalances.
If you feel your mood could use a boost, try incorporating more tryptophan into your diet instead of reaching for that sugary treat or caffeinated drink. Tryptophan is best absorbed into the brain when eaten with carbohydrates. For example, chicken breast with baked potato and green beans, whole grain pasta with beans, tofu or meat sauce, nuts & seeds with cut up veggies or fruit and salmon with brown rice/lentil pilaf and green salad. In addition, take regular walks outside, invest in a good quality multi-vitamin and incorporate stress management techniques daily, such as deep breathing and meditation, to aid in keeping your serotonin levels stable.
Glenys Bowers, R.H.N.
References – New Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, by Patrick Holford