Food = Mood
I want to share a quick story about a woman I met today who came to me with severe depression as a result of a series of tragic events that have occurred in her life. As we talked for more than an hour I kept seeing a recurrent theme. Her mounting health problems had begun in part due to eating habits that led her immune system astray. Her diet was very poor containing lots of processed foods, processed grains (wheat), and foods that quickly turn to sugar. As she began to feel bad she medicated herself with sugary foods. This is all too common and understandable. You feel bad and so in an effort to feel relief, even if only temporary, you reach for help in the form of a sugary or salty snack. It helps . . . for a while, but the inflammatory food (sugar) makes more inflammation and is irritable to the neurons in the brain. This becomes increasingly unstable and it is very common to see unstable blood sugar play a role in patients experiencing depression and anxiety. Bad food makes for bad mood. Bad mood makes you crave bad food.
As this downward spiral continues people often seek out help and receive medications to alter brain physiology. This might offer relief but it does not address the source of the problem. Sometimes one medication is not enough or it may in fact create secondary issues like weight gain or sedation. In this poor woman’s case it lead to medication after medication being added. She is now on 13 medications.
We spent a long time discussing the fact that food affects the immune system, which is squarely center in your intestines. Disrupted bowel health equates to disrupted immune health. You have more immune cells in your brain than actual nerve cells. Did that sink in? Yes for every nerve in your brain you have at least 2 immune cells. The brain is a very immune sensitive tissue and the majority of our immune system lies in the bowels. Ergo . . . when the gut is irritated the brain is irritated and you can take that statement to the bank. If you have a friend or family member that experiences gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn or any combination of these symptoms on a regular recurrent basis then I challenge you to ask them about their brain health. I’ll bet you a green smoothie they also have sleep issues, headaches, anxiety, depression or mood swings.
Bottom line is that what we eat can quickly and directly affect how we feel and think. Doubt this? Then why do we call it comfort food? When we feel stress, depression, or anxiety it is occurring in our brain and yet we reach to satisfy our tummy because we know it will make our brain FEEL different. Your brain is directly and undisputedly attached to your belly. So medicate yourself with good food. If it comes in a box, bag or can then give it someone you don’t like.
If your bowel health is poor as demonstrated by all the symptoms just listed above then seek help from a qualified integrative care physician who understand these matters in detail. It can usually be corrected in a matter of days to weeks.
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