As I continue to research the food-mood connection, a few glaring topics keep coming to the forefront. One biggie is the notion that, just as there are foods that help your mood, there are also foods that are total emotional whammies. When it comes to the latter, most food-related mood issues can be linked to either blood sugar or food sensitivities and intolerance.
Things that screw with your blood sugar.
Blood sugar instability is undeniably linked to mood issues, including depression, anxiety, irritability, and other not-so-great stuff. This should come as no surprise to you if, like me, you get hangry (hungry plus angry) if it's been too long since your last meal. There are a lot of things we can do to help stabilize our blood sugar, including timing of meals, supplements, and types of food. The most important substances to avoid here are (drumroll) ... no big surprise.
Sugar. Alcohol. Caffeine. These three offenders can really mess you up. All three interfere with our body's absorption of vitamins and minerals (including some really important ones for mood stability, like magnesium and B vitamins). Both caffeine and sugar stimulate our adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which is a stress hormone great for getting us out of immediate danger, but not great when we're just living our daily lives.
You know that rush and crash associated with all three? Yeah, it turns out it's not so good for our happiness. Alcohol messes with our seratonin levels (one of our feel-good neurotransmitters), which is why we already know it as a "depressant." And all three contribute to crappy sleep, which, duh, can lead to feeling sad, irritable and tired.
Things to which you are allergic, sensitive, or intolerant.
This is another big one, and I certainly can't do it justice in a few paragraphs. Suffice it to say that food sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances greatly impact our emotions. For instance, celiac disease is associated with an 80% increased risk for depression. Eighty percent!
And you don't need to have CD for gluten to mess with you. Highly allergenic foods like gluten and dairy wreak havoc on our digestive systems, which are so completely intertwined with your brain it's scary. They interfere with nutrient absorption and activate our body's immune response, causing changes to our hormones and neurotransmitters. If you suspect you have a food sensitivity, get it checked out, or find a cool food pro like me to help you go on an elimination diet, stat!
Lastly, it's no coincidence that all of these reactions also lead to inflammation in the body, a major cause of nearly every serious and chronic illness out there. It's also no coincidence that alcohol, sugar, caffeine, gluten and dairy are pretty much THE most difficult things to stop drinking and eating. Kind of like addictive drugs. If ever there were food for thought, this would be it!