How are mood and food linked?
Can food impact your mood? I’ve heard many different opinions on this lately. Thanks, Sarah.
Hi Sarah. For many years, the link between mood and nutrition has been debated. From the common sense corner, we have always known the food we eat affects us – you only have to recall a child’s birthday party to see just how powerfully the food we eat can impact our mood and behaviour.
What we eat literally becomes part of us; the amino acids we ingest help to form the proteins that become part of our immune system, our muscles and so on. However, many of us have become disconnected from this relationship – we can be left thinking it’s ‘‘normal’’ to feel terrible at 3pm, snap before lunch or to constantly feel bloated after eating.
Our relationship with food is complex and often has a strong emotional component. Take, for example, a stressful day – we’re generally drawn to chocolate, alcohol, or takeaways, not a health promoting bowl of broccoli. If we’re feeling tired and sluggish, we tend to reach for caffeine and sugary foods – anything that will give us a quick surge of energy.
There are numerous foods linked with enhancing mood, the most famous, of course being chocolate. Dark chocolate in particular is high in the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is one of 10 essential amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. It serves as a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps the body regulate appetite, sleep patterns, and mood.
Poor serotonin metabolism has been linked to anxiety and depression. Did you know however, that around 80 per cent of the serotonin in the body is actually in the gut, not the brain?
Foods that are naturally high in tryptophan include fish, other seafood, nuts, seeds, vegetables such as broccoli and legumes. Eating a wholefood diet rich in green vegetables and wholefood fats can make all the difference between feeling sluggish and heavy or energised.
If you have poor digestion, getting to the heart of this and resolving the symptoms can have a significant impact on enhancing your mood, too. It never ceases to amaze me everyday, the power a healthy diet can have on all aspects of life, in particular in enhancing mood.
I’ve been told that Imight be magnesium deficient, I generally eat awell-balanced real food diet. Howis this possible? Thanks, Danielle.
Hi Danielle. Although you may not get enough magnesium from your diet, it’s rare to be truly deficient in magnesium. However, being deficient and not
getting enough magnesium can be two different things.
Certain conditions can disrupt the body’s magnesium balance. For example, a gastrointestinal infection that causes vomiting or diarrhoea, some gastrointestinal diseases (such as IBS or ulcerative colitis), type-2 diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels), kidney disease and certain medications such as diuretics can lead to a deficiency.
From a dietary perspective, too many fizzy drinks (or carbonated water), caffeine, excess salt and alcohol can all lead to a decrease in magnesium status. Heavy menstrual periods and excessive sweating too can lead to a magnesium deficiency, as can prolonged stress. This is because for every unit of adrenalin – a stress hormone – that your body creates, the body uses up magnesium to create the adrenalin. So the more stressed you are, the greater your requirement for magnesium.
Eating a wholefood diet rich in green vegetables such as broccoli and wholefood fats can make all the difference between feeling sluggish and heavy or energised.