How are mood and food linked?

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR HEALTH - WITH AU­THOR AND NU­TRI­TIONAL BIO­CHEMIST DR LIBBY

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.

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