By Janice B Gaines BS LMT
Everybody knows that proper diet and nutrition is good for the body, but are you aware of how important eating right is for mental and emotional health? The mind is integrated into the body’s system as much as any organ and must not been seen as a separate entity. You feel better when you eat right!
When we neglect to feed our bodies good food and proper nutrition it affects us in many ways; fatigue, weariness, lack of clarity, malaise and the list goes on… Often these symptoms are not noticed in and of themselves because we adapt and it becomes normal over time. If left alone for too long, these states of existence can lead to more serious conditions. This is a slow progression, similar to the story of the Boiling Frog. If a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. This applies to us; the inability to react to significant changes that occur gradually.
Keep in mind (pun intended), that depression and anxiety are caused by imbalances in chemical messengers in the brain - neurotransmitters. Remember neurotransmitters are chemicals that are produced in the brain and they are the information network for our body and mind.
Three to Avoid
- Caffeine: Why do so many people (yours truly included), consume so much caffeine? How does it work? It’s easy to understand. There is a chemical called adenosine created in the brain and it binds to its receptor. This normal binding action causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity. Caffeine looks like adenosine. It therefore binds to the receptor blocking out the real adenosine, but instead of slowing down nerve cell activity it does the opposite and speeds it up. Caffeine also increases dopamine levels. This seems cool at first because dopamine is a neurotransmitter that activates our pleasure centers. Heroin and cocaine do that too, obviously to a higher degree but same mechanism. There are a number of problems with this over the long run. Deep-sleep is a real issue and without it many unwanted symptoms come about such as depression. Caffeine causes stress on our system the affects of which cause the body a state of exhaustion that can seriously weaken emotional health.
- Refined sugar: The reasons to avoid sugar are numerous. Sugar acts on the same brain receptors that alcohol and heroin do. Along with this comes the addiction. Like caffeine the long term affect is bad, causing brain chemical imbalances. In addition excess sugar creates unstable blood sugar levels that leave us irritable, moody and craving more sugar. That leads to weight gain and you know how “good’ that feels.
- Junk Food: I think the name says it all! Junk food according to Wikipedia: “is an informal term applied to some foods which are perceived to have little or no nutritional value, or to products with nutritional value but which also have ingredients considered unhealthy when regularly eaten, or to those considered unhealthy to consume at all.” Recent research: Scripps Research Study Shows Compulsive Eating Shares Same Addictive Biochemical Mechanism with Cocaine, Heroin Abuse. The study showed that rats on junk food would rather starve than eat healthy. This says quite a bit about the effects on brain chemistry and imbalances that occur. By the way this category includes sugar, salt and saturated fats.
Three to Eat
- 1. Rice, oats and other whole grains: these foods are rich in vitamin B and folic acid. They are low-glycemic foods, which mean they release glucose into the bloodstream gradually, thus preventing sugar lows and mood swings. They are rich in the trace minerals which we need to function properly, as well as being a high-fiber food that can keep the digestive system healthy and lower cholesterol levels. Stay away from instant varieties. In fact anytime you see “instant” on a food label, “just say no”.
- 2. Proteins: choose organic, low fat proteins. Eggs, fish, chicken and beef are all good choices. Protein should be part of every meal; your body does not store it. You need it to maintain healthy metabolic rates and feed your body the fuel it needs to regenerate muscle, bone, blood cells and brain cells.
- 3. Fruits and vegetables: my theory is mix up the colors. Different colors indicate that you’re getting different nutrients and vitamins, plus it’s a fun way to put the meal together. Choose organic and fresh! Mom was right vegetables are good for you and you will feel better for eating them.
Don’t be the frog in the water, jump out now!