Eating food that is foods rich in vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, has proven it helps improve brain function and mood and provided it is balanced with the ‘key or right’ fats and will do its part to support the body optimise he happiness hormone ‘serotonin’ as this is, one of the key brain chemicals that regulate mood.
Cortisol – a key hormone we hear time and time again ..
Is a key hormone that has an impact on wellbeing when the body mind or spirit is stressed .
This stress hormone elevates and decrease during the course of a day as a natural homeostasis process. However when or if we encounter stress, it will elevate and cause our endocrine system to suffer and the place we will feel this is in the adrenal glands. This is where we respond to the stress as a fight or flight response.
Cortisol’s effects fat mass in the body which is why when we are stressed we may put on weight as it impacts our bodies ability to , function or be optimised and in the distribution of fat in cells. Simply put, cortisol increases total fat, and abdominal fat in particular as this is where it gets dumped. It also reduces muscle mass, to alter the body composition of fat. This is because Cortisol regulates the process of fat cell development and the break down ‘lipolysis’. The result can be an in increase fat mass which then causes insulin resistance and risks of common dis-ease in the body for e.g. diabetes and high cholesterol etc.
Cortisol levels has an impact on other hormones affecting the endocrine system such as the thyroid which is our growth hormone, and affects reproductive health and plays a key part in body composition and weight.
If Cortisol levels go unattended they can have a lasting impact on stress as we can begin to feel fatigued, over anxious, and lowers vitality levels and can cause low moods that get diagnosed as ‘depression’.
Practical things to do to keep them in check:
- 1. Get the Right Amount of Sleep. Try to go to sleep before 11pm. Timing, length and quality of sleep all influence cortisol levels
- 2. Exercise, a regular amount of exercise is essential
- 3. Get wiser and learn to recognise things that make you ‘Stressed and cut them out or get in touch with someone like me to help you look at this. Over Thinking causes stress too!! .
- 4. Learn to find things to help you Relax. I walk, practice Yoga and sit out in nature to oxygenate my blood. This is vital too – what could you do?
- 5. Have more Fun and laughter. Cal someone who makes you laugh and have a little fun!
Insulin also has a role in the causation of anxiety and mood swings
What we eat will undeniably impacts on how we feel and therefore eating carbohydrates’ dense food made from refined white flours or convenient foods such as bread, pasta, an excess potatoes, processed or ready meals, frozen or fresh or an excess of sugar or sweets which are not nutrient rich! will all takes it toll on the body and in turn compromise mood and mental health.
because these refined flour white ’empty’ carbs force your body to secrete high doses of insulin in an attempt to lower the spike in blood sugar. Over time, this kind of chronic overproduction of insulin creates a state called ‘ hypoglycemia ‘ which is experienced as low blood sugar, characterised by shakiness, fatigue, irritability, and yes, increasing anxiety.
This is because the body will pump out more cortisol will directly affects our ‘mental state’ in the body’s best effort to protect the brain and heart from dangerously low blood sugar levels.
The body will always try its best to maintain the delicate balance of our hormones to give us support at the right time or when it is needed, but t cannot run on empty.
This is why estrogen when it is at the optimal level, is designed to have a calming effect on the brain. But if its levels are too low or too high (which happens during the premenstrual phase PMT, perimenopause, menopause and other times for women who suffer with any hormone deficiency), or your ratio of estrogen to progesterone is off, you may experience signs of low mood, stress and anxiety .
Boost your mood with B vitamins
B vitamins are in most greens. Yes, these are essential to wellbeing maintenance and often referred to as the ‘stress vitamins’ because deficiency can show up as irritability, low energy, tension and anxiety. They are needed to make brain chemicals, including serotonin. B6 (pyridoxine) helps the body turn food into energy. It can also help the body fight infections. Essential during pregnancy and for anyone breastfeeding to help babies’ brains development milestones. Here is a useful link from Healthine to see more on these.
Some studies have found low levels of folate and B12 in depressive patients. Swansea University (2013) concluded high levels of vitamin B supplements may be effective in improving mood states and perceived stress in healthy individuals. e.g. B12, folic acid and B6, enhances response to antidepressants. They also conducted a study over a 12-month in which they concluded folic acid and vitamin B12 could be tried to improve treatment outcomes in depression.
B12 is found in dairy products, eggs, meat, fish, vegetables, such as bell peppers spinach, baked potatoes, beans, legumes, chlorella, spirulina, sea vegetables, pulses and lentils.
Eat the Right fats
Fatty acids from omega 3 rich sources are essential for healthy brain health. Many studies have confirmed this using an evidence based approach. Flax, pumpkin, chia, oily fish e.g salmon, sardines, mackerel and trout, and other nuts such as walnuts.
Seeding is good for optimising women for fertility and wellbeing needs- I do a lot of work around this area. Get in touch if this is something that you wish to know more about.
Include a healthy amount of protein in your diet every day is really essential for optimising outcomes in health and wellbeing
Protein contains the essential amino acid tryptophan, which our body uses to make serotonin. Protein does not need to be sourced from meat. It can also be found in other foods.
Tryptophan helps increase serotonin levels and is naturally found in well sourced chicken, turkey, walnuts, pork, beef, crab, kidney beans, black beans, spinach, halibut, some cheeses, milk and bananas. The most important benefit from more serotonin include: healthier and better quality sleep, and better moods, essential for every one during a stressful period.
Low serotonin levels have been strongly correlated to impaired cognitive performance – leading to brain fog, Anxiety, mood swings and linked to depression .
The ‘Sunshine’ Vitamin
Vitamin D, is commonly known the sunshine vitamin. This is produced in the skin on exposure to sunlight and vital for maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and muscles.
Vitamin D3 receptors found in the brain help to absorb this on a DNA level. Vitamin D is found naturally in egg yolks, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines), dairy products and and meat (liver and kidney). People of South Asian like me are mostly deficient and need to take a supplement. I think nutri advanced has a great liquid version which I take daily.
It’s important to care for your gut – emotionally stress is felt in our stomach
Your brain, gut and stomach ( which is your earth) are all connected . Fermented foods such as yogurt, keffir, miso and sauerkraut, Indian homemade pickles are packed with good bacteria. A quality supplement supportive to the natural balance of bacteria in the gut.
Foods can bring you down
- Cut back on caffeine and alcohol: they are stimulants and affect serotonin pathways to the brain which can lead to disruptive sleep and leave you feeling anxious and depressed.
- Eat less processed foods and denatured sugar as these have limited nutritional value and it is now evidenced well in studies to who how processed foods made with refined grains, fatty meat, fried foods and sweets, increase the risk of many known diseases including depression and rob our bodies of any minerals.
- Most people do not eat properly and it’s never a surprise when people come to see me and think there diet is good – they leave understanding how it was not and the importance of making adaptations for long term health and wellbeing.
Supplement suggestions : are classified as adaptogens, meaning that they can help your body manage stress and support us at a cellular level to optimise wellbeing.
NB: These following section is not offered as a prescription but to show you that with professional guidance what can be achieved. I take each person case on an individual basis and therefore the following is not directive.
The good news is that there are many supplements and complementary therapies that can support your emotional and mental wellbeing. These too are now well evidenced. include:
Here are a few examples and I’ll leave you to read about them and why you might want to think about taking any.
Ginko Biloba – can be supportive to cognitive function. One study, published by Physiology & Behaviour, found it improved concentration and mood.
Lecithin may be beneficial to brain functions including memory as it is fat soluble and brains need fat.
B Vitamin rich food support a healthy nervous system and can improve tiredness and adrenal fatigue.
Ashwagandha – Spirilina- Chlorella: Rich in B12 – Moringa- Berberis- Sea Vegetables- Magnesium-Iodine- Omega 3 -Vitamin C – Folic Acid- Astragala : are just some of the adaptogens which may be suggested once a case is understood.
Essential oils and many other complementary therapies can be helpful the pathways receptors for the Central Nervous System and neurotransmitters- but this would need to be another blog!!