Food For Your Mood
1 April 2021
By Edith Orejel
Did you know that what you eat can influence how you feel? Making good food choices is an excellent way to help your mood. The foods we choose can not only affect how our brain functions, but also influence our mood for hours after eating. Nutrients in food affect how neurotransmitters work in the brain. They can promote feelings of calm and help the release of important neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
- There is a reason Popeye loved the folate rich spinach as it promotes the production of dopamine and supports a healthy nervous system. If spinach isn’t your favorite, you can always reach for some asparagus, dark leafy greens, broccoli, dried beans, or pasta.
- Foods rich in probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and pickles, were linked to fewer symptoms of anxiety. Those who consumed prebiotics or foods that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut had lower levels of stress.
- Zinc is found in oysters, cashews, beef, and spinach. Zinc helps neurotransmitter function, which prevents anxiety and irritability. Tryptophan is found in turkey, fish, eggs, beans, oats, nuts, and lentils. It helps in the function of serotonin which causes serene, pleasure, rewarding, and happy feelings.
- Magnesium is found in fish, yogurt, quinoa, and bananas. It protects the brain against stress, anxiety, and promotes good sleep. Those with low levels of dietary magnesium were found to be the greatest at risk for anxiety and depression.
- Omega 3 fatty acids are found in salmon, tuna, brussel sprouts, and walnuts. They have anti-inflammatory effects that protect against the stress hormone. Omega 3 fatty acids were also linked to a better overall mood and lower risk for depression.
- Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables keep blood sugar stable and help promote the feeling of calm and relaxation.
A great tip is to keep a food journal and be mindful of the relationship between your mood and the foods you’ve eaten.
It’s also very important that if your anxiety is severe and lasts longer than 2 weeks, consider seeking a professional evaluation.
Interested in learning more? Check out this excellent book: “This is Your Brain on Food” by Uma Naidoo, MD.
15 February 2021
Cannabis (marijuana) is not FDA-approved for treatment of mood or anxiety disorders, and there is currently limited research and regulation of cannabis products. Some very small studies have shown benefits of cannabis for specific types of anxiety (public speaking) and insomnia, but more research needs to be done to assess whether cannabis is an effective treatment for depression or generalized anxiety.
Since cannabis is not regulated by FDA, it is difficult to determine what chemicals and what concentrations you are actually using, which is problematic and could even be dangerous. While CBD (cannabidiol, a component of marijuana) is considered non-psychoactive, a large number of products advertised as “CBD only” have been shown to also contain some level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive part of marijuana).
Both THC and CBD can interact with medications and these interactions can pose a danger as well. Marijuana can slow down your gastrointestinal system and may affect metabolism (breakdown) of some medications, both of which can result in people absorbing a greater dose of medications and having more side effects. The effects of marijuana can also counter the positive effects of medications.
If you do decide to use cannabis of any form, always inform your medical providers so that you can discuss risks and receive more specific recommendations and counseling on any potential interactions with your medications.
You can find more information at:
When Anxiety Becomes Panic
26 January 2021
Anxiety is the most common mental health related issue in the United States. Of those diagnosed with anxiety, 2.7% are affected by panic disorders. A panic disorder is identified as a condition where people experience an unexpected, and often debilitating episode of intense fear. Symptoms may include heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, and feelings of impending doom. Anxiety and panic disorders can be effectively treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and medication; however, people may still experience these attacks despite treatment. There are a number of useful strategies that can help slow the racing mind and manage the overwhelming feelings.
Some of these include:
- Mental Games (grounding techniques)
- Name a fruit or vegetable for each letter of the alphabet (A=apple, B=banana, etc)
- Name every state that you know
- Use Ice
- Hold a piece of ice in your hand as long as you can, then switch hands
- Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily. Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause. Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale. Continue alternating breaths for 10-15 mins.
Sleepless in a Pandemic?
19 January 2021
It seems that every day there is new evidence about SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) that forces us to adapt and continually make changes. This can be exhausting. Still, there are many of us who although may be tired are unable to rest or get an adequate amount of sleep each night. Sleep is critical for our immune system and one of the most important things we can do to stay healthy. A lack of sleep can potentially make you more susceptible to infections, while also negatively impacting your mood and memory. Surprisingly with so much focus on health and staying safe in the era of COVID-19, getting quality sleep is often overlooked. However, understanding that we are all in the same boat will hopefully make things appear less bleak. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your sleep that are well within your reach, such as increasing your physical activity (taking a short walk outdoors, online aerobics, climbing steps), drinking less alcohol, setting and sticking to a daily routine, reducing screen use and meditation. Great additional reading includes:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): An Overview
11 January 2021
One common type of individual therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves psychoeducation, cognitive and exposure therapy and stress management which enables people suffering from PTSD, addictions, mood and anxiety disorders to identify and confront negative thoughts. Negative thoughts have a significant impact on the way we view ourselves and the action we take. A form of negative thinking called repetitive negative thinking (RNT) is found to be a major feature of several emotional disorders. Repetitive negative thinking is typically intrusive and difficult to disengage from. It may involve persistent upsetting memories and overly negative thoughts about oneself or the world. Another goal of CBT is to increase one’s understanding of how their behaviors, thoughts and emotions interact. One goal may be to bring awareness to difficult experiences and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcoholism or other addictions. For example, someone may use substances to dull negative, intrusive thoughts or painful memories that they could not otherwise withdraw from; however, this can contribute to isolation, increased repetitive negative thinking and further distress. While participating in CBT, individuals would begin to understand the recurring thought patterns which promote the cycle of addiction and other unhealthy coping behaviors. Once those patterns are recognized, individuals can identify triggers that promote relapse and learn other ways to manage their thought processes and behavioral responses. For additional information about CBT, please check out these resources below:
“CBT for daily life” by J. Satterfield
“Change your thinking” by Sara Edelman
“Mind over Mood” by Greenberger & Padesky
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
5 January 2021
Your provider may recommend mindfulness meditation as part of your treatment plan. Many people have different impressions when they hear “mindfulness” or “meditation”, but mindfulness meditation is really about attention and awareness training. Mindfulness meditation can help you increase awareness of your internal state and learn how to more effectively regulate emotions. It is a non-discriminatory way of acknowledging your emotions and the parts of your body that are affected during periods of stress. Research has shown that mindfulness practices promote positive emotions and reduce negative emotions over time . Mindfulness meditation also helps the individual to enhance self-control through exercises of managing their emotions, allowing more autonomy over a state of being that was previously considered out of their control. Mindfulness practices can also be helpful in managing symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness practices, you may be interested in checking out the books:
— “Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
— “The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD: An 8-Step Program for Strengthening Attention, Managing Emotions, and Achieving Your Goals” by Lidia Zylowska
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