As of 2019, major depression is listed as the number 2 most costly chronic illness in the US. Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. Most of us know that stress, lack of sleep, busy lives and trauma are common triggers to unstable mood patterns. The effects of the Covid 19 pandemic are increasing for an overwhelming majority of people.
However, did you know how much the foods you eat could affect this as well?
Some of us cope with these above triggers by choosing comfort foods high in low quality fat and processed sugar- oh the sugar! After all- these foods do cause a temporary rush of feel good dopamine released in the brain causing the body to enjoy the experience. It’s quick, easy, and the more you eat the more you crave. However, these foods will lead to chronic gut inflammation. Besides the end result of physical symptoms such as acid reflux, bloating, gas and irregular stools, there are emotional repercussions as well. This is due to the fact that MOST of the body’s serotonin, another happy hormone, is produced in the gut. That’s right!
Many depression and anxiety meds work to force our bodies to hold on to our serotonin where it can, thus improving the mood, but not necessarily addressing the root of the problem.
Food sensitivities, allergies and treatable intestinal gut infections also cause damage to our gut. So even when we are eating plenty of veggies, fruits and a generally healthy diet, inflammation can still be problematic.
By being aware of what is going on in the gut, eating the right foods for our bodies and healing the inflammation, we can greatly improve our mood!
When we look at the Standard American Diet (SAD), we can understand why so many are struggling with moods and feeling good. So, how do you even start? Here are a few easy steps you can start today:
1) Shop the perimeter of the grocery store
Ever notice what’s in the aisles of the grocery store? Processed foods! I advise clients to shop on the perimeter of the grocery store – fresh vegetables, colorful fruits, organic whole grains, wild fish and free-range protein, high-quality organic dairy, organic whole soy, pasture-raised eggs – this is what we should be eating. Multiple studies show that consuming monounsaturated fats like those in extra virgin olive oil, expeller pressed canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds specifically decrease our risk of depression and anxiety. Likewise, eat cruciferous vegetables rich in indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphanes – kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bokchoy — because they improve your moods too. Think back to what your ancestors ate years and years ago – it wasn’t toaster pastries and cereals! Watch out for foods that come in plastic and cardboard packaging!
2) Don’t drink your calories
Examine your diet for anything you drink that tastes sweet, and then eliminate it. A cup or two of coffee, a glass of milk, a glass of wine, a cup of green tea – all of these are healthy things to drink in moderation. Water is, of course, the most important, and unless your doctor gives you a restriction, most of us need about 68 ounces per day. Some of us, however, drink our calories in the form of juice, soda, sports drinks and specialty coffee drinks. Those café mochas taste amazing, but the sugar in them can make our energy plummet quickly and trick our brains into craving more sweetness. Overindulgence in alcohol is also troublesome during this pandemic, but there is concrete evidence that more than one alcoholic beverage per day increases risk of depression.
3) Move every day
The three most important things we do every day are move, eat and rest. If we don’t do those things well, our health suffers. Our bodies are made to be active, and we feel better both physically and emotionally when we move. Studies show maintenance of lean body mass and cutting down the abdominal fat decrease the risk of depression and anxiety and can alleviate sadness and anxiety. Finding the right exercise can be tricky, however. If you can’t get to a gym or take a walk outside, use your daily life to challenge yourself. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park a little further away from the entrance to the store, get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way home – these are all easy ways to build in a few extra minutes of movement into your day. It doesn’t matter how we get our daily movement in – in pieces, or all at one time – but it is important that we get our booties moving!
4) Prioritize your sleep
Take at least 30 minutes at the end of the day to begin your relaxation before bed. It’s unrealistic to think you can go-go-go all day long and then just magically fall asleep at 10:30pm. Aim for 7 to 8 hours, and try to keep your sleep cycle consistent. Try to work a “normal” day schedule; studies show an increased risk of disease when we disrupt our circadian rhythms. And it’s okay to take a short rest during the day for 15 minutes as long as it doesn’t impact your ability to fall asleep at night.
5) A little dark chocolate every day is healthy
My favorite chocolate is 85% dark made by Green & Black’s (you can find it at Whole Foods and even Walgreens!). Coupled with a bit of hot green tea, it’s a delightful treat in the midafternoon. Dark chocolate is primarily made of saturated fat, and that saturated fat is needed in our bodies for proper cell metabolism and lipid production. Many of us who are health conscious actually under-consume saturated fat. What’s great about dark chocolate is that the saturated fat – made of stearic acid – is processed in the body differently than saturated fat found in things like red meat. Find yourself a quiet space, have a few squares of chocolate and sip your anti-oxidant green tea – you’ll be in heaven!
At TheraTribe, a well-rounded assessment of diet, activity, health, mental health, experiences, etc. contribute to a well-rounded treatment approach. This 360° analysis of your health guides the creation of a customized regimen specifically tailored for you, moving you along your path towards inspired health. Reach out today to schedule a free 30 minute consultation call.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates