Food on the Brain: How What You Eat Affects Your Mood

by Sep 27, 2017

About the Author

Dr. Jeanne Sandheinrich, D.C.

Dr. Jeanne Sandheinrich, D.C. is co-founder and an esteemed chiropractor at First Step Family Wellness. As a St. Louis native, she has a deep connection to her community and is passionate about providing exceptional care to her clients.

As Phillip Day of Food Matters once said, “What we need to be able to do is to persuade the public that you are what you eat, food can change your mood, and the choices you make directly affect the outcome of your life.”

In other words, you may not be able to control everything in your life, but you can control everything that you consume. Having a natural health mindset can ensure that you not only achieve physical wellness, but that you are also unconsciously happy and content with the life you lead.

While achieving a consistent, positive set of emotions may seem difficult to achieve to some, the reality is that once you understand why you are more prone to a negative mindset and how to avoid those reasons, the easier it will be to make better nutritional choices each day that will have a direct impact on your mood.

Balancing Your Blood Sugar

Think about the energy you feel throughout the day. How do you feel on the days that you decide to grab a quick donut and coffee for breakfast? What about when you instead choose a bowl of oatmeal and a banana, or a breakfast burrito? You feel a major difference, right? That’s because each choice has a drastically different influence on your blood sugar.

The way you eat has a great effect on the adrenals, which releases mood altering hormones, called cortisol and adrenaline. When you consume a donut and coffee, you may be giving your body fuel, but it is fuel that is high in carbs and sugar content which only creates a temporary spike in blood sugar and hormone levels. On the other hand, when you choose options that are less processed and higher in whole grains and protein, those hormones are distributed at a more consistent rate and thus create a balanced effect on your blood sugar levels.

If you can’t live without your coffee fix first thing in the morning, it is recommended that you first enjoy some type of protein before consuming that cup of joe, to reduce the chance of blood sugar spikes and sudden changes in mood.

Communicating with Your Brain’s Chemicals

What you eat also communicates directly with the chemicals in your brain, called neurotransmitters, which are built by 22 amino acids and are developed to assist in relaying information from the brain to the rest of your body. When our bodies are not able to build enough neurotransmitters through the food we eat, particularly proteins, then such can directly affect our emotional state and create fluxes in mood.

One of the most common neurotransmitters affected is the function of our serotonin levels, which impact our range of positivity and emotional stability. When serotonin levels are imbalanced, individuals are likely to feel a wide array of emotions, including anxiety and depression, irritability and frustration, and poor self-esteem that then impacts daily living and sleeping habits. Likewise, if you suffer from daily anxiety and phobias, it could be that you have a GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) imbalance due to overly-processed foods, which negatively impact the chemicals in your brain that influence the neurons that help you control stress. Such has also been shown to have a direct effect on endorphins that sustain our ability to handle physical distress and emotional complications, in addition to catecholamine neurotransmitters that help us stay focused and motivated throughout the day.

When you maintain a high-protein diet, stay away from processed foods, too much sugar and caffeine, and exercise on a regular basis; then these neurotransmitters can find balance and communicate effectively among one another and throughout your body. Thus, allowing for a stronger sense of self both physically and emotionally.

Building Your Mind’s Functionality

There is a reason you were always taught to eat all your fruits and vegetables, and to seek variety in the types and colors of food you eat. Just as proteins ensure that your body’s neurotransmitters can fully develop and function properly, other nutrients are key for the day to day functionality of your mind.

Fatty acids, such as Omega-3s, and the vitamins and minerals you receive from fruits and vegetables are all key to building and maintaining healthy brain cells. Many Americans consume far too much saturated fats through fried foods and unhealthy oils, when they should consume more foods rich in Omega-3s that can influence a healthier lifestyle of less inflammation, a healthier weight and fewer skin issues (i.e. oily skin and acne).

Some of the most common Omega-3 rich foods include fatty fish, pasture-raised meats, high-quality dairy products, nuts and flax. In addition, when these fatty acids are paired with Zinc and Vitamin B6, each work together even more efficiently to improve overall brain health and functionality, which also reduces the risk of depression, anxiety, irritability, and memory loss. To add more Zinc to your diet, try spinach, nuts, garlic, dark chocolate, mushrooms, grass-fed beef, and legumes. The former two are also rich in B6, in addition to bananas, onions, tuna, and pasture-raised chickens.

Reducing Inflammation and Increasing Immunity

Many recent studies have not only found a strong connection between the food we eat and heightened inflammation throughout our bodies, such has also been found to directly impact our mood and overall positivity. The American diet regularly includes soda and other caffeinated beverages, overly-processed and chemical ridden foods, more red meat than fish or other proteins, refined grains (few whole grains), and margarine instead of healthy, unsaturated fats. These have been linked to chronic, low-level inflammation that can cause heart disease (the leading cause of death in the U.S.), diabetes (that affects 1 in 4 adults), cancer, stroke, and much more.

When foods full of fatty acids, Zinc, B6, and other vitamins and minerals are consumed on a regular basis instead, then the inflammation found throughout your whole body will become less prominent. Overall, your immune system will be boosted significantly if you choose to consume anti-inflammatory foods like olive or coconut oil, dark leafy greens, wine, coffee, and yellow vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes and carrots.

The Key to Proper Digestion

So now that you understand why what you eat affects your mood, it is important to understand how you can use that knowledge in the most effective way possible. It is not enough to simply consume all the amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, proteins and so on; it is also important that our digestive tract is functioning properly to effectively process what we eat.

We have found that Enzyme Therapy is the best possible way to ensure proper digestion and, in turn, a better mood. The teachings of Natasha Campbell-McBride, in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, explain that it is our good gut flora that is essential to maintaining a healthy diet and digestive tract, and absorbing the nutrients needed.

First Step Family Wellness wholeheartedly recommends Metagenics Probiotics, an UltraFlora formula that provides your immune system with the most beneficial microorganisms your body needs to ensure a healthy digestive tract. Metagenics Probiotics are the best, because each of their 11 personalized formulas contain genetically identified strains of flora that are specifically chosen to target your individual health needs.

Choose which of the UltraFlora Probiotic proprietary formulas will best support your personalized health today. Then order directly from the 1st Step Family Wellness website with the practitioner code “FamilyWellness” to save 20% on your first order and receive additional savings and free shipping on all other orders!

Coming Full Circle with Chiropractic Care

Good nutrition, exercise, and the use of probiotics aren’t the only things that can help boost your mood. First Step Family Wellness can provide you with adjustments that will direct impact your central nervous system, including the role of digestion and your immune system. When you add chiropractic care to a healthy lifestyle, you are providing both your mind and body a greater sense of balance, health and wellness overall.

Stop by 1st Step Family Wellness in St. Louis, MO today to ask Dr. Jeanne and Dr. Ryan Sandheinrich more about how dietary changes, probiotics, and chiropractic care can transform your life today!