It’s just been one of those weeks. Your healthy eating regime hasn’t been on point, work kept bringing in treats (who can say no to a pizza lunch?), and you had a few dinner dates where you wanted to indulge a little. Now you’re not feeling like your best self. Why?
You may have recently heard that your gut is basically your second brain. And, if you haven’t heard this, let us tell you now: your gut is basically your second brain. While it doesn’t have the neurotransmitters firing, and doesn’t directly control our movement etc., it does play a significant role in providing our bodies the nutrients to keep everything running smoothly.
Let’s start at the beginning, the moment that food touches your lips. Let’s use that pizza that your office brought in as an example.
When you take your first bite, an enzyme called amylase starts to break down the carbohydrates, the crust and carbs from the tomato paste, right in your mouth. It then moves down your esophagus, into your stomach where hydrochloric acid starts to break down the foods, and the enzyme protease breaks down the protein - the cheese and gluten. Finally, the enzyme lipase breaks down the fats from your pizza in your small intestines.
It’s here, in your small intestines where all of this broken down food is absorbed into your body - the single amino acids, glucose, fats, etc. - to be used for energy, brain power and all the other good stuff. It’s also where your body will uptake certain foods that can shift your hormone levels, which are a big player in your mood.
But when we’re not putting in the right macro and micro nutrients to be broken down, like vitamins and minerals found in organic produce to boost energy, omega-3 fatty acids for brain health, and protein to help repair our muscles, we can impact our moods.
So now that we have a better understanding of how our body breaks down the food - let’s look at how these nutrients can impact our mood.
While inflammation is a natural process, it’s supposed to occur to assist healing - injuries, illness, virus’, stress, toxins, etc. However, our bodies are exposed to constant triggers each day: toxins in our makeup, chemicals from cleaning products, pollution, lack of sleep, food sensitivities, literally this list can go on and on.
This inflammation means our body is constantly expending energy to fight these toxins, leaving us feeling tired, irritable and probably puffy.
If you’ve read this blog post on sugar cravings, then you know that your body goes through ups and downs based on our sugar consumption. You also likely know the feeling of being “hangry." That’s actually your blood sugar dipping and leaving you feeling irritable.
Try to have smaller meals throughout the day, focus on refined sugar-free foods, and pair foods that are naturally rich in sugar (like fruit), with a protein or healthy-fat.
Your cortisol levels are major factors in your mood, and are impacted much faster than you may think. Generally, your cortisol levels should be highest in the morning, and slowly drop through the day, until bedtime. However, with sugar-rich foods, cortisol boosting stimulants like caffeine, even a high-intensity workout, we can raise our cortisol levels higher than they should be.
Have you ever had a few too many coffees one day, and felt overly anxious? That’s your cortisol telling you it’s out-of-whack.
So what can we do to fix this?
Focus on whole foods - without a package, from the grocery store or a local delivery service. Choose produce, organic and free-range meats, wild-caught fish, and eliminate inflammatory foods like caffeine, dairy and gluten if you notice they are a trigger.
As a reminder, if you are experiencing intense mood swings, severe anxiety, or depression, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional about possible plans of action.