As we continue to learn more about the mind-body connection, many physicians and therapists have become aware that poor eating habits can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety, while a more healthful diet can lift your spirits and help keep you energetic and productive all day long
Most of us have heard by now that refined carbohydrates are “bad” for us. These foods, like white bread, pasta, cake, soda, and candy, may taste delicious and tempt us to eat more than we should. But refined carbs causes our blood sugar to rise suddenly, and then drop. We may enjoy the “sugar rush” for a short time but we are left feeling tired and cranky afterward. Instead of filling up on refined carbohydrates, we may need to increase our protein intake. We also need to keep eating healthy foods at regular intervals all day long, rather than starving all day and coming home to “pig out” at night.
When we are under chronic stress, we are more vulnerable to reactive hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which is a result of an excessive release of insulin following a meal high in refined carbohydrates. The low blood sugar then leads to a drop in mood as well as irritability, nervousness, shakiness, and even confusion. That’s why it’s especially important for both children and adults to start the day with a healthy, high-protein breakfast. After “fasting” all night while we are sleep, breakfast is necessary, even if you think you don’t have the appetite for it. Appetite rises and falls in part according to your habitual meal schedule. If you shift your schedule, your appetite will gradually shift along with it.
Dr. Leslie Korn (http://www.drlesliekorn.com/) is a psychologist and nutrition expert who suggests that both adults and children can withdraw from sugar and refined carbohydrates by going on a protein-rich diet for 7 to 10 days. People are advised to eat small amounts of protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, or nuts) six times a day (every three to four hours) as well as one to two servings of a root vegetable, such as a sweet potato or carrots topped with butter or olive oil, along with salad or green vegetables. She also informs her clients that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame has been found to be a possible cause of neurological, psychiatric, and behavioral disorders. Some people also get headaches or panic attacks after consuming aspartame. Stevia, a plant native to South America and now readily available in powder or liquid form (often sold as “Truvia”), is a better sugar substitute.
To learn more about food and mood, there are a number of good books on the topic. Try, for example, Food & Mood by Elizabeth Somer. You may also talk with your doctor, therapist, or nurse practitioner.