Is Your Food Delivery Habit Hurting Your Mental Health?

The modern world offers us many conveniences. Indoor plumbing and electricity make life far more sanitary and pleasant than what our ancestors had to deal with. Technology allows us to connect with people from around the world, and we can hop in our car and go wherever we want safely and relatively quickly (unless you live in a major city where traffic tends to be brutal).

But some of our modern-day conveniences may be doing us more harm than good. Take for instance food delivery. Who among us doesn’t love to have our pizza, Chinese or Indian food brought right to our door? It’s fantastic. But it may not be so good for our mental health. Here are a few reasons why:

Depression

It is estimated that over 16 million adults in the United States suffer from depression. Many end up looking for relief via prescription medications that often come with nasty side effects. But could their diet be the real culprit?

A study published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition revealed that people who ate takeout food were 51% more likely to struggle with depression compared to those who tended not to eat those foods.

That makes sense, because what we eat often determines how we feel, both physically and emotionally. Eating processed or fast food tends to load us up with sugar and refined carbohydrates that give us an initial high but quickly send our energy and mood plummeting.

Eating delivered or takeout food regularly also means we are not getting the nutrients our brains need to work optimally. Lacking vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats like Omega-3 has been shown to cause mood issues. For instance, a deficiency in folate, a B vitamin, has been shown to cause depression, apathy, and fatigue.

The bottom line is that a growing body of research is suggesting that what we eat is directly linked to our mental health.

Weight Gain

How we feel about ourselves is often associated with how we look in the mirror. When we eat takeout food, we tend to scarf it down in front of the TV or computer. Before we know it, we have consumed far too many calories. Do this over and over and after a few months, you can unintentionally put on a lot of weight without even realizing it. Then your self-esteem could take a hit and you begin to feel symptoms of depression. This in turn causes you to stay in more (instead of being social) and ordering more food so you can self-medicate by eating things that got you into trouble in the first place. Very quickly, you can find yourself caught in a vicious cycle.

Some Food is Addictive

Some researchers now believe certain junk foods may be addictive. Are you ordering in more and more for the convenience, or because you have formed a dependence on certain foods? Food addiction can be as difficult to break as other substances. In fact, some studies would indicate cutting sugar out of the diet is harder than quitting cigarettes.

 

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” If you want to feel good, inside and out, be careful ordering in junk food and instead prepare wholesome and nutritious meals for yourself. Is it as convenient? No, but part of taking care of yourself is making the difficult everyday choices that you’ll be thankful for in the future.

Are you currently using food to self-medicate emotional pain or trauma? Are you interested in exploring treatment options? Please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I might be able to help.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/08/22/in-young-kids-junk-food-linked-to-mental-illness/58744.html

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/life-goals/2014/12/5-ways-fast-food-worsens-your-depression/

https://www.nchpad.org/606/2558/Food~and~Your~Mood~~Nutrition~and~Mental~Health

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140826-is-fast-food-making-us-depressed

Should I Go Gluten-Free if I Don’t Have Celiac Disease?

Starting about five years ago, gluten-free diets became all the rage. People who weren’t even sure what gluten was were cutting it out of their diet, most likely to be trendy or fashionable.

But maybe these people were onto something? Is it possible that we should all be giving up gluten, even if we don’t suffer from celiac disease?

Go with Your Gut

A study done by researchers at Columbia University and published in the medical journal Gut, found that even if you don’t have celiac disease, gluten protein from wheat, rye, and barley can trigger an immune system response that causes similar symptoms to the disease.

This is why so many of us complain of bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and/or “brain fog” when we eat wheat products. The researchers determined that while only a certain percentage of the population has celiac disease, many of us have gluten sensitivity. This means when we eat gluten, damage occurs to the epithelial cells that form the tissue lining the gastrointestinal (GI) tract as well as activation of the immune system in response to microbes that originate in the GI tract. (Did you know that 80% of the immune system is in the GI tract?)

The Link Between Gluten and Depression

Beyond gut health, it seems that gluten may also impede our mental health.

In a study, patients diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity were put on a gluten-free diet for a few days. Then they were asked to eat a food item containing wheat gluten.

The results?

While the subjects did not complain of any GI upsets, a whopping 90% of participants reported feeling more depressed after incorporating the gluten into their diet.

While the researchers aren’t exactly sure why gluten effects the mood to this extent, some are suggesting the protein somehow depletes the brain’s stores of serotonin.

Certainly more studies are needed, but for now it would appear that gluten can have a significantly negative impact on gut and mental health even for people who have not been diagnosed with celiac disease.

 

Are you or a loved one suffering with depression that is not related to gluten sensitivity? If you’d like to explore treatment, please be in touch so we can discuss how I may be able to help.

Snack on Spirituality: How Meditation Can Help Kick Your Cravings

It’s 10pm. Do you know where your junk food is?

Unfortunately, it’s a bad habit many of us can relate to: that unwanted craving for junk food. Whether it’s a craving for ice cream right after dinner, or a hankering for potato chips while you watch the nightly news, food cravings are a bad habit most of us would like to drop. One of the easiest ways to drop a bad habit is through the practice of meditation.

What exactly is meditation? Meditation is a practice of “thoughtless awareness,” where we bring ourselves to a state of deep peace by quieting and calming the mind as we remain alert. Through the practice of meditation, you can begin to reduce stress and improve both mental and physical health.

Here’s how meditation can help reduce your food cravings.

Exert Better Control

A 2009 Duke University/CalTech study found that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the section of the brain activated by people with high willpower, is the same area of the brain that’s especially active during meditation. Other studies have shown that the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that relates to self-regulation, is more active in meditators than non-meditators. Through regular meditation, you can exert better control over your decisions throughout the day, and kick those bad food cravings to the curb.

Coping with Stress

It’s well known that stress can cause you to crave junk food. When we’re stressed out, we have a high level of the stress hormone cortisol. If we eat sugar, our body releases serotonin, a hormone that calms and relaxes us. Also, eating foods high in fat, sugar, and salt elicits a strong response in the body’s natural opioids, relieving our stress. Through regular meditation, we can better manage our stress, which will help reduce junk food cravings.

Practicing Mindfulness

Meditation helps us practice mindfulness, which is being more aware of what’s happening in the present moment. To break a bad habit, we have to be aware when it’s happening. With improved mindfulness, we can stop mindless snacking and start to change our unwanted behaviors.

If you’re new to meditating and need help starting out, search YouTube for “guided meditations for breaking bad habits,” or “guided meditations for habit change.” There are also a few guided meditation videos specifically for dealing with food cravings.

Are you struggling with maintaining healthy eating habits and need professional guidance and support? Call me today so we can schedule an appointment.

The ADD / ADHD Cookbook: Help Balance Your Brain with Food

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, you may be wondering if what you eat has any impact on how you feel or your disorder. The answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!”

Modern science is now proving that diet contributes to many of the major diseases we encounter in life such as heart disease and type II diabetes. One of the findings is how food affects inflammation in the body, inflammation being the root cause of all disease.

Inflammation can also affect the brain, and many health experts are now making a connection between diet and diseases like Alzheimer’s, depression, and ADD/ADHD.

Yes, that’s right – your diet does affect your/your loved one’s ADD or ADHD. Which means the extra boost to your treatment that you’ve been looking for has been hiding in your fridge all this time.

With this in mind, let’s talk about what you should… and should NOT be eating if you have ADD/ADHD:

AVOID

Sugar

The more we find out about this white substance, the more it starts to feel like none of us should be eating it. Excessive sugar intake can tamper with the reward pathways in the brain that are involved in drug addiction. Many believe it can also tamper with the hyperactivity trigger. Sugar also causes erratic blood sugar levels, which cause dramatic mood swings in some people.

Besides the obvious culprits like candy, cookies, and soda, it’s also important to avoid most packaged foods, which often have high amounts of hidden sugars. This includes condiments, soups, and cereal.

Colorants and Other Additives

Colorants and other additives are meant to make our food look more appealing or last longer on store shelves, but many people believe that these substances also contribute to inflammation in the body.

As with sugar, a good rule of thumb is to avoid prepackaged foods as much as possible. Artificial drinks are a big culprit. Always read labels and when you see the word “flavor” or “flavored” anywhere on the package, the safest bet is to set the package back down and walk away.

Common Food Allergens

Many children and adults have allergies or sensitivities to foods that contain gluten, wheat, corn, and soy. These have been associated with inattentiveness and hyperactivity. Consider getting officially tested for these sensitivities and allergies with your doctor to see if there are any other foods that should be personally avoided.

EAT MORE

Protein

Are you eating enough protein? Most people simply don’t get enough into their diet. Protein is not only responsible for building muscle, but also building and repairing every tissue, organ, and even hormones.

Research has also shown that ADD/ADHD symptoms are caused by an imbalance in the catecholaminergic systems in the brain areas that control memory, motor functioning and emotional regulation. The two most abundant catecholamines in the brain are the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Both of these are derived from the amino acid tyrosine and amino acids are derived from proteins, so make sure to get enough into your diet from sources such as lean meats, eggs, and nuts.

Omega-3 Fats

Omega-3 fats are important to anyone for a variety of reasons. They reduce inflammation and also help to transmit brain signals. Health experts have also linked ADHD to an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. You can increase your omega-3 consumption by eating cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna.

If you have a kiddo that doesn’t like the taste of fish, consider a quality omega-3 supplement. It’s true that the less expensive supplements can occasionally have a harmless fishy smell, but through trial and error or asking a pharmacist you’ll quickly find that there are many options available that are no more offensive smelling than household aspirin.

B Vitamins

Remember those neurotransmitters I just mentioned in the section about protein? B vitamins actually help to synthesize those neurotransmitters. You can eat all the protein in the world but if you are deficient in B vitamins, you won’t get the full benefits. While foods like fish, meat, and eggs are excellent sources of B vitamins, most health experts agree supplementation is the easiest and most effective way to get enough into your body.

 

After adjusting your diet, if you feel you need some extra help getting your ADD/ADHD symptoms under control, please reach out to me. I would be happy to discuss treatment options with you.

4 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating Every Day

Is this a scenario you can relate to?:

You sit down in front of the television or computer with a bag of chips or pint of ice cream intending to eat only one serving, but before you even know what’s happened the entire bag or pint is gone. And you have no real recollection of tasting or even enjoying it. You seem to have eaten the whole thing on autopilot.

This is how many of us eat every meal of every day, without any awareness of the food or how much we eat of it. This is mindless eating, and it is the cause for so much overeating and weight gain in this country.

What is Mindful Eating and How Do I Do It?

Mindful eating is exactly what it sounds like – it is a practice of becoming more aware of what and how much you eat. It is not a fad diet, which are short-sighted approaches to eating, and there are no specific recipes to follow.

Instead, mindful eating is a long-term approach to eating. It’s about forming a relationship with your food, not being controlled by food. When you eat mindfully, you taste and savor each and every bite.

If this sounds like something you’d like to try, here are 4 ways you can begin practicing mindful eating every day:

1.  In Sight – In Mind

You know the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind?” Well the opposite is also true – the food we see we tend to want to eat. If you have boxes of cookies and donuts on your kitchen counter, you are going to grab one (or more) when you pass by because your blood sugar is low, and you need energy. You’ll have an entire donut eaten before you even realize you ate it.

Your mindfulness must start in the grocery store. Stop buying unhealthy foods laden with salt and sugar, and opt for healthier foods and snacks like fresh produce and nuts. Strategically place these healthy options around your home and kitchen so you can’t help but see them first the next time you reach for something to eat.

2.  Stop Multitasking

How often do you just eat and only eat? Stop eating in front of the television, and stop eating at your computer. And if you absolutely must work through your lunch break, try alternating between tasks so you can focus on one entirely at a time.

For instance, focus on writing and sending that email, then switch tasks and spend a full minute or two on eating your lunch, savoring each bite. Then switch to another task, and back to eating and so on.

3.  Slow Down

Unless you’ve entered a pie-eating contest, there’s no rush. Too many of us wolf down our food, then wonder why we feel so sick. Pace yourself. In your mind as you chew, repeatedly tell yourself to slow down. Eventually slow, purposeful eating will become an ingrained habit, but in the beginning you need to train yourself.

4.  Gauge Your Hunger

How hungry are you when you begin to eat? Are you even hungry at all, or are you eating as an emotional response to something?

Before you dive into that large pizza with the works, gauge your real hunger level. On a scale of 1-10, if your hunger is a 3, one slice should suffice. If you’re not hungry but in a bad mood because the boss is making you stay late, don’t eat the pizza. Instead, lift your mood with a non-food treat like a funny Youtube video you know you like or by mentally planning out all the enjoyable things you’re going to do after you get out of work.

Simple. Not easy, per se, but it will become easier with practice.

Try to incorporate these tips into your everyday life. You will be surprised how mindful eating can change your entire life, from the size clothes you wear, to your health, to how in control you feel in other areas of your life.

If your mindful journey helps you to uncover certain food or emotional issues you’d like to explore further, please contact me. I have worked with many people who have food addictions or use food as an emotional response and I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help you.

Pobody’s Nerfect: How to Get Back to Healthy Eating Habits

At times it doesn’t take much to lure us off our path of healthy eating. Maybe a stressful or busy week at work, a vacation, or a big holiday… But those things are over now and all of the excuses are out the window. It’s time to get back on track. But after all of that indulgence, a healthy meal could be the last thing you want, and what’s one more day of indulgence?

Start Immediately

You can get back to healthy eating immediately on the night of, but even if days or weeks have gone by, you can get back on track any time of the day. As soon as you’ve decided that you’re ready to get back on track, go for a walk. It could be a walk around the park, taking the long route to get your mail, or a long jog; all that matters is that you get up and move. Make sure you drink plenty of water, and get 8 hours of sleep that night.

Have Compassion for Yourself

It’s import to have compassion for yourself and forgive yourself for making not-the-best choices. “Pobody’s Nerfect,” as the saying goes, and it’s natural to occasionally indulge for a special occasion.

Ignore the Scale

One of the worst things you can do is check out the damage on the scale, then proceed to berate yourself for your poor choices. If you have self-esteem issues tied to the number on the scale, it’s even more important that you stay away for the time being. Instead, focus on how you feel day after day, from sleep quality to your digestive health… I bet you’ll be amazed at how eating healthier can improve your life in just a few days.

Don’t Try to Offset the Splurge

It can be tempting to try and make up for your over-indulgences by starving yourself the following day, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to make healthy choices, which includes eating regularly. Ensure that you get plenty of water, lean protein, healthy fats, and of course fruits & vegetables in your meals and snacks.

Plan Something Fun

It’s too easy to wallow in self-pity or lament your overeating, so make fun plans to look forward to. Call a friend and make plans to do something fun that doesn’t involve food. You can even get in some light exercise by going with your friend to a yoga class, or for a walk on the beach or at the zoo. If you pack your own healthy snacks (and actually stick to them), even a movie can be a fun treat!

 

Are you struggling with poor eating habits and need the help of a professional to get healthy? Call my office today and let’s schedule an appointment.

How Blood Sugar Affects Your Mood

Have you ever found yourself feeling hangry? “Hangry,” a mash-up of the words “hungry” and “angry,” is used to describe people who become short and irritable due to hunger. But what does it really mean to be “hangry”? Why do some people get angry when they reach a certain level of hunger?

While high blood sugar could be a sign that your body is not creating enough insulin to manage your food intake, low blood sugar is a sign that your body is not receiving enough glucose to function properly. The most common cause of low blood sugar in a physically healthy person is straightforward – you need to eat.

Low blood sugar can cause mood changes, making you feel depressed, anxious or irritable. For people with mood disorders or other issues controlling their mood, low blood sugar can exacerbate these issues. High blood sugar is typically an issue affecting diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar, can cause a person to feel aggressive or angry. To keep your mood stable, controlling spikes in blood sugar is key.

To maintain a stable blood sugar, many nutritionists recommend frequent small meals and snacks, ensuring the body receives nutrients every 3 to 4 hours. Extremely low-fat diets are notorious for causing mood swings, as fat is needed for energy, to support cell growth, to help you absorb nutrients and produce important hormones.

For maximum energy and satiety, many nutritionists recommend that every snack and meal contains a fat, a carb and a protein. For example, a spinach omelet with a slice of whole wheat toast for breakfast, or a snack with yogurt, fruit and nuts. Limiting coffee, regular exercise and plenty of sleep and hydration are also important factors for stabilizing your mood.

If you’re worried that your blood sugar is consistently too high or too low, make an appointment with your primary care physician to rule out other health issues.

If you’re struggling with a mood disorder and need the help of a licensed professional, call my office at your earliest convenience and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.