How Sugar Affects Your Mood

Depression is a subject that hits close to home, as I struggled with ADD and depression from the age of 10.  When I was 18,  I ditched the anti depressants and instead started focusing on my diet and lifestyle. And guess what? It worked!

(To find out more about how you, too can ditch your depressants click HERE.)

Today I am sharing a guest post from friend and colleague, Lauren Roerick. Her mission is to help people treat depression holistically with her online program, The UnDepression Project. In this article, Lauren shares with us the strong connection between sugar and our mood.

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How Sugar Affects Your Mood

by Lauren Roerick

Have you ever had a sugar rush after eating too much candy at the movie theatre? Or perhaps experienced a food coma after Thanksgiving dinner? Have you ever found yourself getting “hangry” in between meals?

It’s starting to become common knowledge that food has an effect on our mood, but when we talk about depression or mental illness, food is rarely brought up as a possible contributing factor. Maybe it seems too obvious that for such a potentially debilitating illness, food could be part of the answer.

But when it comes to your mood, food is the best place to start.

Our bodies, and more specifically our brains, need food to function. But not just any food will keep our brains happy and healthy. Michael Pollan, author of several books on food and the American diet, including In Defense of Food, sums it up nicely: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants ”.

Christina Pirello , an authority on whole foods and nutrition, and host of television cooking show Christina Cooks, says that, “Americans have begun to live in a sort of paradox of health. Never before have we had more awareness of health and nutrition…We also live in a time when Americans have never been unhealthier. Heart disease remains the leading killer of men and women; diabetes is an epidemic affecting us at younger and younger ages. Obesity is completely out of control…[and] Cancer statistics are as terrifying as anything Stephen Kingcould dream up”.

Given this information, it is unsurprising that the acronym for the Standard American Diet spells the word SAD.

So what can we do about this? If we know that food can affect our mood and our mental health, how do we keep our brains healthy and our mood in tip­top shape?

Start with sugar!

When trying to improve your mood, I recommend starting with sugar, as it has a powerful effect on your state of happiness.

Sugar is a broad term for carbohydrates. Glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, and starch are all different names for sugar. There are over 50 different names for sugar, which can make it tough to recognize all the places where it can sneak into your diet.

How Sugar Works: sugar.jpeg

When we eat sugar, the taste buds on our tongue send signals to the brain that activate our reward system by triggering the release of dopamine. Dopamine is the same feel good chemical that is released in our brains when we’re out with friends, exercising, having sex, or even smoking a cigarette. Dopamine is also one of the neurotransmitters that can be notoriously low in people suffering from depression.

While eating sugar in small quantities is not such a big deal, we’re generally not eating small quantities. The World Health Organization recommends that we only get 5% of our calorie intake from sugar or about 25 grams or 5 teaspoons. But most of us are eating between 3 to 5 times that much! At 39 grams or nearly 8 teaspoons of sugar, a single 12 oz. can of soda puts us way over the daily limit.

When we eat too much processed, refined sugar our blood sugar levels spike far beyond a normal range, leading to that sugar rush feeling. The brain’s reward centers light up like a Christmas tree and we get a surge of that feel good neurotransmitter, dopamine.

But it doesn’t last.

This high is shortly followed by a crash, as insulin rushes in to level out your blood sugar level. This crash can leave you feeling cranky, tired, stressed, and even depressed, which leads you to crave more sugar. It’s a vicious cycle.

To keep your dopamine circuits healthy and to avoid the post­sugar blues, it would make sense to limit the amount of processed, refined sugars that you put into your body.

But where to begin?

1. Cut out sugary drinks .

These contain huge amounts of sugars, and are full of empty calories that do not leave us full or satisfied. It’s really easy for these drinks to interfere with your mood, as they’re packed with dangerous levels of sugar and caffeine.

When first cutting out sugary beverages, it’s easiest to make this transition slowly. Rather then going cold turkey, try substituting one or two of your daily sodas or juices for water or herbal tea.

Each day or week, see if you can substitute one more, until you’ve phased out sugary drinks for good. If you’re used to drinking a lot of soda or juice, this will help you avoid the headaches or fatigue that can happen when you try to cut it out too quickly.

2. Beware of hidden sugars.

There are over 50 names for sugar making it easy for it to sneak into places where we wouldn’t normally expect. Roughly 75% of packaged foods in the grocery store contain some form of added sugar, so it’s important to check the labels of the food you’re buying.

When reading labels, remember that the higher sugar is on the top of an ingredient list, the more of it there will be. So if you see sugar in the first three or four ingredients, it’s usually a sign that there’s too much.

Ideally, ditch foods that have added sugar, and stick to whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and organic, hormone free meat or fish.

3. Exercise

Exercise boosts dopamine levels, so if you’re feeling a slump, instead of reaching for a candy bar, try going for a quick walk or doing some jumping jacks.

To start shifting your eating patterns to improve your moods, sugar is the best place to start. It’ll take a bit of practice and time, but in a couple of weeks you’ll start to notice the difference, leaving you feeling healthier and more vibrant. Actually, I bet you feel so amazing that you’ll never want to go back to sugar again.

About Lauren:

Bio Headshot smallerLauren Roerick is the creator of The Undepression Project and a certified holistic health coach specializing in depression recovery. She combines her expertise in nutrition, yoga, and depression recovery to provide you with a multifaceted approach to combatting depression.

Lauren struggled with depression in her early twenties, which led her to explore integrative treatments including yoga, meditation, nutrition, and cognitive behavioural therapy. After completing her thesis study on integrative depression treatment, she felt that this information wasn’t readily accessible in a neat complete package. This is why she’s created a powerful video course to teach what she’s learned and to help others make lasting changes in their own lives. For more information on the course, visit http://course.theundepressionproject.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter !

 

3 Tips to Write Kick-Ass New Year’s Intentions

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Happy New Year Ladies and Gents! Have you set your intentions yet?

Setting intentions helps you manifest the changes you want to see in your life. I am a BIG fan of setting intentions and goals for myself. I find this helps keep me motivated and delivers huge results, as our thoughts turn into actions and our actions into reality.

Thoughts are POWERFUL things, folks!

Did you know that the Universe wants to see us get what we want?! Hell yes, it does! But the Universe can’t give you what you want if you don’t know what it is that you want in the first place.So project your intentions loud and clear for the cosmos to hear by writing your intentions today!

How to Write Your Very Own Kick- Ass New Year’s Intentions: 

1. Make positive statements, not negative.  

Instead of saying “I will NOT stress out so much” try reforming this into a POSITIVE statement such as “I will take life one breath at a time, and will remain calm through all the events this year brings.”

Start off the New Year on the right note by focusing on your new healthy habits this year, not on past habits that are old news and don’t serve you.

2. Be as specific as possible.

If your New Year’s intention is to lose weight, don’t just write “ I will lose weight this year”.

Rather, ask yourself “How much weight will I lose? How will I lose weight?” leaving the final product looking more like “I will lose ten pounds by cutting my sugar intake in half, working out at least four times a week, and drinking more water”.

Remember that the universe will give you what you want, but it is your responsibility to first inform it of what it is exactly that you do want!

 3. Include how achieving these intentions will make you feel.

After writing your intention, try writing a sentence that describes how you will feel once  you have achieved it. For example, if your intention is to save enough money to pay off your student loans, then add a sentence saying “Once I have paid off my  loans I will feel as light as a feather, and my mind will be at ease knowing I am free from this huge debt that has been dragging me down!” Start to feel it NOW and it will come.

Now that you have some kick- ass intentions, write them down and keep them in a safe place so you can refer back to them during the year.

I wish you a prosperous New Year filled with light, love, and happiness!

Love,

Jenna

What are your New Year’s Intentions this year? Do you have any tips for writing intentions that work well for you? A penny for your thoughts!

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5 Steps to Help You Ditch Your Antidepressants

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Today, one in 10 Americans takes an antidepressant, and I am happy to say that I am no longer one of them.

I started taking prescription drugs at the age of 10 when my doctors diagnosed me with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). By the time I reached 18, I had been on 15 different antidepressants. At this point, I finally had had enough of feeling dull and lifeless, and decided to quit. What I realize today is that I never had ADHD or depression, but rather a gluten sensitivity, and a diet lacking in healthy fats, beneficial bacteria, vitamins, and nutrients to support optimum brain function.

Thankfully, through the power of yoga, and a healthy diet, I have been off of the meds for 10 years now, and have never felt better.

The good news is, you have the power to get off them, too.

*How to ditch your antidepressants

1. Take Probiotics

Scientists are finding out that there is a major relationship between our gut health and our minds. It turns out that if our gut is depressed, so is our mind. Doctor’s prescribe serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitor medications (SSRIs) to treat symptoms of depression. But did you know that you gut is responsible for making 80-90% of the serotonin available to your body? (i) When your gut bacteria is not healthy, inflammation occurs. And this inhibits the amount of serotonin available to your brain, resulting in depression. Dr. Perlmutter notes in his book “Brain Maker”:

“As a neurologist, for example, I find it intriguing to note that today’s antidepressants purportedly work by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and yet the precursor for serotonin-tryptophan-is tightly regulated by the gut bacteria. In fact-a particular bacterium, Bifidobacterium infantis, does a great job of making tryptohan available”. (i)

By taking an aggressive dose of probiotics everyday, you will see huge results. Take a high grade probiotic in the morning and in the evening. Also, eat at least 2-3 servings of fermented foods everyday.

2. Take fish oil.   

Studies have found that taking Omega -3 fatty acids raises serotonin levels,  and researchers have found that when fed to pigs, fish oil has been shown to have the same effect on the brain as Prozac. Other studies have also shown that fish oil can smooth out mood swings from bipolar disorder.

If you are already taking fish oil, give yourself a pat on the back! But if you are using it to increase your serotonin levels, then up your dose to 20 grams, and make sure to buy pills with concentrated levels of EPA and DHA.

(Niacin has also been used to naturally treat depression and anxiety. To find more about click HERE.)

3. Meditate.

Studies have shown that meditation lowers stress, and in a recent study by the University of Oregon , they found that meditating can result in brain changes that may protect against mental illness. Meditating also helps you connect with your inner voice, which after years of being silenced by prescription drugs probably has lots to say!

Meditation is a wonderful spiritual outlet, but if you’ve tried it and it’s not your thing, there are many other outlets that can serve you in the same way.

4. Eat a healthy diet, and don’t skip meals.

You’ve heard the saying over and over “a healthy body, a healthy mind”, because it is the truth! What you put into your body affects your blood sugar levels, which in turn affects your moods. So make sure you are eating a diet filled with natural, unprocessed foods, loads of greens, healthy fats, and drinking plenty of water. And please, don’t go long periods of time without eating, as this quite often brings on mood changes.

5. Exercise!

It’s simple. Exercising releases endorphins, and endorphins make you happy.

Yoga is what works for me, but maybe swimming or HIIT ( high intensity interval training) might be what works for you. Whatever your outlet, make sure you get at least 30 minutes of exercise everyday. On the days where you don’t feel like an intense workout, simply go on a 30-minute walk, or do some gentle yoga. And for extra bonus points, try to get as much exercise outdoors in the sunshine as possible.

The choices are infinite, so play around and have fun with it.

And please remember to find a naturopathic physician to guide you along the way, in addition to consulting the psychiatrist or physician who prescribed your pills. With many of these beautiful people eager to help, why do this on your own? It’s much easier with support, I promise.

Making this transition will not be easy, but it is worth it. And please don’t close yourself off and try to do this on your own, because the more friends and family you include for support, the smoother the transition. Lastly, remember that you are a righteous and radiant being, fully capable of making this journey.

*Please do not quit your pills cold turkey. It is important that you integrate your new habits into your life while slowly weaning yourself off your pills. Your health coach can help you with this transition.

Furthermore, some people might need to stay on antidepressants. Not everyone is a candidate for being pill-free. Please consult your naturopathic physician and/or health coach to find out if quitting your antidepressants is right for you.

Further recommended reading:

Brain Maker

Mind Of Your Own

Grain Brain

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Sources

Perlmutter, David, and Kristin Loberg. Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life. Print.

 

5 Things You Can Do Now To Repair Your Brain

Did you know that Alzheimer’s starts 30 years before any symptoms appear, and that it affects 50% of people over 85? Or that depression is one of the greatest killers of our time?

Our brain is sometimes overlooked because we can’t see it, unlike our skin, hair, and body size, but it is vital to enjoying a healthy life. Our brains are involved in everything that we do: thinking, feeling, interacting, intelligence, character, planning, and decisions.

The bottom line is, when our brain works right, we work right, so it’s crucial that we take care of it to the best of our ability.

Here are 5 things you can do that will start repairing your brain right away:

1. Take probiotics

Scientists are finding out that there is a major relationship between our gut health and our minds. It turns out that if our gut is in a depressed, so is our mind. Doctor’s prescribe serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitor medications (SSRIs) to treat symptoms of depression and memory loss. But did you know that you gut is responsible for making 80-90% of the serotonin available to your body? (i) When your gut bacteria is not healthy, inflammation occurs. And this inhibits the amount of serotonin available to your brain, resulting in depression. Dr. Perlmutter notes in his book “Brain Maker”:

“As a neurologist, for example, I find it intriguing to note that today’s antidepressants purportedly work by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and yet the precursor for serotonin-tryptophan-is tightly regulated by the gut bacteria. In fact-a particular bacterium, Bifidobacterium infantis, does a great job of making tryptohan available”. (i)

By taking a dose of probiotics everyday, you will see huge results. Take a high grade probiotic in the morning and in the evening. Also, eat at least 2-3 servings of fermented foods everyday.

2. Exercise  

Exercise will not only release serotonin and make you happier, but it will also help maintain your weight. There have been 24 recent studies proving that as weight goes up, the size and function of your brain goes down, and cognitive scores have also been shown to improve with weight loss.

3Get 8 hours of sleep

It’s crucial you get enough sleep, as this is when the brain repairs itself. If you deprive yourself of sleep, your brain will degenerate quickly.

 4. New Learning

Your muscles aren’t the only things that need a workout! If you don’t use your brain you will lose it. New types of learning can include reading books, taking an online course, doing crossword puzzles – get creative!

5. Drink Green Tea

Green tea is amazing for a plethora of reasons, one being that it helps the brain function. Green tea has caffeine and the amino acid L-theanine, which when paired together help the brain work. L-theanine also has anti-anxiety effects and increases dopamine.

And don’t forget to practice gratitude!

Write five things you are grateful for everyday and you will see an increase in happiness, which will have an overall positive effect on the health of your brain.

For further reading about keeping your brain healthy, I recommend Dr. Daniel Amen’s book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life”.

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Sources

Perlmutter, David, and Kristin Loberg. Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life. Print.