April Meeting: Food and Mood – 9 Steps to Calm your Anxious Mind Recap

On April 3rd, HMN San Jose was honored to have Trudy Scott, a Food Mood Expert and Nutritionist, speaker and author of The Antianxiety Food Solution: How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood & End Cravings ( June 2011), explain some of the benefits of certain foods and what to avoid and why.

Disclaimer: This is a simple overview/recap of Trudy Scott’s presentation. This should not be read or utilized in lieu of seeking professional help or guidance. If you have a medical condition or are in need of any medical or emotional assistance, please speak with a professional or, better yet, contact Trudy Scott and request a consultation. She actively sees clients as well as performs phone consultations (and offers an initial 15 minute complimentary phone consult). Visit http://www.everywomanover29.com for more information about Trudy Scott or to contact her.

This was an eye opening presentation with tons of information. Trudy’s book discusses in detail the points she highlighted, but it was a great introduction to how foods and nutrition affect your body and mind.

Did you know that anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States? It effects 40 million adults in the US (ages 18 and older), which is approx. 18%. More than 50% of people believe that depression is a “normal part of aging”.  41% of people are ashamed or embarrassed that they suffer from depression and 50% of people deny they have depression.

Anxiety and panic attacks are serious. They may cause a lot of stress on the heart. Woman under 50 and post-menopausal women who suffer anxiety and panic attacks may have an increased risk of heart attacks.

Whole Food Diet
In a 2010 study, Felice Jacka, PhD, conducted a study of “A traditional or whole diet characterized by vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and high-quality meat and fish may help prevent mental illness — specifically, depression and anxiety. Conversely, a Western diet high in refined or processed foods and saturated fats may increase the risk of depression, new research suggests.” Her findings were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.  These findings support the belief that good, nutritious food is vital to positive mental health.

In order to improve mental health, Trudy suggests the following:

Eat Real, Whole, Good Quality Food
Eat frequently enough
Eat quality animal protein
Eat non starchy fresh vegetables
Eat fresh fruit
Eat good fats
Keep hydrated
Avoid empty food and fast foods
Watch/avoid legumes, starchy vegetables, gluten free whole grains, other grains, dairy

Trudy outlined 4 different diet options that have worked for many of her clients, but also stressed that diet was extremely individualized and that each person will discover what works for them. If you use the above as a basic outline, you will find what works best to optimize your health.

Real, Whole, Good Quality food
Now more than ever, it is vital that the foods we eat should be organic, fresh, and the highest quality that we can consume. We are what we eat. For example, grass fed meat is extremely high in Omega 3’s, more CLA, vitamin E, glutathione, and beta carotene. Wild fish is a great source of Omega 3’s and there is a lower prevalence of depression in countries that eat more fish. There have also been links between farmed fish and diabetes. Some persons may even find mood improvements on fish supplements. However, some anxious people (those with pyroluria) tend not to need fish oil supplements. The concern regarding non organic vegetables and fruits is the pesticides used. Even with low level pesticides, there are links to an increase of ADHD. Trudy recommends checking out the www.EWG.org’sdirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” lists.

Fats and Mood
Fat is a necessary part of our diet. She shared one study where 41% of calories in the diet was from fats and participants had less anxiety and anger and  better overall mood, with no effect on total cholesterol, LDL, or triglycerides. Studies have proven that olive oil reduces anxiety and flax seed reduces agoraphobia. It is more important the quality of the fat than the quantity. Trans fats do increase depression.

Do you have a sweet tooth? Many of our foods have added sugar and chemical sweeteners that cause us to crave sugar. If you find that you are craving sugar, this is a sure sign of an imbalance! Even switching to natural sweeteners such as honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup may be a problem, if you are eating them in place of white refined sugar. Trudy addresses sugar  in a blog post she did after a HMN twitter party http://www.everywomanover29.com/blog/hmn-food-mood-sugar-and-cravings/.  In 1997, Appleton High School underwent a dramatic food change: whole foods, no sugar or junk food, water instead of soda. Dramatic improvements to mood, behavior, and school performance all occurred.

It’s important to control and regulate your blood sugar. Some helpful hints are:

Eat a breakfast daily that includes a protein
No coffee before breakfast (or better, eliminate caffeine from your diet)
Protein and fats at all meals & 3-4 snacks
Snack thru the day
Amazing amino acid: glutamine (to take to help reduce the sugar cravings, while changing your diet)

Side effects of too much caffeine are an increase in heart rate, restlessness, anxiety, depression, tremors, difficulty sleeping, excessive urination, and nausea. Worst, caffeine withdrawal often mimics anxiety! Consider alternatives: filtered water, herbal teas, freshly juiced vegetables, fermented beverages (kefir, kombucha), coffee substitutes, or raw milk. All of these will help improve overall health.

In many, eliminating gluten will decrease depression and anxiety. Gluten sensitivity and intolerance can lead to gastrointestinal damage, which causes a malabsorption issue. This limits the availability of tryptophan and leads to low serotonin. Trudy says that she has all of her clients go through a 2 week gluten free trial period to see if it’s beneficial and a large majority do better off gluten.

Digestion is also a key to how we feel. Eat slowly, sit down at meals and cook at home. The cooking process (aromas, being near food) actually start the digestive process going. This is why we salivate when we smell yummy aromas! Add or increase probiotics may significantly decrease anxiety and promote positive digestion.

Low HCl (hydrochloric acid) in the stomach impairs the ability to break down proteins, limits the availability of tryptophan, can contribute to depression, and provides the first defense to food poisoning, parasites, and bacterial overgrowth. It is also necessary for the absorption of vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, calcium, manganese, and zinc. Low HCl is often the cause of acid reflux and/or heartburn.  To increase digestive support and low stomach acid, eat bitter greens (such as arugula), apple cider vinegar, Swedish bitters, ginger, and consider Betaine HCl supplements.

Brain Chemistry
Making sure that we have positive brain chemistry helps control our moods. 4 major areas are:

Serotonin:  Positive, Confident, Calm, Flexible, Easy Going
GABA: Relaxed, Stress- free, Calm
Catecholamine:  Energized, Upbeat, Alert
Endorphins: Pleasure, Euphoria, Feelings of comfort

Low serotonin symptoms: anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, worried or fearful, depression, rage, anger, afternoon/evening cravings, PMS, irritable, TMJ, Fibromyalgia, insomnia, low self-esteem, mood and afternoon and evening addiction/cravings.

To raise serotonin: 5-HTP or tryptophan supplements -use while increasing natural levels with exercise, sunshine, light lamps, and diet

Low GABA symptoms: anxious, worried/fearful, wired, panic attacks, stressed, overwhelmed, stiff/tense muscles, eat sugar/drink wine to relax

Sugar and Mood
Blues, sleep problems, afternoon and evening cravings, anxiety = low serotonin
Fatigue, the blahs, depressed, sugar as a pickup = low Catecholamine
Anxious, overwhelmed, stress, sugar is calming = low GABA
Emotional, eat for comfort = low endorphins

Use Amino Acids to help with mood
Low Serotonin –Amino Acid: tryptophan and 5-HTP
Low Catecholamine – Amino Acid: Tyrosine
Low GABA – Amino Acid: GABA
Low endorphins – Amino Acid: DPA

Trudy addressed pyroluria briefly at our presentation. If you believe you may have pyroluria, please contact Trudy. Approx. 50% of her clients have pyroluria and she may able to help you! Pyroluria is a genetic condition that causes anxiety, inner tension, and anti-social behaviors. When the body produces hemoglobin, a constituent of red blood cells, there is a byproduct called kryptopyrroles. Normally harmless, in this group of people the kryptopyrroles multiply too rapidly and block receptor sites for B-6 (pyridoxine) and zinc leading to a serious deficiency of these two nutrients. Among other things, B6 and zinc directly help maintain a healthy emotional state. GLA/omega-6 supplements may also be beneficial.  Here is the complete pyroluria questionnaire.

Other Considerations
Some other considerations to our overall mood:
Adrenals, sex hormone, and thyroid imbalances
Low Vitamin D (250HD to 50 is ideal)
Vitamin C, magnesium, calcium
Total Cholesterol (160 and lower  – depression/ suicide risk)
Histamine (low or high can effect mood)
Medication side effects
Medication withdrawal (especially benzodiazepines)
Medication and nutrient depletion (BCP depleted B6)
Heavy metal toxins

All of these may alter or change moods. While it is impossible to remove all stress and anxiety out of our lives, it is important to look at your overall health, diet, medications, etc. to find the answers on how you might improve your overall well-being. Trudy Scott provided a wealth of information on what might help to balance our overall moods. Her knowledge is amazing and much appreciated!

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