Human beings have always had a special relationship with food. We view food as more than just a source of sustenance- it provides us with emotional comfort, triggers our fond memories, and has even served medicinal functions throughout history.
Hippocrates once said “Let food be thy medicine”. While we may load up on supplements and herbs daily, do we really fully understand the impact that food has on our body? Did you know, for instance, that consuming red meat increases your risk of rheumatoid arthritis? That excessive sugar consumption can cause chronic inflammation in your body? Or that probiotics and soy, widely embraced as health foods, can trigger your body to release histamines – causing rashes and skin sensitivity?
Here are the 3 ways that the food you consume can affect your mood (both positively and negatively):
1. Chronic Inflammation
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Acute inflammation occurs as our body’s natural response to injury or infection, and it aids in our body’s tissue repair process. Certain foods, particularly those containing trans fat, have been shown to increase our body’s inflammatory response. If we keep subjecting our body to inflammation-inducing foods, it can even lead to depression, anxiety, and other mood issues in the long run.
To curb chronic inflammation, eat mostly whole foods and avoid processed foods, foods containing trans fat, or excessive sugar intake. Instead of fruit juices, considering increasing your intake of fresh fruits instead as juices, even fresh ones, tend to be high in sugar. For instance, a glass of home-made orange juice can contain 4 ½ teaspoon of sugar – not exactly the healthy start to the day that we often think it is.
2. Vitamin C: The Stress Buster
We often think of vitamin C as a way to boost our immune system, but did you know that vitamin C also plays a crucial role in helping to regulate our stress hormones? In a recent study, German researchers put 120 subjects to test with a public-speaking task combined with math problems. Half of the subjects were given 1,000 mg of vitamin C while the other half weren’t given any. Those who didn’t get any vitamin C tested with significantly higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in their bloodstream; their blood pressure was also noticeably higher.
Cortisol is responsible for triggering the ‘fight or flight’ response in us, and when we undergo stress, the cortisol in our bloodstream can lead to anxiety, impaired learning and memory abilities, as well as causing mood swings. The good news is, vitamin C is readily available and has been shown to be effective in combating chemical stressors on our body. A study of ultramarathon runners showed that vitamin C consumption helped to blunt the effects and levels of cortisol (as well as adrenaline) in the study subjects.
While vitamin C is easily found in fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, it is an unstable substance and is destroyed by cooking or exposure to light. So instead of trying to drink a gallon of orange juice in the morning, pace yourself and consume fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day instead.
If you wish to consume vitamin C in supplement form, look for time-released capsules that would work over the course of a day as vitamin C degrades quickly and is short-acting.
3. Histamine Intolerance
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Despite the advances of modern medicine, there’s still much that we haven’t figured out about our own body. Google the web for ‘histamine intolerance’ and you will find that there are many people around the world seeking advice online for this condition – and still many more others may not even be aware that they have it.
If you find that your body tends to react to certain foods — such as wine, tomatoes, pickled vegetables, eggplant, yogurt, or sourdough bread — with symptoms such as skin itch and rashes, headaches, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, or unexplained exhaustion, you may not be allergic to those foods. Instead, you may have histamine intolerance since all those foods have high levels of histamine in them.
Photo by Lana Abie on Unsplash
Histamine is a chemical produced naturally by our body and it’s also found in certain foods. In a true allergic reaction, our body releases histamine which provokes the typical bodily response associated with food allergies. However, histamine intolerance isn’t an allergic reaction. Instead, it refers to situations where people are highly sensitive to the naturally-occurring histamine levels in food.
People with histamine intolerance or sensitivity often have low levels of diamine oxidase (DAO) and/or histamine-N-methyltransferase (HNMT) —two specific enzymes in our bodies that process histamine. With insufficient levels of these enzymes, histamine can build up over time and trigger symptoms throughout the body.
In fact, histamine sensitivity has been known to cause anxiety, panic attacks, and mood swings in those afflicted by it. While there isn’t any long-term cure for histamine sensitivity, those who suffer from it would do well to avoid foods that trigger a reaction, or they can take antihistamines and DAO enzyme supplements to better manage their symptoms.
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