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Natural Awakenings San Diego

Anger and “Food Swings”

Different foods can affect our moods and our emotional states, chemically changing our brain and body and our ability to be alert and control our emotions. Ensuring that we are supporting a healthy neurochemical balance is vital and a proactive step toward managing our stress. We need to have an awareness that when we are stressed, an emotional-eating is triggered and an automatic response in our body reacts strongly to stress-release hormones and neurochemicals.

As a society we need to revolutionize the ways in which we eat, beginning with cutting out all the C-R-A-P (an acronym for caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and processed food and drink). Adopting fad diets, counting calories or choosing to eat certain food groups over others will cause havoc in your body and mind. A balanced and healthy diet is crucial to good health and overcoming stress. Maybe you crave specific foods because of a certain mood you’re in. For example, when stressed, you probably crave either carbs or sweets. Your brain depends on a number of vitamins and nutrients to keep itself balanced. The basic principle is that the nutrients in food act as pre-cursors to neurotransmitters in our brains; the more precursors there are, the more neurotransmitters are produced. The foods you put into your body can directly affect your stress and energy levels. The correct diet will greatly reduce stress levels and relieve depression. Women are substantially more likely than men to say they have tried to reduce stress over the past 5 years.(1)

A “food swing” is a term used to describe the dangerous intersection where hunger and anger collide. One of the primary causes leading to this crash is low blood sugar, where the hypothalamus is triggered and levels of several hunger hormones, such leptin and ghrelin, are affected. This imbalance then causes a shift in neurotransmitters and suppresses serotonin receptors. (2). Serotonin is a neurochemical that helps regulate mood and appetite. When you cut off your body’s ability to process it, you can expect to have some wild mood swings. Anger and extreme frustration are common responses. Ninety percent of serotonin is synthesized within the body’s gut system, with the help of an essential amino acid called tryptophan. Tryptophan is not formed in the body and needs to be supplied by the diet. Thus, boosting your daily diet with good-mood foods that are good sources of tryptophan is very important.

Handle ‘food swings’ by eating small amounts of good-mood foods throughout the day. There are certain mood foods that can help to lift negative moods and fill you with a feeling of happiness and wellbeing; and a diet that is rich in protein, fat and fiber will help to stave off hunger and ultimately help you lose weight. Good-mood foods help to promote the following as well as helping you to not only look great but feel good too!

Bananas: an excellent source of tryptophan and helps boost serotonin levels in the body.

Salmon: For optimal brain functioning and mood boosting, the right nutrient building blocks and omega-3 fats are needed. The brain is 60% fat and growing evidence suggests that consuming inadequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with depression and bad moods.

Stress PandemicAlmonds: Packed with the amino acid tryptophan, which helps to control anxiety and stress while reducing irritability.

Asparagus: Packed with folic acid; insufficient levels of this nutrient have been linked to mood swings and depression. Just one cup of asparagus has 66% of your daily value of folic acid.

Oranges: Packed with vitamin C, they help reduce stress and bring high stress hormones back to normal levels more quickly. Vitamin C also helps lower blood pressure.

Dark Chocolate: Contains phenylethylamines, a neurotransmitter that releases endorphins in the brain and makes you feel giddy. The sweet flavor stimulates the brain's pleasure centers.

Berries: Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are all high in fiber, meaning they'll not only give you the initial feeling of well-being, but will help you sustain it.

Other foods rich in Tryptophan are oats, seaweed, spirullina, watercress, soybean, horseradish, pumpkin seeds, parsley, turnips, beans, broccoli, mushrooms, sesame, sunflower seeds, beans, tofu, turkey.

So remember next time you sense your “inner fire” emerging and you begin to feel inexplicably angry, treat yourself to a healthy snack before losing your cool. If you’re waiting for a more convenient time to begin behavioral change, it won’t happen. It’s almost never convenient to change ingrained habits; now is just as good as any time to make simple, manageable LifeReStyle change. And if you begin now rather than later, you’ll have a head start on a more meaningful and healthy tomorrow.


Paul HuljichPaul Huljich is the author of Stress Pandemic at