Friday, August 3, 2012

Food and Mood

With a background in health and fitness, and a continual interest in what factors seem to affect my mood, I'm very curious about the relationship between mood cycling (or moods in general) and what we eat. I'm not looking on a level of "oh I ate too much cake and now feel like I don't want to move" type of level, but more on an unconscious level.

My training in health included some, but not extensive, nutritional training so I know the food "do and don't basics - though these seem to be changing all the time, and numerous people have differing positions on them. Still I thought I'd take a look at my eating habits to see if I personally found any relationship.  Here's what I notice:

1. Dairy and I are not close friends. I want us to be, I love cheese, but it's just not meant to be. While I knew that I had some physical dairy issues, I have noticed some mental ones too. Dairy seems to bring me down. I don't know if there is at all any scientific information to back this up, I just know that I don't feel well mentally or emotionally when I consume a lot of dairy for an extensive period of time (not just one night of a four-cheese pizza, but numerous days of lots of dairy).

2. Caffeine and hypomanic cycles don't mix. Neither does caffeine and anxiety. This is kind of a "gimme" but I thought I'd throw it in here regardless. I love coffee - not just because it wakes me up but because I just love the taste, and I have some personal nostalgia attached to sitting down with a good cup of coffee (I'll save the details for another blog). For this reason, when I find I'm feeling a bit towards the hypomanic side, I attempt - key work is attempt here - to reach for the decaf.

3. Sugar-filled foods follow the same pattern as caffeine. Luckily I don't enjoy sugar nearly as much as coffee.

4. Salty foods make me feel better. Now this is an interesting one and I think unique to me. My medication can cause a decrease in sodium to dangerous levels if I don't keep an eye on it. I already, despite my love of salty foods, have low sodium levels naturally. So eating salty foods helps keep my sodium levels closer to where they should be, though still on the low side, hence avoiding dizzy spells, seizures, fainting, and all the other good stuff that can come along with very low sodium (I have never, knock on wood, has a seizure from low sodium but I have almost fainted). *Very important note: there are other medications for my condition that cause the exact opposite issue, and those that take them have to be concerned with the sodium levels going to high. Feel free to ask me if you're more curious about my meds and the effect. I'm in now way suggesting most people go with the high-sodium diet. It just works for me.

5. Raw foods make me feel much better than cooked foods. I've been on a "salad but not really a salad" kick all summer. You know those meals that have lots of fruit and/or thrown together with not a leaf of lettuce in sight? Those kinds of salads. I always add in some sort of whole grain or whole wheat carbs. I am not a fan of the no/low carb diet craze at all - personally or as a former health professional. These salads - complete with veggies, various types of beans, and sometimes a small amount of cheese for the calcium and protein (and honestly I don't know if I could ever give up cheese fully) - make me feel fantastic.

I'm curious, do others notice a difference in how your food affects your mood - be it depression, anxiety, panic, mood cycling? I'd love to do more of a full blown self study - really write down my eating habits over time and then note my mood cycles shifting to see if I notice long term patterns. I understand that for those who are not rapid cycling, this could be a very long labor of love, but I'd be happy just to hear if others notice any trends. And if you have any recipes that make you feel great, by all means, feel free to share! 

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