Food & Mood

There are 4 brain chemicals that can influence mood.

Four chemicals directly impact mood and are present in higher concentrations after meals than between meals:

  • Serotonin, released after eating carbs (sugars and starches). This “feel-good” chemical enhances calm, improves outlook and lessens depression. The key is to consume complex carbohydrates (whole grains, beans and vegetables) and not simple carbohydrates (cookies, candy, etc.). “Simple carbohydrates give you a quick burst of energy because they increase blood sugar,” says Ms. Jamieson-Petonic. ” But that burst doesn’t last long. Complex carbohydrates provide a longer-lasting effect.”
  • Dopamine and norepinephrine, released after eating protein (meats, poultry, dairy and legumes). These chemicals work together to increase your energy level, enhance your concentration and make you more alert. “Choose lean proteins, which are not only better for your heart but also are easier to digest. They won’t leave you feeling weighed down like fried or high-fat food choices,” she says.
  • Acetylcholine, produced from a B vitamin called choline found in wheat germ and eggs. This chemical is believed to influence learning, memory and mood.
The ideal meal veggies

The best meal to enhance your mood is one that combines complex carbohydrates with lean proteins, such as:

  • Tuna on 100 percent whole wheat bread
  • A turkey meatball with whole grain pasta and red sauce
  • A lean piece of beef with brown rice and vegetables

“Vegetarians can opt for soy or quinoa,” says Ms. Jamieson-Petonic. “These are both complete plant proteins that offer all the essential amino acids (protein building blocks) you need.”

Foods that spoil your mood

Meanwhile, avoid foods that may taste good at first but won’t leave you feeling your best:

  • Lunchmeat submarine sandwich on white. “The white roll will reduce serotonin levels and leave you feeling drained, and the tidal wave of salt from the lunchmeats will make you tired and bloated,” says Ms. Jamieson-Petonic.
  • Bag of chips, bottle of regular soda and a cookie. “I’ve seen folks buy this for lunch,” she says. “The chips are high in saturated fat (which tends to increase inflammation inside blood vessels) and low in serotonin. And tons of added sugars in the soda and cookie will trigger a protein cascade that will leave you feeling low, low down.”
  • Fried fish sandwich with french fries. “Fish is normally a “feel-good” food, but not when it’s coated with white flour and deep-fried in a vat of oil,” says Ms. Jamieson-Petonic. “Both the fish and fries are high in fat and sodium, which will zap your mood quicker than a dreary day.”

If you’ll be making changes in your diet, be patient. It may take two to three weeks to see an improvement in your mood.

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What Don’t You Do That You Should Be Doing?

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How Your Brain Can Turn Anxiety into Calmness

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Brain Map

See the interactive Brain Map here.

brainmp

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Culture & Pain

 

In a discussion with a group of clients a few months ago I discovered nearly all believed that the more in-touch with yourself you were the weaker and more sensitive to pain you were. I have heard this before and started to think about and do some looking and found this interesting article from the New Statesman about the Cultural History of Pain. A few snippets below:

But what was it about the non-European body that allegedly rendered it less suscep­tible to painful stimuli? Racial sciences placed great emphasis on the development and complexity of the brain and nerves. As the author of Pain and Sympathy (1907) concluded, attempting to explain why the “savage” could “bear physical torture without shrinking”: the “higher the life, the keener is the sense of pain”. pillbottle_C_20090623102910

There was also speculation that the civilizing process itself had rendered European peoples more sensitive to pain. The cele­brated American neurologist Silas Weir Mitchell stated in 1892 that in the “process of being civilized we have won . . . intensified capacity to suffer”. After all, “the savage does not feel pain as we do: nor as we examine the descending scale of life do animals seem to have the acuteness of pain-sense at which we have arrived”.

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Social Connections & Human Relations: Dr. Jennifer Golbeck

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Study shows gene expression changes with meditation

1378006_10151699852947169_1244682694_nWith evidence growing that meditation can have beneficial health effects, scientists have sought to understand how these practices physically affect the body.

A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation. The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” says study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain (IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS), where the molecular analyses were conducted.

The study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Mindfulness-based trainings have shown beneficial effects on inflammatory disorders in prior clinical studies. The new results provide a possible biological mechanism for therapeutic effects.

The results show a down-regulation of genes that have been implicated in inflammation. The affected genes include the pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 as well as several histone deacetylase (HDAC) genes, which regulate the activity of other genes epigenetically by removing a type of chemical tag. What’s more, the extent to which some of those genes were downregulated was associated with faster cortisol recovery to a social stress test involving an impromptu speech and tasks requiring mental calculations performed in front of an audience and video camera.f-193

Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators following mindfulness practice. In addition, several other DNA-modifying genes showed no differences between groups, suggesting that the mindfulness practice specifically affected certain regulatory pathways.

However, it is important to note that the study was not designed to distinguish any effects of long-term meditation training from those of a single day of practice. Instead, the key result is that meditators experienced genetic changes following mindfulness practice that were not seen in the non-meditating group after other quiet activities — an outcome providing proof of principle that mindfulness practice can lead to epigenetic alterations of the genome.

Previous studies in rodents and in people have shown dynamic epigenetic responses to physical stimuli such as stress, diet, or exercise within just a few hours.

“Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind can actually have a potential influence on their expression,” Davidson says.

“The regulation of HDACs and inflammatory pathways may represent some of the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic potential of mindfulness-based interventions,” Kaliman says. “Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.”

Study funding came from National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (grant number P01-AT004952) and grants from the Fetzer Institute, the John Templeton Foundation, and an anonymous donor to Davidson. The study was conducted at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the UW-Madison Waisman Center.

Journal Reference:

Perla Kaliman, María Jesús Álvarez-López, Marta Cosín-Tomás, Melissa A. Rosenkranz, Antoine Lutz, Richard J. Davidson. Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators.Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2014; 40: 96 DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.11.004

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