Food and Mood

Blair Cuneo, PA-C

I think about many things this time of the year with seasons changing and holidays approaching. As a functional medicine provider, I consider how changing landscapes not only affect my patient’s physical health, but also their emotional health. This landscape or “environment” of less direct sunlight, more time indoors, increased celebratory food and drink and increased holiday stress has a major impact on mental health for many of us.

Our relationship with food is complex, as is our body’s response to our culinary selections. We hope that our bodies can effectively digest food and absorb its nutritious content, but how do we know if it doesn’t? We hope the foods we are eating are contributing to healthy neurotransmitter production, healthy immune system messaging, but what does it feel like if that’s not the case?

You’d think that your stomach would definitely let you know if any of the above was amiss, but consider this: approximately 30% of us will have a gastrointestinal/gut symptom if there are imbalances in digestion or immune activation, while the majority of us will have a “beyond the gut” symptom first, such as headaches, mood changes, sleep disruptions, fatigue and pain. Thus, the majority of people may not be thinking of a direct relationship between green bean casserole and their anxious or sad days.

Several things need to happen when we eat a meal. First, we need to be in a “rest and digest” state. This signals to the body it’s time to produce digestive acids, enzymes and bile to sterilize the food, break it down and absorb it well. Next, we need healthy proteins that can be broken down by these digestive supports to become the basic amino acids that our body will use as the building blocks to create neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Neurotransmitters are signaling molecules, providing communication between nerves. The balance of neurotransmitter production, absorption and clearance, affects mental and physical health. Further, this building of neurotransmitters requires cofactors of several micronutrients like zinc, vitamin B6, magnesium and vitamin D.

To cap things off, there can be immune system reactions to foods, allergies and/or sensitivities that are contributing to inflammatory messaging that starts in the gut, but travels “beyond the gut”, affecting our emotional state.

In my practice, I regularly see low levels these cofactors, low levels of digestive enzymes and gastric acid, high stress and of course, the daily challenge in regularly making healthy eating and drinking choices.

In order for a body and mind to be healthy, each of these areas needs to be considered, evaluated and addressed.

While there are objective tests available for providers to check your nutrient and digestive status, there are also excellent lifestyle supports to begin making a shift in your wellness today.

-Eat at regular intervals. It is less stressful for the body when it knows it can count on you to feed it. This also helps the timing of the digestive acids/enzymes release where there are patterns in meal timing.

-Whole foods. Limit processed foods. Head to the refrigerator, before you head to the pantry. Each meal should contain a protein, small amount of fat, and colorful fruits and vegetables.

-Mindful eating, not distracted eating. Try to avoid multitasking while eating. As often as you can, eat at a table, focused on your food and the company that you share. Look, smell, taste and chew well! Even the process of chewing is signaling release of enzymes.

-Connect with your healthcare provider to review your micronutrient and vitamin status. You might discuss multivitamin, magnesium and/or zinc supports and also test your vitamin D to help assign dosing recommendations.

Remember, Food can be medicine! Make sure you use it wisely!

Your Partner in Health!

Blair Cuneo, PA-C

5 Strategies For Stress Eating

Stress eating occurs when we eat in response to a stress signal instead of a hunger signal.  It is reaching for food to calm our nerves, soothe our sadness, chase away boredom or buffer against other emotions we are uncomfortable with.
 
When we stress eat we are usually reaching for sugary and/or salty foods.  It’s often food we eat with our hands.  Hand to mouth eating frequently occurs without much awareness or mindfulness.

 
Tips to Help Decrease Stress Eating:
 

1) Being Body Aware – This means getting in touch with your body.  Get back into your body, get grounded, get centered.    Are you truly hungry?  Pay attention to what sensations are going on in your body.  Has your heart rate increased?  Do you have butterflies in your stomach?  Are you feeling fragmented and disassociated in your body?  Feeling out of sync between body and mind?
 
You can bring yourself back to center by concentrating on your breath.  Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly and breathe in deeply.  Is the breath going to the upper chest area or the belly?  You want the breath to go into the low belly.  By doing this you engage the parasympathetic system (aka rest and digest) and reduce the sympathetic system (aka fight or flight).
 
2) Exercise your emotional muscle – Emotions are energy in motion.  Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.  We need to let emotions flow and we need to express them.  When we don’t do this we “eat our emotions” with food.  Emotional eaters tend to eat foods that are nutrient poor (junk food) instead of nutrient rich (veggies, fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins).
 
Keep a check on your feelings.  One way to do this is to check in with family and friends.  Be real about your emotions as this allows others to feel comfortable to open up with you as well.  Journaling is also a great tool for expressing your emotions. 
 
3) Developing alternatives – Rather than engaging in stress eating come up with alternatives.  Make a list of 5 things that you can do instead of eat when you are not really hungry but are craving food due to emotions.  Some ideas:  call a friend, physical movement, journaling, nap, read a good book, organize a drawer in your kitchen or bathroom.
 
4) Having healthy foods available – If you can’t fight the urge to eat, make the best choices with the cravings you have.  Ideas:  avocado for someone who craves fat, fruit for someone that craves sugar, cacao powder in water for someone who craves chocolate, olives for someone who craves salt. 
 
5) Fueling your body with real food – Be sure you are getting lots of nutrients so you are not vulnerable to the effects of stress.  Food modulates our mood and if we stick with whole unprocessed foods our mood will be better and we won’t feel as stressed.


Your Partner In Health!
Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

Tips To Slow Down

Clarissa A. Kussin, ND, RYT-500

It has never been easier to connect with someone on the other side of the world, yet it’s so easy to feel disconnected from the people closest to us.  We have more tools than ever to simplify tasks and accomplish more things quickly, yet our to-do lists have never been longer. Life is short, and time flies, especially in today’s fast-paced world.  

These exercises are meant to help you slow down, enjoy life, and focus on the most important parts of your day.  Take the time to prioritize daily objectives.
 By focusing on the most important tasks to get done, we eliminate the hustle and stress of trying to accomplish everything at once. 
Cut personal Internet use by half.
Technology has become a major element in most of our lives. Social networking, email, and web-surfing can occasionally cause our minds to lose focus and wander through hundreds of topics, thoughts and ideas.
Try to use half your designated Internet time to explore new hobbies, exercise, or meditate.

 Enjoy nature.
When time permits – take a five to ten minute break to step outside and breathe in some fresh air. Disconnect from the rest of the world and concentrate on the beauty of nature.

Eat slower.
A lot of us tend to speed through meals – missing the chance to appreciate different textures and flavors. Start to chew foods slower and distinguish new tastes, aromas, and consistencies. 
 
Connect and make time for yourself.

Acknowledge and consciously thank yourself for taking care of YOU.  When did you last spend valuable time with yourself? Take a night to find a new book, watch a favorite movie, try yoga, meditate, or cook a new recipe.

Give yourself more time.
Some of us like to stick to a tight schedule and plan all our daily events. Next time you’re jotting down new tasks in your planner, try to factor in a few extra minutes when estimating how long things will take. This will help you not rush through daily tasks.

Take the scenic route.
Next time you’re driving a somewhat long distance – try taking the scenic route. Driving through open fields, mountains, or viewing a city skyline can be very relaxing.

Sit for a moment with your eyes closed when you start your computer. Even just a few moments of meditation can set the tone for the rest of your day. Try to empty your mind and take deep breaths before jumping into your day’s tasks.

Remember your goals and aspirations.
Each morning when you wake up, take a few moments to think about your life goals and aspirations. Try to recall the milestones you’ve already made in your life, and your drive to achieve new ones. Try doing this for about five minutes before getting out of bed to start your day.

Take the time and share this with someone you love that may need some support in slowing down…

 
Your Partner in Health!
Clarissa Kussin, ND, RYT 500

Tips To Slow Down

By: Clarissa Kussin, FMHC, RYT 500, ND

It has never been easier to connect with someone on the other side of the world, yet it’s so easy to feel disconnected from the people closest to us.  We have more tools than ever to simplify tasks and accomplish more things quickly, yet our to-do lists have never been longer. Life is short, and time flies, especially in today’s fast-paced world.  

These exercises are meant to help you slow down, enjoy life, and focus on the most important parts of your day.  Take the time to prioritize daily objectives.
 By focusing on the most important tasks to get done, we eliminate the hustle and stress of trying to accomplish everything at once. 


Cut personal Internet use by half.
Technology has become a major element in most of our lives. Social networking, email, and web-surfing can occasionally cause our minds to lose focus and wander through hundreds of topics, thoughts and ideas.
Try to use half your designated Internet time to explore new hobbies, exercise, or meditate.

 Enjoy nature.
When time permits – take a five to ten minute break to step outside and breathe in some fresh air. Disconnect from the rest of the world and concentrate on the beauty of nature.

Eat slower.
A lot of us tend to speed through meals – missing the chance to appreciate different textures and flavors. Start to chew foods slower and distinguish new tastes, aromas, and consistencies. 
 
Connect and make time for yourself.

Acknowledge and consciously thank yourself for taking care of YOU.  When did you last spend valuable time with yourself? Take a night to find a new book, watch a favorite movie, try yoga, meditate, or cook a new recipe.

Give yourself more time.
Some of us like to stick to a tight schedule and plan all our daily events. Next time you’re jotting down new tasks in your planner, try to factor in a few extra minutes when estimating how long things will take. This will help you not rush through daily tasks.

Take the scenic route.
Next time you’re driving a somewhat long distance – try taking the scenic route. Driving through open fields, mountains, or viewing a city skyline can be very relaxing.

Sit for a moment with your eyes closed when you start your computer. Even just a few moments of meditation can set the tone for the rest of your day. Try to empty your mind and take deep breaths before jumping into your day’s tasks.

Remember your goals and aspirations.
Each morning when you wake up, take a few moments to think about your life goals and aspirations. Try to recall the milestones you’ve already made in your life, and your drive to achieve new ones. Try doing this for about five minutes before getting out of bed to start your day.

Take the time and share this with someone you love that may need some support in slowing down…