How Does Food Affect Your Mood?

If you are a caregiver you are undoubtedly stressed. And people who are stressed typically crave and overeat soda, candy, chips, cookies, bread, pasta and icecream for a temporary lift. The problem is that eating refined carohydrates will give you a temporary fix, but your blood sugar will crash a couple hours later, leaving you tired and moody.

Bad Habits=Poor Food Choices

Along with craving refined carbs, caregivers often eat on the run—standing up, in the car, chowing down, or going through the “drive thru” lane at your favorite fast food restaurant. Do you grab a candy bar in the afternoon for a “pick-me-up”? Do you skip breakfast and grab a doughnut or bagel and coffee? Do you drink soda instead of water? Don’t feel guilty if you answered “yes” to any of these questions. It’s typical—but it’s not healthy.

Here’s a better way to reduce your stress

Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in the brain that allow neurons to communicate. They are supported by nutritious foods and are depleted by lack of sleep, poor eating habits, and certain drugs and environmental toxins. The important thing that caregivers need to know is that we can support our neurotransmitters with healthy eating habits. In turn, our neurotransmitters will help support our mood, energy, ability to sleep well, and perform at our best.

Here are the most important neurotransmitters and the foods that support them

1. Serotonin is necessary for a stable mood.

A deficiency can result in:

  • Depressed or irritable mood, sudden tears
  • Insomnia and anxiety
  • Binge eating
  • Overactive mind
  • Low tolerance to stress
  • Decreased immune function

Foods that enhance serotonin: Soy, turkey, cheese, cottage cheese, avocado, meat, comfort food (mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese)

2. Dopamine keeps us focused and motivated.

A deficiency can result in:

  • Depressed mood
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Weight gain, obesity
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of enjoyment
  • Low libido
  • Nicotine addiction

Foods that enhance dopamine: Meat, wild game, eggs, chocolate, blueberries, yoghurt, milk, soy, cheese, seeds and nuts, beans and legumes

3. Norepinephrine is responsiblie for stimulatory responses in the body.

A deficiency can result in:

  • Depressed mood
  • Poor sleep
  • Fatigue, low energy
  • Poor memory/focus
  • Apathy

Foods that enhance norepinephrine: almonds, apples, avocado, bananas, beef liver, cheese, fish, green veggies, lean meat, nuts, grains, pineapple, poultry, tofu

4. GABA is responsible for helping us to relax and reduce anxiety.

A deficiency can result in:

  • High anxiety, panic, worry
  • “Monkey mind”
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep

Foods that enhance GABA: Green tea, almonds, bananas, beef liver, broccoli, brown rice, halibut, lentils, oats, oranges, spinach, walnuts, whole grains

How to boost your neurotransmitters

  • Eat a serving of high-quality protein with every meal and snack. Focus on complex carbohydrates, and eliminate junk foods (refined carbs).
  • Enjoy unlimited amounts of fresh veggies.
  • Eat a good breakfast!
  • Eat 3 balanced meals and 1-2 healthy snacks per day.

Recommended Reading

  1. The Mood Cure, Julia Ross, MA
  2. The Edge Effect: Achieve Total Health and Longevity with the Balanced Brain, Eric Braverman, MD
  3. The Chemistry of Joy, Henry Emmons, MD

Is it Is it Time to Move Your Loved One to a Memory Care Home?

The day we moved my husband to a memory care home was the worst day of my life. Worse even than hearing the doctor say to him, “You have Alzheimer’s disease.” Worse than the day my father died, and worse, yes, than the day my husband died.

Why? Because that decision is fraught with guilt, all kinds of guilt. Guilt that I didn’t do enough for him, guilt that I was a failure in keeping the promise I made to him that I would take care of him ‘til the end, guilt that I would be able to enjoy some free time and have fun (what did that mean?), and guilt that I would go on to live my life without the man I promised to share it with.

But there comes a time when enough is enough. And if the health of the caregiver is impacted by the strenuous task of caring for someone who can no longer bathe, eat, drink or walk without assistance, it’s definitely time to consider moving that person to a facility that is better equipped to care for him/her.

Signs that it’s time to think about the big move

  •  You have a physical challenge that is getting progressively worse
  • Your loved one is a wanderer and has already gotten lost outside
  • You aren’t strong enough to meet all the physical needs of your loved one
  • You are depressed, cry often and can’t think clearly
  • You are unable to manage daily tasks because of your care giving demands
  • Your friends and family have expressed concern about your well being and the well being of your loved one
  • Your loved one has challenging behaviors and you feel unsafe when he or she “acts out”
  • You’ve tried other ways to keep your loved one at home but they haven’t worked out or are inadequate
  • It’s more financially doable to pay the cost for a residential facility than to pay for full-time care in your home

In the end, I listened to a friend who advised me to not wait until we were faced with a crisis. I found a wonderful facility where the staff grew to love my husband, and he felt like a valued member of the community. It was the right decision for us, and I’m glad we got on a waiting list a year before I made the hardest decision of my life.