mood food

grafvision / Shutterstock.comA persistent low mood such as depression and anxiety is devastating. In my post on Brain Health, I went into some key dietary factors that determine the physiological health of our brains. Here in this post I am going to go a little deeper to give you more insights and more solutions to mood issues.

I’ve spent much of my life dealing with depression, anxiety and researching effective cures as well as coping strategies. And I certainly know the multiplicity of factors that can determine moods. The foundation for this is physiological health of our brains – and whether we are feeding ourselves the right nutrients to optimise brain functionality. This in turn will set the stage to influence our thoughts and moods. Here in this post you will find:


  • Nutritional therapy strategies to effectively deal with the the key factors in persistent low moods

Insights into key causal factors:

  • Identify if you have a deficiency in key neurotransmitters Serotonin and Dopamine and what you can do to resolve this
  • Are you suffering from endorphin burnout?
  • Are you under too much stress? Answer these quick question to find out how much stress may be ruling your moods

A quick request …

This post and this blog is dedicated to my fundraising to end bullying. Please click on the link below to find out more and to make a donation or text HUGG47 £5 to 70070. Thanks! JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Nutritional therapy and diet emphasis

The role of nutritional therapy is to provide body with sufficient nutrients so that it can create the neurotransmitters it needs and have them readily available in order to:

  • avoiding deficiency due to overtaxing and overusing an organ system
  • have sufficient reserves and avoid overuse of a system / depletion / de-sensitization
  • Protein: 20 to 30 grams per meal from sources that contain all 22 amino acids:
    • Fish (note that farmed fish may be low in Omega 3), Poultry, Eggs (3 needed), Cheese
    • Beef, Lamb, Venison, Buffalo – also contain Carnitine and Taurine aminos and also bioavailable iron and zinc. Very good for athletes. Type A people may need extra HcL to aid with digestion
    • Vegetarians need to mix to get all aminos – grains and nuts or seeds balance legumes to get complete amino blend, however more quantity of food needed (than meat) to get overall quantity protein, and carbohydrate either from legumes or grains will provide bulk which could lead to sleepiness and loss of calorie control
  • Fats
    • Omega 3 – also MAO inhibitor and useful for depression, ADD and alcoholism
    • Saturated – less likely to be damaged (oxidation) and aid absorption of Vit A, D E and Calcium. Butter as high in Vit A and butyrate, a fast burning fat used by brain for fuel and also as a base for GABA. Butyrate also used as fuel by cells in colon, thus aiding colon health
  • Carbohydrate
    • Low Carbohydrate vegetables – 4 to 5 cups per day for minerals, vitamins and enzymes needed for eg protein and neurotransmitter formation and function; zinc supplement (50mg) for one month minimum to assist with taste, thyroid, immune, reproduction and neurotransmitter function
    • High Carbohydrate foods – added according to metabolic need (eg weight loss, sport) and include fruit, high-carb veg such as carrots, beets, yams, sweet potatoes, winter squash, grain and legumes
  • 3 good meals and snacks, no skipping meals, especially breakfast
  • Tyrosine can restore adrenal ability to withstand stress and provide anti-depressant, stress protective powers as well as being primary component in pleasure promoting enkephalins
    • Can be used to replace coffee first thing in day
    • Excess can cause jitters and raise blood pressure


  • Sugar and white starch (rice, flour) – due to effects of raising insulin, increasing fat storage, leading to reactive hypoglycemia and resultant release of adrenal hormones to raise blood sugar
  • High carb and low protein diet which raise serotonin, leads to sleepiness and calm, but also to blood sugar issues:
    • Hypoglycemia resulting from hyperinsulemic response to high carb meal with conditioning effect of food intake on both insulin and adrenal release
    • adrenals released then catabolize muscle and liver glycogen stores leaving little glycogen available for non-food related stressors
  • Allergy (Gluten, Dairy, Corn, Soy, etc) foods – Gluten allergies linked to thyroid disorder; all allergy foods linked to mood disorders that disappear on elimination diet
  • Bad fats – trans fats (due to cell membrane smearing) and excess Omega 6 unsaturated fats (easily oxidized)
  • Unfermented Soy – isoflavones impair thyroid hormone formation leading to low thyroid and phytates impair absorption of thyroid and brain nutrients zinc, iodine and iron; impairs digestion and can lead to leaky gut; disrupts sex hormones due to phytoestrogenic effects; can lead to Alzheimer’s and premature brain aging
  • Skipping meals (like breakfast) which leads to high stress and low energy; low fat, low protein diets – that deprive brain of vital nutrients (eg butyrate in butter, ketones from protein metabolism)
  • Packaged foods and aspartame
  • Caffeine –
    • Depletes natural uppers (eg serotonin, dopamine, endorphins) and leads to crashes in energy and irritability, anxiety – needs combining with protein and fat food intake
    • Depletes mood nutrients: B vits, C, Potassium, Calcium, Zinc
    • Overstimulates and weakens kidneys, pancreas, liver, stomach, intestines, heart, nervous system, adrenal glands and acidifies pH of body and blood

Serotonin and being flexible, warm and happy

  • Serotonin transmits positive feelings and thoughts and enhances pride, sound sleep, enjoying family and friends, peace, half full attitude, looking forward with positive anticipation
  • Deficiency very common and leads to symptoms that are both psychological and physical such as anxiety, depression, perfectionism, panic, irritability, insomnia, PMS and muscle pain
    • Other symptoms comprise lack of accomplishment vs pride; insomnia vs sleep; irritated by family members vs enjoying their company; anxiety vs peace; half empty glass vs half full; feeling dread vs positive anticipation
  • See my previous post for more details about Serotonin

Catecholamines (CA) and being motivated and focused

  • Dopamine, adrenaline, norepinephrine
  • Arouse and excite both mentally and emotionally; primer for action; determine extent of being extroverted or introverted
  • Exciting prospects arouse them in anticipation: if low in CA levels, no reaction – apathetic depression
  • Symptoms of being low: distractibility and poor mental concentration; easily drawn to stimulants such as coffee, but these lead to CA depletion
  • Stress depletes adrenal resources for making CAs
  • Exercise can raise CA levels
  • See my previous post for more details about Dopamine

Sensitivity and Endorphin burnout

  • Sad feelings are natural, but when unbearably painful, go on for too long, appear without obvious reason, low endorphins may be the cause
    • Endorphins providing shielding layer that can be depleted
    • Dealing with any physical or emotional pain necessitates sufficient endorphins beforehand
  • Causes of endorphin deficiency / burnout
    • Genes and nurture – being instructed to turn off feelings, being ignored, being taunted or being brought up by people with those traits
    • Excess stress – endorphins released during stress and also aid in the regulation of stress, causing 50% drop in cortisol
    • Emotional and physical pain – that is repressed and leads to use of endorphins to block pain, leading to depletion and use of other substances (eg alcohol and drugs) to block pain
    • Gender – women have lower endorphins, thus can become over emotional as levels drop lower; men by contrast have higher threshold to pain but can become depleted due to covering up sensitivities
  • Food support: Protein for all aminos, Fats (which encourage endorphin release) and Vegetables for mineral and vitamin enzymes
  • Exercise
    • Sunlight, music, romance, exercise and nature can raise levels of endorphins
    • Sex, sugar, alcohol, drugs and exercise can force a brief release
    • If endorphin levels are low, release may be low: thus encouraging excess behavior in search of endorphin high
    • Hitting the wall in exercise / excess exercise induces endorphin release – but is dangerous. No high after intense exercise indicates endorphin deficiency / burnout
    • If behavior is excessive in search of endorphin release, best to supplement and lower behavior (eg exercise less and break food/drug/sex addictions)

Stress and adrenal overload

  • Gauge the degree of burn out and how life can feel when overwhelm is rare as opposed to constant by asking yourself: how easy would it be to do the following?
    • face deadlines, confrontations and setbacks with gusto and humor
    • find excitement facing difficult challenge (eg diet, first job, marathons)
    • have relaxed shoulders and body
    • spend a day daydreaming and relaxing, or lounging with friends
  • Gauge stress coping strategies, such as those learned from family or peers (eg alcoholism and mood foods)
  • Biological stress results from blood sugar irregularity (excess or deficiency) causing adrenal surges
  • Stressors also include infections, allergens, excess exercise and toxins (that lead to toxin overload / inability of liver to manage excess load and thus symptoms that include increased sensitivity to toxins that induces stress)
  • Multivitamin and mineral needed to replace nutrients depleted by stress and caffeine use

A quick request …

This post and this blog is dedicated to my fundraising to end bullying. Please click on the link below to find out more and to make a donation or text HUGG47 £5 to 70070. Thanks! JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Adapted from:

Ross, J. (2002). The Mood Cure. New York, N.Y.: Penguin

Additional resources:

  • Kharrazian, D. (2013): Why isn’t my brain working? – the best book for understanding brain health
  • Fox, A. (1985): DLPA to end chronic pain and depression
  • Braverman, E. (2002): The healing nutrients within
  • Ehrenpreis, S. (1983): Degradation of endogenous opioids: its relevance in human pathology and therapy

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