Wednesday, November 13, 2013

You are what you eat

A few weeks back I was in a bad mood, with cranky pants firmly in place on Monday and Tuesday - and for no real reason that I could pinpoint. I'd had a good weekend; it was Bike Boy's birthday and we'd been out for dinner on Saturday, then had a relaxing day Sunday, finishing up with a roast dinner with the whole family - amazingly - present. That hardly ever happens these days.

I'd made good progress with a furniture revamp project I'm working on, finished reading The Catcher in the Rye (shamefully, I'd never read it before), baked a sensational flourless chocolate cake in honour of the birthday boy, supervised The Baby's driving practice, caught up on some Boardwalk Empire and enjoyed the sunny weather. Nothing to be crabby about there.

And yet I woke up on the Monday morning feeling down in the dumps. Yes, Monday means back to work, but apart from the tedious drive to get there, things were going just fine on the work front.

Later in the week, it dawned on me - food was the answer. No, I don't mean that I wanted to eat a massive pile of cake or chocolate to make me feel better. I mean that food was responsible for my low mood. More specifically, the wheat that I was deliberately eating that week as part of my FODMAPs testing process.

Two serves of bread - one on Saturday and one on Monday - provoked the expected gut symptoms, but I hadn't really made the connection between food and feeling sad, anxious, irritable and kind of foggy. My concentration was off and I was praying that nobody would ask me to do anything involving complex analysis, because my brain seemed to be struggling with basic tasks.

I'm sure that part of it was due to feeling physically unwell. Who can concentrate when your gut is churning, your waistband is getting tighter throughout the day and it feels like you're being stabbed with knitting needles? But it's more than that. Even when I got home and changed out of my restrictive skirt into my comfy old pyjamas and there was a respite from the pain, I still couldn't concentrate. I read and re-read the same page of my book three or four times one night before giving up entirely because it just would not make sense.                                                                

The brain-gut connection is a funny old thing. There are plenty of scientific papers on the subject of how our brain influences our gut - but not as many on how it also works in reverse. Which makes sense: if this article is correct, the neurotransmitter serotonin is made in our gut and conditions like IBS can increase or decrease its production. And of course, serotonin has an enormous impact on mood.

But serotonin is just one of the many chemicals that our bodies produce - imagine the multiple processes going on inside us and then think about the thousands of nutrients, additives and so on in all the different foods, drinks and medications that we tip into our bodies every day that might be affecting production of one or more hormones, enzymes or other substances. too much of the wrong things, or not enough of the right ones, and you might be causing your own grumpy moods, mild depression and/or other problems. Conversely, eat plenty of the right foods, and you could be in a permanently happy, positive, productive mood.

Whoa. Mind. Blown.

It makes you really think on a whole new level about what you're putting in your mouth, doesn't it?



Sara said...

Yep. I can relate. The same thing happens to me. I used to think it was just business as usual to have low moods and times when everything seemed to take more effort but now it's clear that wheat does it to me. I also got a 'low mood' reaction to kombucha, and after a bit of researching, found that if you're gluten intolerant, you can get cross reactivity to yeast. Something to think about with people that also react to non-wheat breads. It might be the yeast.

Cherub said...

Love the post but it feeds my nutrition geekiness. I'm fighting the urge to study in this area. You're not helping lol.

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