Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Disordered Eating Part 1

Disorder Eating Part 1: Based on the book "Surviving Disordered Eating"

Mindful Awareness: One of the hallmarks of disordered eating is eating while distracted, or eating to numb difficult or intense emotions. Eating is transformed from a physiological necessity rich with cultural and social meaning to a psychological coping mechanism with many negative side effects, including mindlessness. The most powerful way to get out of the mindless eating trap is to start paying attention to what, when, where, why, and how you eat. Mindful eating is a skill you can relearn. Following are some strategies to help you do so. Some of them involve food, and some of them do not, but the awareness you gain from any one of them will help with mindful eating. Mindful eating might very well be the most important skill presented in this blog. It will allow you to remember the purpose and meaning of eating: to nourish your body so that you can live your life. Disordered eaters can get so lost in their fear and worries about food, or in the numbing out trance induced by bingeing, that they forget all they were born knowing about how to eat: eat when you’re hungry and stop when you are satisfied. Relearning your innate sense of how to eat requires that you slow down, notice what you’re eating, notice how it feels in your body, and take special care to calm any anxieties or worries that arise. Following is how it is done: Gather your food. Take a moment to be grateful; think of something positive in your life. Have one to three bites of your food. Put your food and utensils down. Touch your napkin to calm anxiety. Take a sip of liquid; let it soothe you. Breathe more than once. Check in to see if you are stressed. If you feel stressed, take some more deep breaths and tell the stress it is not invited to this meal. Tune in to your body’s deep awareness of its needs: are you hungry, satisfied, or full? Turn your attention to a card or uplifting picture, if you are alone. In a social eating setting, express the need for kind conversation if topics turn negative. Enjoy more bites! Repeat, repeat, and repeat this mindful eating rhythm. Notice the negative judgments and harsh thoughts regarding food and your body that arise when you are eating. Choose to change those thoughts so that you can nourish yourself well. During mealtimes, be sure to eat while listening closely to your hunger, satiety, and fullness cues. If you have eaten mindfully, and find that you have truly had enough, but there is still some food on your plate, please remember: you don’t need to be a member of the clean-plate club if your body is telling you something different. You can either throw the food away, or put it in a container to save for another meal, if that is a safe recovery behavior for you. Either way, you do not have to eat it!

Self Care: For some reason, many people with eating disordered habits have learned to place everyone else’s care and needs ahead of their own, and then they end up depleted of energy, health, and peace. This empty, tired feeling can send them into disordered eating thinking and behaviors, hoping to feel replenished by them. Instead, they feel more drained. If this sounds like you, then it is time to put into place a good self-care routine. Doing so will actually allow you to be more effective in helping others because you’ll feel better yourself. One of the most difficult aspects of healing from disordered eating may be developing positive feelings about your body and its appearance. The normal, healthy connection between mind and body can be lost when you become so focused on calories in and out. The stress that develops, or that was there to begin with, interrupts your body’s inherent communication system, and can result in feelings of dissatisfaction, disgust, or even hatred. Trying to heal a body toward which you feel hate and anger will not work. Bodies—especially women’s bodies—can vary in how they feel and look over the course of a week, a month, a year, or a lifetime. Rather than cultivate feelings of anger and frustration about these inevitable changes, try learning to accommodate them with a more accepting attitude and actions. Mirrors can be tools for recovery or sabotage, depending upon your attitude when you look in one. You can focus on what you perceive to be the negative and set yourself up to turn to disordered eating behaviors, hoping they’ll change your perceptions. Or, you can choose to gaze at yourself with a different mindset, and loosen negative body image’s hold on your emotions and actions. Whenever you look at your reflection in a mirror or window, try saying one of these kind expressions to yourself, or out loud: “Okay, fine!” This phrase can help signify to yourself that you are okay, you are fine, and you are moving forward in your life regardless of what you see in the mirror. If you catch an unexpected glimpse of yourself in a mirror or other reflective surface and it surprises you in an uncomfortable way, use this phrase to move forward in your day and let it go. “Good to go!” This phrase is something you can think to yourself when you need to check to see that your clothes are clean and straightened, hair is fixed, face is washed, and teeth are clean. It is a statement of gentle appraisal and acceptance and tells you that you are ready to face the event, the day, and the life that is waiting for you. Even if you feel afraid to do so, get clothes that fit your body now, and don’t look back. By all means, get rid of the old clothes because they are not supposed to fit anymore. The person they fit before was dying from disordered eating and its deadly grasp. The sooner you get rid of the past and the clothes that represent the sickness and danger of it, the sooner you will be able to embrace and celebrate the new you! Often, the messages are specifically designed to increase your dissatisfaction with how you look so that you will want to go on a diet, buy cosmetics, purchase a magazine or book, watch a TV show, or visit a website. These messages, and their products, are not designed to help you love yourself or your life, even if they say they are. Their main purpose is to make money for someone, somewhere. And many of the images of the people featured in these messages have been digitally altered to impossible human proportions. This constant barrage of false beauty standards can have a toxic effect, and they are hard to escape. Often, however, far too much emphasis is placed on a particular number as being an “ideal” weight to strive toward. It will be important for your recovery efforts to create and maintain a new attitude about what you weigh, and what significance you place on that number. It is not easy to change a lifetime of messages you have received and believed about weight, but it is possible and worth the effort, if you want to break free from weight obsessions. If you have an eating disorder, or suffer from any type of disordered eating, it is likely that negative thoughts about yourself circulate through your brain nearly all the time. If you were to stop and really notice what that voice is saying, perhaps write it down or say it out loud, there is a good chance you’d be shocked by how mean, pushy, and critical that voice is.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

What Do I Eat? Brain Foods

What do I Eat? Brain Foods: Based on the book "This is Your Brain on Food"

B: Berries and beans 

R: Rainbow colors of fruits and vegetables 

A: Antioxidants 

I: Include lean proteins and plant-based proteins 

N: Nuts (almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and cashews) 

F: Fiber-rich foods, fish, and fermented foods 

O: Oils 

O: Omega-3-rich foods 

D: Dairy (yogurt and kefir, certain cheeses) 

S: Spices

Berries and Beans Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries all make great additions to your day and double as a dessert. Eat berries that are in season. When you buy fresh berries, make sure to eat them soon—good ripe ones won’t last long, even in the fridge. At times of the year when fresh, ripe berries aren’t available, frozen berries are fine to use as long as you make sure they do not have added sugar or other additives. Beans, legumes, and lentils are important staples for your brain. A healthy source of nutrients, vitamins, and fiber, beans, legumes, and lentils are easy to prepare and can be a main course or an appetizer, can be added to a salad, or can even be made into a dessert.

Rainbow Colors of Fruits and Vegetables Eat as many different colorful vegetables as possible. From red cabbage to radicchio to green and yellow bell peppers, expand your palate and maximize the range of nutrients that are beneficial to your brain. This is particularly true of micronutrients, like vitamins, polyphenols, phytonutrients, and flavonoids. The same applies to fruits! Berries, apples, and citrus all come in a wide variety of colors. Just be careful not to overdo it with sweet fruits like grapes and cherries. Even though I want you to chase color, don’t forget the most important color: green. Though eating a broad range of colors is great, you have to make sure you’re getting enough dark, leafy greens such as arugula, romaine, Bibb lettuce, endive, and bok choy. Add microgreens when you can find them; they add a flavorful nutrient-dense punch to my meals.

Antioxidants We’ve covered many kinds of antioxidants throughout the blog, including berries and the polyphenols in colorful vegetables we’ve just discussed. Dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants, as long as you stick to the dark stuff and make sure that it doesn’t include too much sugar. While cocoa and chocolate are delicious—aim for natural or non-alkalized for the highest antioxidant levels. Many vitamins are crucial antioxidants. You can get vitamins from a broad range of dietary sources. This is one of the most important reasons to eat a diverse diet. But get a recommendation for a multivitamin supplement from your doctor; this is a great way to make sure you’re not missing anything. 

Include Lean Proteins and Plant-Based Proteins Well Sourced lean poultry, seafood, and occasional grass-fed beef are good choices to ensure you are getting plenty of protein and the essential amino acids that your brain needs to function. For plant-based sources of protein, organic tofu and tempeh can be enhanced with spices for flavor. 

Nuts Nuts have healthy fats and oils that our brains need to function well, along with vitamins and minerals, for example, selenium in Brazil nuts. Eat ¼ cup a day (not more—it’s easy to overdo it with nuts!) as a snack or added to your salad or vegetable side dish. Nuts can even be combined into a homemade granola or trail mix that contains much less sugar and salt than store-bought versions. 

Fiber-Rich Foods, Fish, and Fermented Foods Beans, legumes, lentils, fruit, and vegetables are great sources of fiber. Fiber is important as a prebiotic, can help keep your weight down, and decreases inflammation in the entire body. As we discussed earlier, fish such as salmon add healthy omega-3s to your nutrition plan. Fermented foods like kefir, miso, and kimchee are great for your brain and gut since they’re a natural source of active-culture bacteria. 

Oils While you want to avoid an excess of saturated fats and other unhealthy oils like the omega-6 oils used for frying, you want to ensure you’re getting enough healthy fats from sources like olive oil, avocados, and oily fish. Even with healthy fats, be aware of portion size and try not to eat too much. All fats are calorie dense. 

Omega-3- Rich Foods We’ve talked about omega-3s so you know well by now to ensure you’re getting plenty of them. The most important source of omega-3s (especially docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid) is oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, and tuna. Omega-3s (largely alpha-linolenic acid) can also be found in plant-based sources—chia seeds, Brussels sprouts, walnuts, and flaxseeds to name a few.

Dairy (Yogurt and Kefir, Certain Cheeses) Yogurts and kefir with probiotic cultures are great for your gut, providing you with helpful bacteria and protein. Grass-fed dairy products are better options for you and your brain. Remember that certain conditions, like ADHD, can be aggravated by dairy, so be aware of its negative effects. 

Spices Spices are a no-calorie, guilt-free way to boost flavor in all your food while adding beneficial brain effects as well. In particular, spices like turmeric, black pepper, saffron, red pepper flakes, oregano, and rosemary should be part of your brain armor.

SET UP YOUR KITCHEN LIKE A CHEF! Just as your brain and gut need certain nutritional building blocks in order to operate at peak efficiency, your kitchen also needs certain equipment before you can cook a great meal. You don’t need a whole lot of fancy equipment—no need for single-use tools like avocado cutters or mango pitters—but you do need some decent-quality basics. Here is a quick list of the tools you’ll want to have before tackling the recipes that follow. Large knife and small utility knife. The large knife should be a chef-style knife that you feel comfortable using. The smaller knife is for smaller jobs in the kitchen. Once you find knives you’re comfortable with, make sure to keep them sharp. A sharp knife is less likely to slip and cut you. Knife sharpener I prefer the countertop sharpeners, where you just guide the blade through a slot, rather than the large handheld sharpening steel used in professional kitchens. Vegetable peeler. I use a vegetable peeler both to remove the skins from vegetables and to create easy ribbons for salads. You’ll need a chopping board, either wood or synthetic. The board can be used for all your prep. Start with vegetables on one side, then flip it for your meat prep. Be sure to keep it clean and sanitized. Instant-read thermometer. Eyeballing the doneness of your meat can easily lead to it being undercooked and dangerous, or overcooked and dry. With the ease and accuracy of modern instant-read digital thermometers, there’s no reason to guess. Lemon or lime zester. An easy, inexpensive way to add the vibrant bold flavors of citrus rind from lemons, limes, oranges, and clementines to salads, side dishes, and even baking. Measuring cups. These are used for measuring dry ingredients and are helpful to measure out portions for meal planning. Measuring pitcher and measuring spoons. The measuring pitcher is for liquids and the measuring spoons are useful in both cooking and baking. Medium and large stainless-steel or glass bowls. Having plenty of bowls in a range of sizes allows you to be flexible and efficient during food prep. Mini mise set. This mini prep bowl set helps to organize and set up your ingredients—see more about the importance of mise en place in the next section. Kitchen towels and paper towels. These are useful for drying dishes and for drying vegetables or fruit after washing. Moisture can breed bacteria, so keeping your workspace and equipment dry is key to a clean kitchen. Sanitizer spray. Mason jars. These are handy for mixing salad dressings, storing foods, and building salads for meals or snacks. Half sheet pan/baking pan and glass casserole dish for oven-baked dishes. A simple aluminum sheet pan is an inexpensive workhorse in the kitchen. No need for nonstick coatings. For recipes that need a higher-walled vessel, use a glass casserole dish. Parchment paper makes baking on a sheet pan very easy, as it provides a nonstick surface and allows for browning. It also makes cleanup much easier, since you can throw out the parchment paper. Stainless-steel pots and pans. If you have not invested in a set of pots and pans, I’d recommend looking at a good quality stainless-steel set at your local kitchen store. If a whole set is too pricey, the most important components are a large stock pot, a medium-size saucepan, and a 10-to 12-inch sauté pan. Cast iron is cheaper than stainless steel, and often its heat retention and superior browning make it the right choice whether on the stovetop or in the oven. I recommend a 10-to 12-inch skillet. A cast-iron skillet can last a lifetime as long as it’s properly cleaned and seasoned. You can find instructions for proper cast-iron care online. A Dutch oven is a large cast-iron pot with a tight-fitting lid used for soups and stews. Dutch ovens are often enameled (like the classic Dutch ovens from French brand Le Creuset). Food processor. Food processors take a lot of the labor out of mixing, chopping, and blending food. An 11-cup food processor is a good basic size for any kitchen. Mini food processors (sometimes called mini food choppers) are best for chopping small herbs or pulverizing foods like garlic or ginger. Blender. Blenders are similar to food processors but are intended to blend liquids rather than solid foods. They are perfect for pureeing wet ingredients or making smoothies. Immersion blender. An immersion blender is a handheld blender that allows you to blend food in the pot you’re cooking in—much more convenient than pouring everything into the bowl of a traditional blender. They’re great for smoothing out soups or giving lentils a more even consistency. Ice pops are a great way to make your own healthy frozen treats for dessert. I prefer stainless-steel molds, which are usually dishwasher safe, making cleanup easier. Salad spinner. This is a very useful item if you eat lots of leafy greens (as you should!), because you can wash your greens properly without worrying about waiting for them to dry. It’s helpful to prepare a large quantity of lettuce, spinach, or kale for a few days at a time, and store the extra in a tightly sealed container.

Monday, November 14, 2022

This is Your Brain on Food: Bipolar, Schizophrenia, and Libido

Bipolar, Schizophrenia, and Libido: Based on the book "This is Your Brain on Food"

Bipolar and Schizophrenia:

As we already know, the ongoing, low-grade inflammation in your body is often related to disruptions to your gut. When this widespread inflammation throughout the body occurs, the marker C-reactive protein increases. When BD patients are in either depressed or manic states, we also see an increase in C-reactive protein, an indicator that gut inflammation may also be associated with mood swings. We also see symptoms of leaky gut associated with BD. In BD patients, we can see gut chemicals in the blood by tracking a part of the gut-bacteria cell membrane called lipopolysaccharide. In healthy individuals lipopolysaccharide stays confined to the gut, but in BD patients, it leaks out, stimulating inflammation and promoting proinflammatory cytokines, which lead to greater depression and mood symptoms. Once again, we see the damaging effect of the Western diet. Eating bad fats, refined carbohydrates, sugar, and meat with very few vegetables is destructive to the bipolar brain. While the Mediterranean eating pattern is a good alternative to the Western diet, there’s another diet that has shown even more promise for treating BD. Preliminary data and case histories indicate that the ketogenic diet— which is high fat and low carbohydrate—has mood-stabilizing effects. In other words, patients with BD are more likely to have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Whether medicated or unmedicated, people with schizophrenia have less diversity of gut bacteria, and they even have some unique bacteria that aren’t found in healthy guts. As we saw with BD, SCZ patients have more gut problems than the general population. They have more inflammation, food intolerances, and defects of the gut wall leading to leaky gut. One postmortem study of gastrointestinal inflammation associated with SCZ in eighty-two individuals found that 50 percent had gastritis, 88 percent had enteritis, and 92 percent had colitis, all signs of serious gut inflammation.

BIPOLAR DISORDER CHEAT SHEET The keto diet has been shown to be a good whole-diet approach for patients with bipolar disorder. Foods to Embrace: Omega-3 fatty acids: Fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. N-acetylcysteine: While NAC itself must be taken as a supplement, cysteine-rich foods can also be effective. Try meat, grains, eggs, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, broccoli, red pepper, and onion. Vitamin B9 (folate). Minerals: Magnesium, zinc. Foods to Avoid: The components of the Western diet: Foods high in bad fats (red meat, fried foods) and high-glycemic-index carbs (white bread, white rice, potatoes, pasta, and anything else made from refined flour). Caffeine: Keep caffeine consumption under 400 mg/day. Sodium: For patients treated with lithium, it’s important to keep sodium levels constant. Gluten: If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, avoid all wheat products, such as bread, pizza, pasta, and many alcoholic drinks. Alcohol: BD patients should totally abstain from or heavily restrict alcohol use. Complications with medicine: Grapefruit juice and foods containing tyramine (aged cheese, aged or cured meats, fava beans, Marmite, sauerkraut, soy sauce, and tap beer) can interfere with some medications prescribed for BD. 

SCHIZOPHRENIA CHEAT SHEET Foods to Embrace: Omega-3 fatty acids: Fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. N-acetylcysteine (NAC): While NAC itself must be taken as a supplement, cysteine-rich foods can also be effective. Try meat, grains, eggs, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, broccoli, red pepper, and onion. Alpha-lipoic acid: Spinach, broccoli, tomato, and meats, especially organ meats like heart, kidney, and liver. L-theanine: Green, black, and oolong tea. Melatonin: Eggs, fish, milk, rice, barley and rolled oats, grapes, pomegranates, walnuts, sunflower seeds, mustard seeds, flaxseeds, asparagus, broccoli, and cucumber. Vitamins B9, B12, and C. Foods to Avoid: The components of the Western diet: Foods high in bad fats (red meat, fried foods) and high-glycemic index carbs (white bread, white rice, potatoes, pasta, and anything else made from refined flour). Gluten: If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, avoid all wheat products, such as bread, pizza, pasta, and many alcoholic drinks. Sugar: Baked goods, candy, soda, or anything sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Alcohol: SCZ patients should try to abstain from or heavily restrict alcohol use.


As for estrogen, in postmenopausal women, it appears that gut microbiota play a key role in regulating levels of estrogen circulating in the blood. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a chemical with many applications, most notably in certain kinds of nonstick cookware and food packaging. Studies have suggested the potential of PFOA and similar chemicals to disrupt the endocrine system, increasing the risk of adverse health effects. 

LIBIDO CHEAT SHEET Foods to Embrace: Foods that boost oxytocin: Dark chocolate, magnesium, and essential amino acids (found in meat, grains, milk, dairy, and, to a lesser degree, vegetables and eggs). Coffee: Keep total caffeine consumption under 400 mg/day. Red wine: No more than 1 glass/day. Nuts: Pistachios, almonds, and walnuts. Apples. Pomegranate juice. Onions. Avocados. Herbs and spices: Saffron, fenugreek. Foods and Compounds to Avoid: The components of the Western diet: Foods high in bad fats (red meat, fried foods) and high-glycemic-index carbs (white bread, white rice, potatoes, pasta, and anything else made from refined flour). Alcohol: For men, stay under 14 drinks per week and have no more than 4 drinks in any single day. For women, stay under 7 drinks per week and have no more than 3 drinks in any single day. Sugar: Baked goods, candy, soda, or anything sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Licorice: Avoid candies and other products that contain licorice extract. PFOA: Beware of nonstick cookware and food packaging that contains PFOA. Use stainless steel or cast-iron cookware, eat PFOA-free microwave popcorn, and use unbleached paper snack bags.

Next Week is the final discussion of this series, what do I eat?

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

This is Your Brain on Food: OCD, Insomnia, and Fatigue

OCD, Insomnia, and Fatigue: Based on the book "This is Your Brain on Food"


As we’ve seen with related conditions like anxiety, the gut-brain connection is a factor in OCD. Changing gut bacteria can change the course of the disease, and gut bacteria change when OCD symptoms emerge. Dietary glutamates are generally regarded as healthy in normal amounts for most individuals, but sufferers of OCD should be very careful about their glutamate intake. That’s because glutamate plays an important role in your brain as a neurotransmitter that is deeply intertwined with OCD symptoms. There are two types of dietary glutamate. Bound glutamate is usually eaten as part of a protein, and thus it can be digested and absorbed well. Free glutamate is not bound to other amino acids, which means that it can cause spikes of glutamate in the blood. You want to avoid these spikes. Free forms of glutamate are found in cured meat, Roquefort and Parmesan cheese, fish sauce, soy sauce, ripe tomatoes, broccoli, grape juice, caviar, salami, miso, and bone broths. 

OCD CHEAT SHEET Since OCD is so closely related to anxiety, the dietary recommendations for anxiety also apply here. Foods and Supplements to Embrace: N-acetylcysteine: While NAC itself must be taken as a supplement, cysteine-rich foods can also be effective. Try meat, grains, eggs, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, broccoli, red pepper, and onion. Myoinositol: Fresh vegetables, especially navy or green beans, Brussels sprouts, and lima beans; peanut butter; whole wheat bread; cantaloupe; and citrus fruits. Glycine: Meat, fish, dairy products, legumes, spinach, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, pumpkin, bananas, kiwi. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum): Available as a supplement. Vitamin B12. Spices: Turmeric with a pinch of black pepper. Foods to Avoid: MSG, other glutamates, and glutamic acid: Fish sauce, oyster sauce, tomato sauce, miso, Parmesan cheese, savory snacks, chips, ready-to-eat meals, mushrooms, spinach, seaweed, cheeses, soy sauce, fermented beans, tomatoes, and high-protein foods like meats and seafood. Gluten: If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, avoid all wheat products, such as bread, pizza, pasta, and many alcoholic drinks. 

Insomnia and Fatigue:

Maintaining the delicate balance of bacteria in your gut is crucial for healthy sleep. The gut-brain connections we see with sleep should feel familiar by now: by interacting with the immune system, your hormones, and the vagus nerve directly, gut bacteria communicate with your brain to determine sleep patterns. And once again, the interaction goes both ways, with the brain able to have an effect on gut bacteria as well. You’ve probably heard about the circadian rhythm, a twenty-four-hour internal body clock that regulates when we sleep and when we’re awake. When this sleep/wake cycle is disrupted, it leads to metabolic damage. Melatonin is available as a supplement, but it also occurs naturally in certain foods. Food sources include eggs, fish, milk, rice and other grains (barley and rolled oats), fruits (grapes, pomegranates), nuts (especially pistachios and walnuts), seeds (sunflower seeds, mustard seeds, and flaxseeds), and a variety of vegetables (asparagus, tomatoes, broccoli, and cucumber). There are nine essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body and therefore must come from food sources. Like tryptophan, L-ornithine is an essential amino acid that has the potential to improve sleep quality when you’re fatigued. It is produced in the body from foods containing L-arginine. The simplest way to get L-arginine is to eat complete protein sources, which means they contain all nine essential amino acids, which the body cannot produce on its own. These include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, soybeans, and quinoa. Foods that increase inflammation can decrease your energy availability. To reduce inflammation, it is important to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. The central tenets of an anti-inflammatory diet are as follows: Your brain is made up of 60 percent fat. In order to perform at its best, it requires a constant supply of omega-3 fatty acids—at least 2–3 g combined of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid per day. Reducing omega-6 fatty acids is key to maintaining the correct balance of omega-3s to omega-6s. Eating an excess of omega-6s can trigger the body to produce chemicals that spike inflammation. These fatty acids are found in oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut, and vegetable. That means you should cut down on mayonnaise, many salad dressings, and most processed and fast foods. A diet rich in colorful, non starchy vegetables adds polyphenols, which fight inflammation through a number of processes. Other sources of polyphenols include: cloves, star anise, cocoa powder (natural, non alkalized), Mexican oregano, dark chocolate, chestnuts, and flaxseed meal. Black and green tea, blackberries, muscadine grape seeds, apple-cider vinegar, cinnamon, and superfruits such as the maqui berry may also help to decrease inflammation. When you are on an anti-inflammatory diet, you must stabilize insulin by eating whole, plant-based foods rich in healthy fat (avocados, dark chocolate, olives, chia seeds, coconut, almonds, pecans, and walnuts) and natural chemicals. Eat vegetables such as cauliflower, green beans, and broccoli. More than two decades ago, researchers realized that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome had low magnesium levels in their red blood cells. When their magnesium was replaced, they felt more energized. Magnesium decreases inflammation and relaxes the nervous system. For example, when you exercise, lactate accumulates in your blood, which leads to tired and achy limbs. However, magnesium can prevent this lactate accumulation, which in turn helps relieve fatigue. Food sources of magnesium include dry roasted almonds, boiled spinach, dry roasted cashews, soy milk, cooked black beans, and edamame. Low zinc levels are also a hallmark of chronic fatigue syndrome, and increasing zinc can improve and prevent fatigue. Zinc deficiency is very common, with about half of the world’s population prone to zinc deficiencies due to dietary patterns. To get more zinc, incorporate lamb, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, grass-fed beef, and chickpeas into your diet.

INSOMNIA AND FATIGUE CHEAT SHEET Foods to Embrace: Omega-3 fatty acids: Fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. Melatonin: Eggs, fish, milk, rice, barley and rolled oats, grapes, pomegranates, walnuts, sunflower seeds, mustard seeds, flaxseeds, asparagus, broccoli, and cucumber. Tryptophan: Turkey, other meats, and chickpeas, especially when combined with carbohydrates. L-ornithine: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, soybeans, and quinoa. Chamomile tea. Foods containing helpful micronutrients: Lettuce, tart cherry juice, barley grass powder, maca, Panax ginseng, lingzhi, asparagus powder. For Fatigue: Anti-inflammatory foods: Omega-3s, colorful vegetables for polyphenols. Minerals: Magnesium and zinc. Vitamins B1, B6, B9, B12, C, D, and E. Capsaicin Rich foods: Chili peppers including cayenne, serranos, and jalapeños. Spices: Black cumin and turmeric. Foods to Avoid: Caffeine: You don’t have to completely eliminate caffeine, but stick to the guideline of no more than 400 mg/day, and don’t drink caffeine after three p.m. Alcohol: Though alcohol can put you to sleep, it also disrupts sleep.

Next Week: Bipolar, Schizophrenia, and Libido.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

This is Your Brain on Food: ADHD and Memory

ADHD and Memory: Based on "This is Your Brain on Food"


When you have ADHD, the connections between different brain regions are disrupted, specifically between the prefrontal cortex, the “thinking” brain, and the striatum, the part of the brain that deals with reward behaviors. Additionally, your brain chemistry is affected, particularly your levels of dopamine, the brain’s “reward” chemical, and noradrenaline, a fight-or-flight hormone. Larger molecules such as dopamine and noradrenaline cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, which means that they are confined solely to your brain. But they are made of precursor molecules—building blocks—that can. And where are these precursor molecules made? You guessed it: the gut. There is also a well-established link between ADHD and gluten intolerance or celiac disease. It’s true that sugar can have an effect on ADHD through several pathways. For instance, because it can increase adrenaline, a hormone that increases heartbeat and blood sugar levels, sugar may cause more hyperactivity. And because it reduces dopamine sensitivity in the brain, sugar can amplify impulsive reward-seeking behavior that is common in ADHD. Before diving into specific nutrients, it’s worth noting that research has shown that overall diet intervention has been effective at staving off ADHD—in other words, it’s important to eat healthily over a broad spectrum of food. Breakfast is an important meal for everyone, you want to make sure you are adequately fueled to jump-start your brain (and body) every morning. But for ADHD patients, stimulants can take a toll on appetite, so being hungry in the morning may not be a given. It is often found that creating a routine around breakfast can be helpful. Presumably, the caffeine in tea increases people’s motivation, alertness, vigilance, efficiency, concentration, and cognitive performance. On the other hand, caffeine may cause overexcitability too, so it’s important not to overdo it. One crucial type of antioxidant is polyphenols. Polyphenols are chemical weight lifters for the body’s immune response. They act as low-dose toxins that train the body to mount an immune response in a process called hormesis. Polyphenols can also exert other biological effects that are helpful to the brain; for example, they influence the survival and regeneration of neurons. The richest sources of polyphenols are berries, cherries, eggplant, onions, kale, coffee, and green tea.

ADHD CHEAT SHEET As with depression, the Mediterranean eating pattern is a great overall diet to follow for improving ADHD symptoms. Foods to Embrace: Breakfast: It’s important for ADHD sufferers to get the day started right, so try starting with a smoothie. Caffeine: While caffeine can be beneficial to ADHD, keep consumption under 400 mg/day. Polyphenols: Berries, cherries, eggplant, onions, kale, coffee, and green tea. Vitamins C and B1. Minerals: Zinc, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Foods to Avoid: Gluten: If you have celiac disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity, avoid all wheat products, such as bread, pizza, pasta, and many alcoholic drinks. Dairy, specifically A1 milk caseins: Drink and cook with products made from A2 milk, nut milk, or goat’s or sheep’s milk. Sugar: While sugar is unfairly vilified as a cause of ADHD, it’s still best to limit intake; avoid baked goods, candy, soda, or anything sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Food colorings and additives: Colorings and additives can be eliminated by following diets such as the Feingold diet or the few foods diet if ADHD symptoms don’t respond to less radical diet changes.


Given that your gut “remembers,” it should come as no surprise that it works hand in hand with your brain’s memory systems. The key to that connection lies in the chemicals that make your brain and body function, many of which are regulated by your gut. For example, the stress hormone cortisol can disrupt your ability to recall long-term memories, and as we’ve covered before, your gut bacteria affect blood cortisol levels by regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. That means that the wrong balance of gut bacteria can lead to a spike in cortisol, which in turn can put a damper on your ability to recall memories. High-fat and high-glycemic-index (high-GI) foods can alter brain pathways necessary for learning and memory, with neurons in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex especially affected. In addition to these direct effects on the brain, the Western diet compromises the blood-brain barrier, which is tasked with keeping toxic substances out of the brain. Dietary components such as saturated fat may also exacerbate inflammation in the brain, which has been linked to cognitive decline in aging and risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Inflammation disrupts many of the chemical pathways instrumental in memory formation, such as those that rely on dopamine and glutamate. The nerves themselves become sluggish and information travels far more slowly. Several types of dementia are associated with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Many animal and laboratory studies have found that extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) protects cognition. Olive oil is a source of at least thirty phenolic compounds, such as oleuropein, oleocanthal, hydroxytyrosol, and tyrosol, all of which act as strong antioxidants and brain protectors. Turmeric: Once again, turmeric and its active ingredient, curcumin, are front and center. Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neurotrophic activities. Black pepper and cinnamon: When winter arrives and you have to be outside in the cold for a long time, studies show that low temperatures can impair your cognition. But black pepper and cinnamon are two spices that can reverse this decline in thinking ability. Besides suppressing inflammatory pathways, these spices may act as antioxidants; increase the availability of acetylcholine, which improves memory; and help clear amyloid deposits, which as we’ve seen is an important factor in Alzheimer’s disease. Saffron. Rosemary: One study indicated that the aroma of rosemary changes brain waves so that people become less anxious, more alert, and better able to compute math problems. While we need more studies to have full confirmation, at this point you can assume that rosemary will help boost memory, attention, and well-being. Ginger: Ginger has also been shown to enhance working memory in middle-aged healthy women. Sage: Due to its rich array of pharmacological constituents, sage can influence cognition. Sage decreases inflammation in the brain, reduces amyloid deposits, decreases oxidative cell damage, increases acetylcholine, and helps neuronal growth. Studies have demonstrated that sage can enhance memory, attention, word recall, and speed of memory in healthy adults. Sage can also make people feel more alert, content, and calm and can improve cognition. The MIND diet (MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) has been shown to be effective at reversing and protecting against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. 

MIND Diet “Good” Foods and Their Optimal MIND Score Serving Sizes: Green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, greens, spinach, lettuce/tossed salad): 6 or more servings per week, Other vegetables (green/red peppers, squash, carrots, broccoli, celery, potatoes, peas or lima beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, string beans, beets, corn, zucchini/summer squash/eggplant): 1 or more servings per day, Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries): 2 or more servings per week, Nuts: 5 or more servings per week, Olive oil: Use olive oil as your primary oil, Whole grains: 3 or more servings per day, Fish (not fried, particularly high-omega-3 fish such as salmon): 1 or more meals per week, Beans (beans, lentils, soybeans): More than 3 meals per week, Poultry (chicken or turkey): 2 or more meals per week, Wine: 1 glass per day (it’s important to note that 1 glass of wine per day resulted in a higher MIND score than any more or less).

MEMORY CHEAT SHEET The MIND diet is the most comprehensive eating plan for ensuring a healthy memory. Eat green leafy vegetables, colorful vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, fish, beans, poultry; drink red wine. Foods and Strategies to Embrace: Calorie restriction: Work with your doctor to make a plan to reduce your total calorie intake by about 25 percent. Alcohol: Don’t abstain totally. Coffee: Coffee is beneficial, but keep total caffeine consumption under 400 mg/ day. Olive oil: Olive oil is protective, especially when used in a sofrito preparation. Herbs and spices: Turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, saffron, rosemary, ginger, sage. For brain fog: Luteolin-rich foods (juniper berries, fresh peppermint, sage, thyme, hot and sweet peppers, radicchio, celery seeds, parsley, artichokes, and dried Mexican oregano); phosphatidylserine (PS)-containing foods (white beans, eggs, and dairy); citicoline-rich foods (beef liver, egg yolks). Foods to Avoid: The components of the Western diet: Foods high in bad fats (red meat, fried foods) and high-GI carbs (white bread, white rice, potatoes, pasta, and anything else made from refined flour). Gluten: If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, avoid all wheat products, such as bread, pizza, pasta, and many alcoholic drinks.

Next week we dive into OCD, Insomnia, and Fatigue.