Mood & Food: Is your moodiness simply a nutrient deficiency?

We’ve all felt moody, irritable, cranky, and depressed at times, but have you ever thought it was possible to reduce these symptoms by tweaking your diet?

Our bodies require certain nutrients to thrive, just like cars require oil, gas, and maintenance to run properly. When we do not nourish our bodies, we shouldn’t be surprised when it starts breaking down (think depression/anxiety, irritability, diseases, pain, fatigue, fogginess, etc.). (click here to tweet this)

My single mission is to help women get healthy so they can transform the world through their positive influence. When women get healthy, they radiate light to everyone they come in contact with, make better decisions, serve their communities, and love more effectively. It is so much more than a number on a scale because our work goes deep into the very essence of her humanity – the part where she is created in the image of God and loved – and brings out the best of her unique giftedness for the greater good.

I know I have experienced this firsthand. I spent the first 21 years of my life running from the dirt that had buried me alive and the next five beginning my healing journey. Life up to 21 was spent making destructive decisions, trying to develop more and more willpower, and doing everything possible to escape (if it sounds very self-centered, it was). The more I heal, the more I want to take positive actions, develop discipline, and live intentionally to love and serve every single person I come in contact with. I want to give of myself by sharing my story and what is possible when we trust God and each other.

Part of my vitality journey was embracing my body and loving myself through the food I eat and the way I spend my time. Interestingly, I found that life got easier, that I was far less irritable, anxious, or depressed when I ate real food.

As I began devouring the science about nutrition and health, I learned some astonishing things. Did you know that the amount of fat we eat influences our behavior and mood? Did you know that certain types of fat alleviate aggression, irritability, depression, ADHD, and can stall symptoms of dementia? What about a certain type of fat decreasing PMS symptoms?

Would you want to know more?

 

The Essential Brain Ingredient

Our brains are primarily composed of fat. And the amount and type of fat we eat has direct health effects (and no, I’m not talking about making us fat).

Fat is essential for optimal nervous system functioning. Let that sink in. Our nervous system – i.e., brain & nerves spanning the entire body – controls EVERYTHING. It makes our heart beat, it’s how we think, feel, breathe, live, remember things.

Without the right kind of fat, our nerves cannot signal properly and we begin degrading. Much of our brains consist of cholesterol, not a bad thing, but an essential nutrient for thriving. This is why mental confusion, and memory loss are side effects of statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs.

It’s common knowledge that omega-3 fats improve heart health, but their benefits on brain health are less well-known. Omega-3 fatty acids are a primary component of our Central Nervous System because of their fluidity and antioxidant properties. In other words, they conduct electrical current very well, so they are vital for a happy, healthy, disease-free life!

 

Three Types of Omega-3s

Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats (i.e., PUFAs) that conduct electrical current well and are a critical component of cell membranes. They contribute to homeostasis, renewal, and regeneration in the body. Plus, their structure protects them against oxidative damage (think free radicals). The amount of these fatty acids found in our cell membranes, however, is dependent on our ongoing intake of food sources, so quality and quantity are crucial!

Two types of omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA – are found primarily in animal sources, like wild caught fish (salmon, mackerel, krill, sardines) and grassfed beef. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are antioxidants that feed cell membranes and must be continually consumed through food for optimal living.

Another type of omega-3 fatty acid – ALA – is found in plant sources, like flax seeds, canola oil, walnuts, and algae. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), however, is not found in large concentrations in cell membranes like EPA/DHA, and must be converted to EPA/DHA to provide any health benefits.

So what if your moodiness, irritability, and fogginess are simply a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids instead of simply aging or something being wrong with you?! DHA/EPA are found in largest estimated concentration in the eyes, brain, and sperm, so it’s no wonder that it is essential in childhood development of visual and sensory function, cognitive function and maintenance, behavior modification, and mood control.DHA is one nutrient absolutely required for the development of the sensory, perceptual, cognitive, and motor neural systems during the brain growth spurt (1).”

DHA seems to be more important in the machinery of the nervous system while EPA is more influential on behavior and mood. I think of this like the complete picture of a business. On the inside, the maintenance of a solid infrastructure is essential to producing a quality product, while on the outside, the marketing, goodwill, and face of the company is essential to growth and sales.

So, What Are The Brain Benefits of Omega-3s Exactly?

Here are some effects of omega-3 fatty acids on brain health (EPA & DHA specifically):

  • Improved sense of well-being, cognitive performance, attention, and mood.
  • Increased DHA levels decreases risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease by 1/2.
  • Improved symptoms of agitation & depression
  • Improvement in mood disorders – major depressive disorder, manic depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder*, anorexia. (*Interestingly, flaxseed oil, a commonly encouraged source of omega-3 fats (ALA), may trigger manic episodes).
  • Decreased DHA is associated with increased post-partum depression
  • Decreased PMS symptoms
  • Krill oil is beneficial for declining memory, learning, other cognitive functions, and mood & stress management.
  • Krill oil decreased C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation (but not fish oil)

* It’s important to note here that vegetable sources of the omega-3 precursor ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) – think walnuts, canola oil, and flaxseeds – are NOT the same as omega-3s obtained from animal sources! ALA must be converted to EPA and DHA to produce the same benefits, but this process is shoddy at best and not reliable. Five percent or less of ALA is converted to EPA and less than 0.5% of ALA is converted to DHA. Therefore, it is vitally important to obtain your omega-3 fatty acids from animal sources!

How Do I Increase Omega-3 Intake?

The absolute best way to increase omega-3 intake is through real food sources as often as possible. Specifically, eating wild-caught fish and grassfed meat (and/or tallow) 2-3x per week will provide the most benefit.

Below real food sources are supplements. Always discuss supplementation with your health care provider for your unique circumstances and combination information with other drugs you may be taking. Generally, 1g/day of fish oil (combined EPA/DHA) provides the most benefit. Depending on the situation, some people will experience more benefits with higher dosages (up to 4g combined EPA/DHA per day) for a targeted period of time (35 – 90 days).

Make no mistake, quality matters when it comes to supplements. WalMart/Target/Costco brands don’t cut it. If your fish oil supplement is not processed correctly, all of the unsaturated fats oxidize, turning them into rancid free radicals. When this happens, you are taking high dosages of free radicals instead of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids! Yikes! Below, are the supplemental forms of omega-3 fatty acids that I personally recommend and use:

 

Your Get Healthy Assignment

Wow, the brain benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are too much to ignore! Take a few minutes to think through your life and eating habits.

If you experience any of the above issues, how would your life be different if you experienced these less? How much more of a light could you be to your family, your community, and the world? How much more could you be of service? How much more could you accomplish? 

Is it so hard to eat more wild-caught fish? Cook with grassfed tallow? And nourish your brain?

You’re worth it! Since you’re worth it, go ahead and leave a comment below telling me what you think, okay? And share this with your friends and family whom you know this info can help!

Source:

Kidd, Parris M., Omega-3 DHA and EPA for Cognition, Behavior, and Mood: Clinical Findings and Structural-Functional Synergies with Cell Membrane Phospholipids 

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