Have you ever said to your co-worker that your morning was terrible because you didn’t get your coffee? Of if you missed breakfast or lunch, you get cranky and don’t want to talk to others. It is definitely believed that nutrition is important to balance of our mental health. Nutrition affects the way your brain works and what behaviors you exhibit.
Lack of nutrition can cause a low amount of energy to the brain. Up to 30 percent of the energy we consume is used by the brain during resting. So if you are depriving your brain of nutrition, you will see the affects of it in your mental capacity. You are more likely to show signs of sadness, depression, and emotional anguish when you are low on nutrition.
Without regular nutrition, babies can develop damage to the brain. Depending on the nutrition that is lacking, the level of damage can be very severe. Malnourished children have been in studies that show that they have low intelligence levels and poor cognitive learning. It is true what we have learned all our lives that we need fruits, vegetable, protein, grains, and legumes. All of these foods have carbohydrates, lipids, and vitamins that help you in different ways but all are needed. So, not only does the proper nutrition help your moods and brain function, it also helps your whole body stay healthy.
Certain diet fads tell you to limit or eliminate particular types of foods, like carbs, proteins, and fats. While it is good to not overindulge in these foods, it is very important that you have enough of these substances in your body. This is why before you start any diet; you should consult with your doctor or nutritionist before starting a routine.
Balance. The elusive ideal preached to us by acupuncturists and holistic health gurus of all kinds. The power of balance is that if we move in its direction even a little, we benefit. As an example, a recent article in the news detailed how a man lost 40 lbs eating only McDonald’s food, and by adding a daily walk. How could the worst of the fast food joints possibly bring him closer to health? The answer is that he was previously eating too much, and even though he was consuming poor quality food at McDonald’s, the new amount he consumed was closer to balance. The quality of the food may not have changed, but a small movement in the direction of a healthier amount was enough to cause beneficial health effects. Adding a daily walk was another movement in the right direction.
Now let’s talk about extremes.
I have a friend who recently posted to Facebook that he had over-eaten during the holidays, and now he wanted to balance his bad eating by fasting for several days. This is a common practice. We often see binging and purging, feasting followed by fasting, or going to the gym for hours to make up for poor meals. Or, after years of poor nutrition, some will eat only raw fruits and veggies for a month, or try the master cleanse, or some other seemingly healthy way to kick-start a movement toward health.
The problem is this: none of these approaches makes sense if one is trying to achieve balance. And, if one is trying to achieve health, TRUE HEALTH, then one is trying to achieve balance, because truly deep health only comes when our systems are harmonized and in balance.
My friend even tried to justify his behavior by comparing what he was doing to the theory of yin and yang. He said that if he ate too much and sat too much (yin) that the appropriate course of action was to balance that with lots of exercise and fasting (yang). Here’s the catch: you cannot achieve balance by acting out an imbalance of either side of the spectrum. The only way to achieve balance is to stop the extreme behavior, return to balance, and wait for it to harmonize the system and heal the damage done by the imbalanced behavior. Trying to achieve balance by acting out in the opposite extreme is like trying to stop a pendulum from swinging by lifting it to the opposite side. As soon as we let go, it swings back again, and possibly with more force than when we seized it to begin with. The only way to stop the pendulum is to let it rest in the middle.
The first suggestion I tell parents who are struggling with a hyperactive child is to stay away from any food colorings, especially the added colorings in juices, cereals, snacks, and vitamin supplements. These food colorings affect the functioning of the nervous system. Our liver cannot break down these chemicals and they affect our neurotransmitters, and eventually our thinking ability. It is amazing the amount of food coloring found in processed foods. Significant increases in hyperactivity occur after getting 20 mg. of food coloring per day, which is much less than the amount found in many processed foods today.
When food additives are added to natural foods both physical and behavioral problems can occur. The three most common symptoms found when we get too many food additives are headaches, anxiety, and upset stomach. Common food additives to watch out for, beside food colorings, are preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine. Preservatives are found in all processed foods, and even in some of the natural foods such as fruits and vegetables. It is difficult to get all fresh food unless you grow it yourself. Preservatives prevent spoilage of food so that it can be transported from the farm or factory to our grocery stores.
The FDA generally regards each of these food additives as safe, at least in small quantities. But when combining them in foods and then looking at the potential cumulative effect, we have to realize that the more preservative and food additives we get on a daily basis, the more our liver has to detoxify. That is why headaches and bloating are common symptoms of too many food additives.
The Feingold program is a children’s nutritional program that recommends a diet based on foods that do not contain artificial flavors, preservatives, and food colorings. Numerous research studies found that symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder improved between 50 and 70% of the time while children followed this nutritional program.
One study, published in Lancet in 1985, showed that 79% of hyperactive children had symptoms improve when food chemicals were removed from their diet. Then when the food chemicals were re-introduced the symptoms returned. Sugar was found to have a similar detrimental effect as food chemicals. In controlled studies done at juvenile correctional facilities in the 1980s, they found that behavior improved in 47% of the 12 facilities that took part in the Feingold program, which included over 8000 juveniles.