Have you ever noticed how coffee makes you feel more awake or sugar makes you feel hyperactive? Maybe you too have felt anxious after a heavy meal or pasta makes you feel woolly-headed? It’s not a coincidence, darlings, it’s the science of our metabolism. Our body metabolises everything we eat.
Even, unfortunately, the not-so-healthy things.
Your body is essentially one great big science lab, requiring all kinds of chemical formulae and inputs from us to keep it running smoothly. If it doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, things start to go wrong. We can develop physical illnesses like aches and pains, from weight loss or gain to greasy skin and brittle bones. Unfortunately, it’s not only our body that can be impacted by all of this snacking and indulging, our thought processes can be, too.
For our body, the more processed our food is, the longer it takes down. In order for our body to be able to break down food easily, we need to eat organically. The more chemicals and yucky bits that are added at production and now involved in the digestion process, the more our body needs to break it down. the longer it takes our body to break our food down, the more toxins get left lying around and the worse we are going to feel. There is a reason for healthy eating, it keeps these nasty chemicals from building up!
Just as the brain can lead to tummy troubles like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the opposite is also true. Havard Health states that:
The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected.Havard Health
How fascinating is that?
Last year, I went on vacation. While I was there, I developed the worst lower-right abdominal pain that I’d had in a while. It felt burning and gnawing and I feared the worst.
Not now, not on holiday.
I tried to function and enjoy myself, but the pain was unbearable. Every time I moved my right leg forward, the pain was stabbing just above my right hip. I tried to get through, but the more I tried to ignore the pain, the worse my innards felt. I could last a family vacation without needing to be admitted to the local hospital for a ruptured appendix, surely?
The pain lasted for four days. I didn’t want to say anything, but I felt truly awful. I didn’t want to go anywhere, just to hold my stomach and feel sorry for myself. Travelling was painful, walking was difficult and liquorice didn’t seem to do anything. In pain and alarmed, I decided to visit the chemist.
After some Senokot, a few glasses of water and a bathroom break later, I was perfectly fine again. Shaken and ashamed of what just happened, but nonetheless pain-free.
The culprit? Pizza, garlic bread, spicy chicken wings, topped off with a Cornish pasty. Crucially, a whole tonne of carbs and nothing at all of what is supposed to be good for me. After that, I vowed never to eat so many carbohydrates in one sitting ever again. The experience had been totally not worth it for me.
Over the past few days, my diet has been awful. I got through a Coconut Toblerone and it’s given me all kinds of hell with stomach acid. After I had a pizza on Tuesday, I spent all of yesterday with anxiety, brain fog and irritability which begs the question: Is it all really worth it?
Damn you Pizza GoGo for making your wings taste so good!
Living with anxiety and depression doesn’t mean we need to cut out what we like to eat and drink, it just means we need to be aware of the effects that these treats have on us and enjoy our favourite treats in moderation. Pay attention to what foods worsen your moods, and your body and mind may thank you.
Some of the most common culprits include:
- Refined sugar (candy, chocolate)
- Processed foods (canned, frozen, fast food)
- White flour (bread, pasta)
I’m not saying don’t have treats, but please, please be aware of what treats are so much of a treat for you, really. If something you eat causes you to feel anxious, confused or miserable, is it so much of a ‘treat’ at all?
Remember the saying “you are what you eat”, if you want to feel great, you need to eat great:
- Eat plenty of lean, unprocessed white meat (skin removed is ideal)
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits & vegetables
- Try giving up dairy and see if that helps, too
- Have sweet treats in moderation
- Opt for water or no added sugar fruit juices instead of tea or coffee
- Cook fresh, rather than buying frozen or ordering in
- Drink sensibly
Above all else, remember that exercise is also important for metabolism so be sure to keep moving for at least 30 minutes every day. Even if you don’t head to the gym, even a gentle stroll around the block after dinner can really help.
As for me, I’m now heeding my own advice and snacking on satsumas and cranberries, along with large quantities of peppermint tea. It’s a far cry from nutty chocolate but hey, at least it’s festive!
What foods do you find make your mental health particularly bad? Let me know in the comments!
Until ext time,
Stay safe & have fun,