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Better Food, Better Mood

Holiday Chess MatchEver wonder why little Jimmy is bouncing off the walls after a holiday meal? Or Uncle Henry is more argumentative than ever? How about those underlying conflicts that seem to escalate during the holiday season?

We know the shorter days, the consumption of alcohol, the high expectations, and other underlying issues contribute to holiday stress, but rarely do we consider the "food factor."

At one time in our history, holiday fare consisted of real food: Our buffets were full of fresh, organic vegetables, pastured and grass-fed meats, and good, healthy fats. Today our "traditional" meal offers a smorgasbord of chemically altered, sugary, starchy, processed foods.

What are the implications to our health? The long-term implications are evident. Obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses have skyrocketed. The short-run implications, however, may be just as daunting.

In her book Deep Nutrition, Dr. Catherine Shanahan discusses the immediate, addictive, mood-altering effect of sugar on the brain, comparing its effects to that of heroin.

Though sugar doesn't actually contain opiates like heroin, it affects us in very much the same way because it makes us release our own endogenous opiates."

Often we experience the post-sugar letdown and resolve it by eating more sugar, creating a vicious cycle that easily escalates during the holidays.

When considering mood and food, it's important to note that 90 percent of our "happiness" neurotransmitter, serotonin, is located in the gut. We know this intuitively. You're not "happy" when you're searching for the Pepto-Bismol. That "happy" feeling is simply not possible when in the throes of digestive tumult such as vomiting, diarrhea, or severe abdominal pain. It makes sense then to treat our gut lining with the utmost care, especially during the holidays.

What can you do to avoid the sugar crashes and temper flares? Consider the following five suggestions.

Five Ways to De-Stress Your Holidays with Healthier Food Choices

  1. Under eat. Do not fill your stomach to capacity. Our tendency to overeat (even good foods) can contribute to sluggishness, fuzzy thinking, and poor mood. Leave your stomach partially empty. Eat slowly to help notice when you begin to feel full.
  2. Try a healthier appetizer. Consider a raw vegetable tray with a yogurt dip to help digestion in advance. Probiotic additions to your meal will go a long way to optimize your digestion and resulting mood. Other healthy appetizers include toasted pumpkin seeds, cultured carrot sticks, and deviled eggs featuring homemade lacto-fermented mayonnaise.
  3. Consider a lower-starch alternative. Sugar and starch are one and the same. Sugar is a simple carb. Starch is a complex carb, which means a string of simple sugars. Starch may take a bit longer to enter your bloodstream, but too much starch has a similar effect to too much sugar. Consider red potatoes or mashed cauliflower. Add good quality fats such as butter, ghee, or coconut oil to any starchy vegetable to help stabilize blood sugars. Or, try your hand at homemade sour cream for a nice probiotic addition.
  4. Add fermented foods. Gut bacteria plays a crucial role in the communication between our brain and gut. When healthy bacteria is introduced, our mood is directly impacted via our gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA works to calm the nervous system, a big plus during the holiday season. Options for holiday probiotic foods include cultured cranberry chutney, water kefir, sauerkraut, and more. Cultures for Health offers a wonderful array of recipes titled Incorporating Cultured and Fermented Foods into Your Holiday Dishes.
  5. Experiment with a healthier dessert. Naturally sweet foods such as fresh fruit and winter squash can go a long way toward satisfying that post-meal sweet tooth. Coconut cream, coconut flour, and coconut oil offer wonderful opportunities for healthy, wholesome desserts. If this is new for your family, offer a healthier option in addition to your traditional fare. Helpful recipe sources include Free Coconut Recipes and Nourished Kitchen's Sweet Things & Desserts.

With some innovation, thought, and intention, you may find little Jimmy and grouchy Uncle Henry playing a nice relaxing game of chess after your holiday dinner!

Quotes

"Both of my sons went downhill quickly and coughed for months... They both lost their ability to read, had profound vision disturbances, and had phenomenal gastric issues."

– Lee

"I have been sick for almost 6 months now and doctors were not able to figure out why. I finally put it all together after going away for vacation for a week and suddenly my symptoms were going away."

– Anonymous

"We all suffered from headaches, hormonal body temperature fluctuations, brain fog, fatigue, difficulty breathing, thrush, rashes, and yeast infections... we vacated our home two weeks ago."

– Anonymous

"The entire time we lived in our (mold-infested) house the kitchen sponge would get musty smelling within 3-4 days. It was so strange. I had to buy a pack of sponges nearly every week."

– Anonymous

"I've been living in a mold-infested home for 13 months... I was going CRAZY! Finally figured it out... Just a few days of recovering in a mold-free home and I feel AMAZING!!!"

– Lauren

"I was skeptical at first that these (natural cleaning) products would work, but they work better than the stuff I buy at the store! We will soon be moving to the personal care products as well!"

– Jennifer

"My daughter has had many blood samples taken to test for everything imaginable and her doctor just seems puzzled. Everything comes back normal."

– Anonymous

"We had some water leaks in our home... we never thought we needed to clean out and remove the floor, the ceiling, or the drywall... my two small children and I have remained constantly sick for years in this home."

– Mia

"My daughter started having digestive problems... heart palpitations... coughing episodes... muscle/joint pain... asthma/allergies... Her doctor finally advised me to check for mold in our home."

– Anonymous

"I started finding myself sitting on the floor in rooms of my house and not remembering how I got there, what I was doing before, or how long I had been there."

– Brenda

"...at age 35 or 36 I started to become allergic to everything, and I got asthma at age 36... I went to doctor after doctor after doctor and was desperate for help, but nobody could help me."

– Mia

"I had been struggling with headaches, head fog, breathing difficulties (unable to get a full breath), constant scalp tingling, migraines, nausea, feeling spacey/detached, and severe itchy skin."

– Anonymous

"Our family has been out of our home for 9 months due to mold... I am so scared and weak from all of this. We have lost friends; family members don't understand."

– Anonymous

"We were having a lot of health problems and had been to the doctor countless times... we had large circles of slimy greenish-black mold on the bathroom ceiling, where it had caved in a few months before."

– C.

"I knew it was mold, but doctors kept telling me I had anxiety. I was sitting in my office and could not remember who I was talking to, or what we were talking about."

– Brenda

"I'm new at this, but today I cleaned my bathroom with baking soda and vinegar. It's much better not having those strong chemical smells afterwards."

– Anonymous

"In my moldy home if I left the wet clothes in the washer they would get musty very quickly and I'd have to re-wash... Sometimes I'd run a load, go to work, and they'd be musty when I returned that evening."

– Anonymous

"The ERMI mold test as well as your helpful articles and Toxic Talk Tuesday programs have helped us avoid a terrible mistake in purchasing a new home."

– Angela

"My symptoms persisted and eventually turned into lethargy and depression. At the age of 26, I required a nap every evening after work."

– Jennifer

Dedication