Do Chemicals in Food Alter Moods?

The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ is true in many respects. The most important one for people in recovery is understanding how the food they take in everyday impacts mood and overall physical health. Your body cannot sustain a poor diet of high sugar, high carb foods for a long time without suffering some health consequences. The body is designed to run on fuel that includes vital nutrients to keep things running smoothly and support cardiovascular health. Learn more about why the chemicals in food can alter your mood and how to make healthier choices in recovery.

Kicking Sugar

People mistakenly think trading one thing for another is going to help them be healthier when it comes to food. When someone says they will stop drinking soda but take up drinking diet instead, they are simply trading one sugar for another. It may not be the same sugar, but it does not have any more nutrients or vitamins than regular soda. Switching to water is the healthiest option instead of soda to stay away from sugary beverages. You may also run the risk of crossover addiction where sugar is traded off for whatever substances you stopped using in rehab. Sugar can also kick up issues like diabetes and cause kidney problems down the road. Companies pay a lot of money to market food to the masses, so be mindful of reading labels for sugar content to stay within a healthy range and support a better recovery.

Chemicals and Addiction

The chemicals in food can activate the reward system in the brain as much as any other substance can, causing cravings for that drug. Food high in calories, very sweet, salty, or fatty foods usually have altered chemical states which cause this challenge. When you consider food and mood issues, you may not think about the gut. What happens in the gut is a burgeoning field of psychiatry and psychology, focusing on how to help people understand gut health, diet, and mood disorders. When someone is prescribed an antidepressant (SSRI), many people experience gut distress like nausea and vomiting. There is a two-way communication system between the gut and brain via the vagus nerve. The gut-brain axis offers a deeper understanding of diet and disease. For instance, some of the following foods contain antidepressant nutrients and may help boost mood for people who struggle with depression:

  • Lettuce
  • Cauliflower
  • Strawberries
  • Salmon
  • Oysters
  • Spinach

Most greens and fruits contain healthy antioxidants and nutrients needed to be healthier in mind and body. A better diet is only one aspect of treatment, so it is imperative to work on a holistic approach to recovery rather than focus on changing one thing.

Healthier Alternatives

If you want to change your diet to support recovery and mood, you can start with a few simple, small steps. This may include:

  • Eating more whole fruits and veggies
  • Get fiber from legumes and grains
  • Include probiotic supplements or food with it for better health
  • Eat seafood and lean poultry
  • Reduce sugar where possible and replace with unsweetened alternatives (watch for aspartame or alternative sweeteners)

The more sugar and low nutrient dense foods you cut out, the more you can save on your mental health. The chemical composition of some foods like sugar and carbs can change the way your gut responds, helping both your digestion and your mood. This healthy double whammy may be just the ticket you need to move forward into a healthier, more balanced, recovery.

Healthy eating can be a change from the way you are used to eating. It may be difficult to shift everything at once when it seems your whole life just changed overnight. We offer a holistic approach to recovery and support your journey with therapy, counseling, group work, and nutritional support that helps you make better choices in recovery. The Last Resort provides a safe, supportive environment for men in a retreat-like setting. Call us to find out more: 512-750-6750