Food, Mood & You

Did you know the foods you eat can make you angry, sad, tired, anxious…even hostile?

While Americans increasingly turn to antidepressant, anti-anxiety and other psychoactive drugs for mood issues, the fact is no one was born with a Prozac deficiency. There are many possible causes for these symptoms, but the relationship between food and mood is often ignored, and may not be obvious since the offending food may not affect you until hours or days after ingesting.

So how do you know if foods are affecting your mood or behavior?  Here are some clues.

If you feel moody or fatigued the same time each day, crave sweets, use alcohol daily, have trouble maintaining your ideal weight or wake up tired and grouchy, then you may be experiencing low blood sugar, hypoglycemia. Once treated as an imaginary diagnosis, it is now recognized as a source of mood and behavior change. Our brains and body systems require a steady level of blood sugar to function normally. Low blood sugar can cause mood changes and causes a release of stress hormones, which can cause anxiety.

Some people are more likely to have low blood sugar events than others, but anyone who starts their day with a breakfast that is mostly simple carbohydrates or sugar (scones, doughnuts, muffins) may experience low blood sugar a few hours later.

To prevent these episodes, start by planning three meals per day to provide a steady source of blood sugar.


  • Long-acting lean protein like fish and fowl
  • Medium-acting good fats, such as fish and vegetable oils
  • Shorter-acting complex carbohydrates—for example: whole grain cereals, bread, starchy vegetables and legumes

The second step is to avoid or minimize simple carbohydrates like sweets and alcohol, because they create a rapid increase in blood sugar that can rebound to low blood sugar.

Food allergies and food sensitivities—they are different—can affect mood and behavior. If allergy tests fail to identify the offender, there are other ways to find the answer, including food-challenge and elimination diets. Once identified, the problem food can be removed and often reintroduced later without incident.

Stimulants and suppressants in your diet can also be a problem. Ironically the remedies you rely on to address fatigue, anxiety, stress and depression, such as caffeine from coffee, tea, soda pop or chocolate, ginger, alcohol (a stimulant and depressant) may be making things worse. The double mocha that brightens your morning may be the reason your afternoon, evening or even the next day are darker, unless, of course, you take another jolt.

Many food additives and residues also affect mood and behavior. Certified organic produce and free-range, organically-fed animal products will limit these exposures. Read labels and don’t let industry and government agencies exclude this information from labels.

The food-mood connection is real and can have a dramatic impact on your quality of life. If you suspect you have food issues, and these simple strategies don’t provide a solution, there are other reasonable avenues to pursue with your doctor.  Good references include the book “Sugar Blues” by William Duffy and free classes at

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Underappreciated Magnesium

Are you getting enough?

Ask most people about the importance of dietary magnesium and they’ll give you a blank stare.  Yet magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the body and is needed for a number of critical functions.

It’s used in maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, keeping bones strong, maintaining a steady heartbeat and is good for immune health.  It also helps with blood sugar regulation and promotes normal blood pressure.  Unfortunately, the standard American diet is low in magnesium, and many of us have sub-optimal magnesium levels, leading to long-term health consequences.

Magnesium deficiency

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Chest tightness
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss

Some medical conditions, like diabetes, increase the likelihood of magnesium deficiency, and some medicines induce magnesium deficiency ­– certain chemotherapies, cyclosporine, diuretics, laxatives, and some antibiotics.

Benefits of Magnesium

Numerous studies indicate that magnesium is useful in treating heart disease, including MI (“heart attack”), heart rhythm disturbances, angina and congestive heart failure.  Additionally, magnesium helps to maintain normal blood pressure and in some cases lowers blood pressure. Magnesium may also be useful in the treatment and prevention of asthma, migraines, insomnia and restless leg syndrome.

Magnesium also plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism, so when magnesium deficiency is corrected in people with diabetes, they may see improved insulin response and action.

Food sources for magnesium

The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 320 mg for adult women and 420 mg for adult men. Magnesium is found in whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, dark green veggies, fish and meat.

Top foods for magnesium are:

  • Spinach
  • Almonds
  • Wheat bran
  • Cashews
  • Soy beans
  • Whole grain cereals like bran flakes
  • Other beans and lentils

Unfortunately, when grains are processed, most of the magnesium is lost.  Which means that soft white bread kids love has very little magnesium, while whole wheat bread is a good source.

If you are considering taking a magnesium supplement, check with your doctor or other health professional first.

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Inflammation of the prostate? Get relief, naturally.

Men…ever experience moderate to severe pain in the pelvis, lower back or genitalia, combined with urination problems – things like burning, irritation or difficulty while urinating, frequent or urgent urination, getting up in the night to urinate?  You’re not alone!  You may be suffering from prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate gland – the most common urological disorder diagnosed in males over 50, and the third most common in younger males.

There are four types of prostatitis and a variety of conventional treatment options.

  • Type I – acute bacterial prostatitis
  • Type II – chronic bacterial prostatitis
  • Type III – chronic abacterial prostatitis
  • Type IV – asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis

Depending on the type and severity of symptoms, conventional treatment may include prostate massage, surgery, physical therapy, psychiatric counseling and/or medications such as antibiotics, alpha adrenergic blockers to help urine flow, and muscle relaxants.  Type III, also known as chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS), is especially challenging to treat medically.

Thankfully there are natural treatments that may provide relief and can increase the effectiveness of conventional treatment.  Let’s take a look…

Quercetin & Other Supplements

Quercetin, a flavonoid found in apples and onions, and commonly used in natural seasonal allergy supplements, has been shown to reduce symptoms of Type III prostatitis in clinical studies.  In another study, 89.6% of patients with chronic bacterial prostatitis (Type II) who took an antibiotic along with additional supplements of saw palmetto, stinging nettle, quercetin, and curcumin had no symptoms compared to 27% of those who only took the antibiotic.  What’s more, patients in the first group had no recurrence of symptoms even six months after treatment, compared to two patients who had recurrence in the second group.


Acupuncture is another effective alternative.  Prostatitis sufferers treated with ten weeks of acupuncture were almost twice as likely to have reduced symptoms compared to those who had a sham (dummy) treatment, and were also more likely to experience long-term benefits.  Electroacupuncture, with advice and exercise, also proved to be more effective than either sham acupuncture with advice and exercise, or advice and exercise alone in reducing symptoms.

Prostatitis can be challenging to treat, but there are options to explore – both medical and alternative.  Please note, however, that while natural treatments may be effective, they can also interfere with other medications and may have side effects, such as thinning your blood.  These issues are very manageable, but it’s important to contact a licensed practitioner for proper diagnosis, treatment and guidance.

To your health!

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Ear Infections – Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

From medicine & nature

My ear hurts!

Be it whined, screamed, whimpered, or pantomimed as a tug on the ear by an infant, most parents or caretakers of young children have witnessed the symptoms of otitis media (OM), also known as middle ear infection.  OM is common in children 6 months to 3 years of age, and boys have a slightly higher chance of developing it, as do certain ethnicities like American Indians and Inuits.  Thankfully, after age five, the occurrence of OM typically decreases.

What causes it?

Ears contain a Eustachian tube that helps to balance pressure and drain secretions from the nasal cavities and throat.  When this tube becomes blocked, fluids and ear pressure build, and that’s what creates the feeling of pressure and pain.

Secondarily, fluid trapped in the ear can become a playground for bacteria, especially when associated with an upper respiratory infection, which leads us to the two types of OM.

Types & Treatments

There are two types of OM: OM without bacterial infection and OM with bacterial infection.  Antibiotics are usually given to treat the bacterial form.  (Note that while studies show antibiotics to be effective, they can cause adverse reactions in some children.)

Some forms of OM are associated with the anatomy of the Eustachian tube.  In these cases your doctor may recommend Myringotomy surgery for recurring OM.

Natural vs. Conventional Treatment

Conventional medicine is relatively effective for the bacterial form of OM, but offers little for the prevention of either type. The good news is that naturopathic medicine offers many alternatives, supported by scientific research. These therapies boost immunity and also help with pain relief during an occurrence of OM.

Here are a few natural tips for ear health…

  • Increase water intake in children who are able to drink water
  • Breast feed
  • Make sure children are getting consistently adequate sleep
  • Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Decrease use of pacifiers
  • Increase intake of fresh berries in children able to eat them
  • Decrease foods with processed sugars

OM is rarely fatal, but when it becomes chronic, it can lead to hearing loss and speech delays.  It’s very important to ask your doctor to determine the cause and type of your child’s OM, so you can get the proper treatment.


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Five Exercise Tips for Outdoor Winter Exercise

Year ‘round, indoors or out, it’s important to follow certain healthy habits before, during and after exercise to prevent injury and get the most out of your workout.   But, if you prefer outdoor exercise, you’ll need to take extra precautions during winter.

Here are five quick tips…

1.  Warm up

Contrary to popular belief, stretching before exercise does not help prevent injuries, but warming up is important to increase blood flow to muscles and promote flexibility. Try these…

2.  Dress appropriately

Dress in layers and use appropriate fabrics.  Start with a thin wicking layer like a polypropylene shirt.  Don’t use cotton, as it holds in moisture.  Add a warming layer and top with an outer waterproof layer.  As soon as you start to sweat, remove a layer.  If you dress too warmly or don’t have layers to remove, you may sweat too much too quickly, and then get chilled from the sweat.

Make sure hands, feet and ears are appropriately protected.

If running or biking in the dark, make sure you have lights, reflective gear or high-visibility clothing.

Skiers and snowboarders…a helmet and other safety gear are absolute musts.

3.  Hydrate

Whether hot or cold, you can become dehydrated from exercise, although it may be harder to notice in cold weather.   Drink water or sports drinks before, during and after your workout, even if you’re not feeling thirsty.

4.  Diet

If you’re a morning exerciser, make sure you eat before going out.  For workouts longer than an hour, break for a snack or sports drink that contains electrolytes and sugar.

To maximize your recovery after exercise, eat something within two hours that contains both protein and carbohydrates.  Refueling in this way helps your muscles recover and repair.

5.  Supplements

Exercise increases oxidative stress and protein utilization, but be cautious about supplementing with heavy doses of antioxidants and proteins.  We recommend a good multivitamin that contains 100% of daily values as the only antioxidant supplementation most people need.

With regard to protein, you can find many supplements and protein powders marketed specifically to athletes these days.  Yet consuming excessive protein over a long period of time may put a burden on your kidneys.  Be careful!  Your absolute protein requirement does not rise much with average exercise; only if you’re training for something as rigorous as the Olympics or an Ironman.  As mentioned above, your muscles will recover best if you eat a protein- and carbohydrate-rich snack or meal within two hours of exercise.

Minerals, which are also depleted during exercise, are another story. Calcium and magnesium, as well as potassium, are excellent for reducing muscle soreness and preventing muscle cramps.  Some supplements, such as Muscle Aid by Biogenesis, provide a nice balance of minerals, amino acids (protein) and a few key vitamins to help with recovery.

Herbs and plant medicines can also be used to help with things like inflammation and muscle soreness. Turmeric root, for example, is an excellent antioxidant and Boswellia has been shown to help with joint pain.

This winter, we encourage you to remain active and enjoy the beauty of the Northwest, even if you’re tempted to curl up by the fire instead.  Your body will thank you, if you follow these simple tips.

And, while most people who follow these tips will be completely fine exercising outdoors in winter, if you have cold- or exercise-induced asthma, Raynaud’s syndrome or some heart conditions, please check with your doctor first.

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