GUEST POST BY JANICE LYN
A famous quote by Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine,” states the very importance of what food can and should be to us. Its purpose is not just to fill our physical hunger. There is a larger value of food in our lives. Food is often the root of our cultural background and the motivation for social gatherings. Yes, food is our medicine. It is our comfort, it is our source of energy and nutrients, it can bring back nostalgic memories of family and friends but, like anything else, it can be abused and can be bad for us without proper education.
Most North Americans consume the Standard American Diet, aka the “SAD” diet. In choosing convenience over health, the SAD diet is comprised of mostly red meat, dairy products, processed, artificially sweetened foods and salt. The SAD diet, is in fact, very sad and if the saying, you are what you eat, holds true, we shouldn’t be surprised that in North America and various parts of the world, depression is on the rise.
While mental health can have psychological and neurological causes, sometimes nutritional factors can have an effect. For example, hypoglycemia causes mood swings, anxiety attacks, fits of anger, agitation, crying spells, constant worrying, nervousness or depression. Food allergies cause inflammation or spasms to occur in various tissues of the body. If the organ affected is the brain, symptoms may include convulsions, learning disorders, mental confusion, anxiety, panic attacks, behavioral problems, uncontrolled anger, emotional outbursts, dyslexia, crying attacks, nightmares, hallucinations, delusions or paranoia. Any food has the potential to produce mental symptoms. Oftentimes, the most problematic foods are foods that you crave and cannot do without. Wheat, sugar and dairy are the most allergenic foods.
Our mood can be compromised by a diet high in adulterated fats, sugar, salt and low nutrient foods. Nutrients are critical for the biochemical processes that produce brain neurotransmitters which affect mood like serotonin and dopamine. Poor fuel negatively affects social behavior and toxins like pesticides, herbicides, food coloring and preservatives can have a disastrous effect on the central nervous system and brain.
Even when faulty nutrition is not the cause, good nutrition can always help. Start with a predominantly plant based diet, whole nutrient dense foods, low glycemic foods and incorporate fermented foods. Eliminate or restrict caffeine and alcohol. Ironically, we usually seek caffeine to get our body moving in the morning and alcohol to calm down at night. The problem is, both increase cortisol levels (stress) and inhibits proper sleep. You can opt for green tea instead of coffee to get you going in the morning. It still has caffeine but is a great source of antioxidants and has theanine which has a calming and balancing effect to caffeine. Additionally, eliminate refined carbohydrates, eat colorful whole foods, increase potassium and decrease sodium containing foods, address food allergies and avoid food additives.
Next, go to your medical doctor and have bloodwork done to see if you are deficient in any vitamins or minerals. You can start with a good multi-vitamin (quality is key) as a foundation to ensure all your bases are covered and may choose to include the following:
Antioxidants – protect brain cells from free radical damage (blueberries, colorful vegetables, dark leafy greens, pomegranate, goji berries)
Vitamin D – known as the happy vitamin. Neuronal tissue has abundant vitamin D receptors. Vitamin D supports positive mood (cod liver oil, fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel), egg yolk, cheese, liver)
Magnesium – good for anxiety and panic attacks. It acts as a natural tranquilizer and is anti-inflammatory in the brain (dark leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, brown rice)
B complex – for energy production, metabolism, methylation, support neurotransmitter production and function (fish, poultry, meat, eggs, nuts, nutritional yeast, leafy greens, beans)
Essential fatty acids – fish oil – as good source of omega 3 fatty acids which helps to combat inflammation and maintains cell membrane integrity. Deficiency is linked to depression (Cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, flax seed, chia seeds)
Zinc – is involved with all hormone production and has important roles on brain physiology and function (oysters, nuts, shellfish, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, garlic, dark chocolate)
Amino acid complex – helps to convert to feel good hormones like serotonin and dopamine (meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, beans)
Probiotics – keeps immune system strong (kimchi, saurkraut, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, miso, nato)
Fibre – to increase elimination of toxins (fruits, vegetable, ground flax seed, psyllium husks)
When I first started muaythai I fell in love with it because 1) I really loved the culture of the gym and how everyone was treated like family. 2) It was the hardest workout I ever had. There is something about tough love that keeps us coming back for more. Maybe it’s the security of knowing that if we continue to train, practice, get back up when we get knocked down, endure the pain, that we will eventually get stronger and overcome the challenges of muscle fatigue, lack of cardio, not being able to skip or kick, or being able to do 1 more push up or pull up than the week before. It’s the challenge but also the trust that you are going to get better if you just keep pushing forward. I remember the little girl inside me that jumped for joy when, after feeling like a truck patrolled through me after pad sessions with Kru, the smallest one word notion of approval like, “good” would make me feel like a million bucks because for the past month it felt like I was doing everything wrong.
When we train, we are training our minds to be strong, to not be afraid of change or constructive criticism and be open to failure because that’s where growth comes from. These are the same things we fear in life outside the gym, the same feelings one can feel when depressed. In essence, muaythai trains us to overcome the feelings of depression by training our mental to think positive in times where we feel stalled and helpless, to know that by moving forward or even changing the angle of our approach, an opening will appear for our money shot. And boy does it feel good to hit something when we have all this pent up frustration, anger and emotion. It’s that magic word, “ISH!” that allows us to let everything go (ISH!) and live in the moment (ISH!).
Sleep and rest is highly underrated. I would be the worst advocate of sleep and rest because it’s hard to prioritize when you are blessed with a body that requires little to no rest to function and a mind that is stubborn enough to stick it though and ignore the physical cries of fatigue and pain. How I would have loved to see my performance if I consistently had good rest.
Sleep is where your body recovers. Your body cannot be awake and recover at the same time. Sleep is your body’s time to heal and detoxify itself of the environmental toxins and chemical stresses of the day. With little to no sleep we accumulate toxins and this leads to feeling tired in the morning, slow to react, moody, inflamed and in pain. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to more serious problems like heart disease, diabetes, increased incidence of injury, mental illness and even cancer. Learn to listen to your body. You’re in it for the long run so take care of your health span and protect the quality of life you will have when you’re over 60.
When you EAT healthy, TRAIN and practice good REST and SLEEP and REPEAT you are building a habit of good mental health. You are taking charge of your body. You are accountable for your presence at the gym and what you eat. If you’re feeling weak, the magic of the Krudar family is that your training partners or your trainer will pull you up when you are feeling down. You build a habit of feeling confident because you can feel it from within and you will believe it because you will see the results in the mirror from your hard work. Everyone craves independence. Choose how you want to feel, how you want to look and the type of people you want to surround yourself with. Remember you have a choice.