Food is not only important for boosting your immune system and sending your MS into remission, it also has a great impact on your mood. Since having started my MS diet I have been in an exceptionally good mood most of the time. A big part of this is because I am really doing all I can to work against my illness, which is very fulfilling in itself. I recently discovered that another reason however was to do with the particular foods I was eating and their relation to mood balance in the brain. In fact, a diet recommended by nutritionists to pull oneself out of depression, is very similar to my own. Here I will outline the mental advantages of eating as I do:
Not only are saturated fats extremely harmful to us (especially those of us with MS) physically, they have also been shown to reduce intelligence and to lower our mood.
Omega 3, one of the EFAs (essential Fatty Acids) essential to people with MS found in fish and linseed also makes us happy! Not only do EFAs prevent the short-circuiting in the brain which takes place during MS, (the myelin sheath is made out of Phospholipid and EFAs (DHA or arachidonic acids) and these combine to stop those short-circuits) they also greatly improve your mood. It has been proven that there is a lower rate of depression in areas where a lot of fish is eaten, as well as a lower rate of MS of course. Among Inuits a case of MS is unknown for example.
The EPA and DHA found in oily fish and flaxseed (linseed), hemp and walnut oils is what makes up half of the fat in brain-cell membranes. Because DHA builds receptor sites and improves reception; it also improves your mood – if you have a higher level of DHA you are also likely to have higher levels of serotonin and acetylcholine. You will get enough of both EPA and DHA which are equally important and work in unison, if you eat oily fish three times a week.
The best sources are oily fish and shell-fish rich in docosahexaenoic acid (essential nutrient for the brain) like herring, mackerel, kippers, tuna, whitebait, lobster, sardines, mussels, sprats, squid, prawns and shrimp. Salmon, trout, haddock, flounder and cod are also fine. Herring, mackerel tuna and salmon will also significantly improve your mood, and your concentration span.
If you don’t like fish you can take fish oil supplements and follow the vegetarian guidelines: Vegetarians should aim at having 1 tbsp of flaxseed (linseed) and a tsp of its oil once a day. They can also try Spirulina which is a great source of Omega3 and Omega6.
Diets and drugs that lower cholesterol cause a deficiency in omega3, encouraging demyelination and leading to depression.
Phosphatidyl serine found in organ meats is extremely important for the liver, immune system, nerves and brain. It provides the building materials needed for neuronal membranes as well as neurotransmitter receptor sites. It also improves memory, mood, concentration, learning and one’s ability to cope with stress. Vegetarians can take supplements of Evening Primrose oil instead.
Protein – almost all neurotransmitters are made of it. It also influences your mood. The quality of proteins depends on its amino acid balance. You only really need eight of these as the body makes the rest itself. Click here for a list of the best proteins.
Amino Acids make serotonin, a happy neurotransmitter which makes us happy. To ensure you are getting enough it is essential to chew your food really well. Another way of ensuring your body’s absorption of amino acids is to use a quality blender such as vitamix to get amino acids out of all the food you eat, including vegetables.
Choline is essential for the building of nerve cells and the receptor sites for neurotransmitters. A deficiency in this nutrient is the most common cause of memory decline. In order to make acetylcholine – the memory neurotransmitter, your body also needs vitamin B5, B1, B12 and C. If the body is deficient in choline it will use it to make acetylcholine instead of for building nerve cells. Choline also improves concentration and can make you more alert as well as clear-minded– something very useful to people with MS who often have problems concentrating due to mental fatigue.
Choline can be foundinfish, especially in sardines, eggs, liver, soya beans, peanuts, other nuts (be careful not to eat too many because they are high in saturated fats). It can also be found in the supplement lecithin.
DMAE found in large doses in sardines and anchovies works like Choline to make acetylcholine even quicker than the latter because of the speed at which it crosses into the brain from the blood. It also reduces anxiety and improves mood significantly. It also improves attention span and regularises brain-wave patterns. Too much can cause insomnia. Vegetarians can take supplements of 100-300mg in the morning/at midday.
Carbohydrates most break down into glucose during digestion and so turn into the best fuel for our cells; the brain uses a lot of this glucose. A low-carb diets have been shown to cause low moods. The best carbohydrates are those which release a steady amount of sugar slowly into the bloodstream. To make the release of glucose into the blood slower, combine with protein. The best carbohydrates to go for are whole, unrefined grains, all vegetables and some fruit; click here for a list of the best slow-release carbohydrates.
So you see, eating well is not only good for your physical health, helping to stabilise your MS, but also for your mood. Eating well will keep you healthy and happy, so why not start now?!