We’ve all been there.
A long stressful day at work, and we failed to plan our meals accordingly.Or worse, we exert the time and energy to prepare our food, but office calamity and eponymous ‘fire-fighting’ steal the wind from our sails. So, in turn, our blood sugar turns into a turbulent roller coaster leaving us lethargic, ravenous and ultimately capitulated by comfort food.
But why do we reach for comfort food?
There are three elements which drive us toward the bad stuff: low serotonin, poor gut flora, and imbalanced hormones. And here are three tips for improving them.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for maintaining our Circadian Rhythm (natural sleep cycles), memory, and boosting mood. Our brain, just like our muscles, consumes blood sugar to function and produce serotonin. So, when blood sugar drops, so do our serotonin levels.
For the sake of efficiency, our body seeks what it knows to be the quickest source of energy to spike serotonin levels: comfort food. The reason being, comfort food is generally composed of processed, refined carbohydrates and/or simple sugars which are guaranteed to give an instant jolt in blood sugar. The problem with this is that not only does this add inches to your waistline by signaling body fat storage, but the brain also recognizes this pattern and begins to crave these substances when your blood sugar crashes.
The solution: retrain your brain by eliminating tempting junk food and replacing it with unprocessed, whole foods. A diet higher in quality animal fats (i.e. raw unpasteurized cow’s whole milk, organic whole eggs, etc) willkeep your blood sugar stable and optimize fat-burning hormones. Be sure to limit caffeine intake, as well. Caffeine desensitizes key serotonin receptors in the brain, reducing the efficacy of your healthy eating efforts. Also, try supplementing with amino acids such as L-Tryptophan or 5-HTP, which are precursors to serotonin. Take 500-1,000mg 1-3 times per day for optimal results.
Restore Gut Flora
As mentioned above, comfort foods are typically composed of processed sugars and starches – enemies of gut flora. When we ingest these foods, the development of Candida overgrowth occurs in the intestines.
Since the intestines are where we absorb vitamins and nutrients, it is essential to keep them in good health by fostering the growth of good bacteria.
Fermented foods with live cultures, such as kefir, natural sauerkraut, kombucha tea, and yogurt can help harvest good bacteria. Also, refrigerated probiotic supplements such as Jarro-Dophilus are an effective way to immediately promote gut health by delivering 6 or more beneficial probiotic strains in easy-to-swallow capsules. Start with the lowest dosage and work your way up as needed. When your gut is in optimal health, your body has an easier time stabilizing blood sugar. This equates to an elevated mood, and better eating decisions in the long-run.
Balance Your Hormones
When our hormones are in balance and optimized, our body becomes a fat-burning, muscle-building machine. Not to mention, our overall sense of well-being relies on this. However, when that balance is compromised by poor eating habits, our hormones work against us.
A diet high in processed, nutrient-shallow carbohydrates will leave our glands depleted and incapable of proper function. Our body needs saturated fats, such as high-quality animal fats, to provide our glands with the essential vitamins, minerals, and environment for production of hormones.
The additional problem is, of course, that so much of what we love to eat is also too high in omega-6 fatty acids. Packaged goods and unnatural vegetable oils (such as canola oil), provide a high concentration of omega-6 fatty acids, but our bodies necessitate a balance between omega-3, -6, and -9 for proper brain and hormone function. Eating a serving of fish (such as wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, wild herring, sardines, etc) 3-5 times per week can provide a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids to get your body back in balance. Also, try supplementing with Butter Oil and Cod Liver Oil. Butter Oil delivers a high concentrated dose of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, and Cod Liver Oil provides highly bio-available Vitamin-D and omega-3 fatty acids.
The suggestions provided will hopefully help you make better eating decisions, regularly. I’m not advocating you eliminate comfort foods completely, but the goal should be to eat whole foods and high quality fats to keep your brain happy, your stomach satisfied, and your day manageable.
See our tips on proper fueling a fit trainers roadmap to clean eating and difference between raw vs cooked food