Carefree, food, drink
Carefree is a feeling that you may enjoy in your life. You see toddlers being carefree, exploring the world, free of worry or over thinking about what they are doing! Sometimes in life though, as an adult, worrying or over think may overwhelm you and being carefree becomes a distant childhood memory.
Experiencing worry or over thinking lets you know that you are no longer being carefree in your life. Once you are stuck in the emotions of worrying or overthinking, it has the potential to escalate into anxiety and depression[i], which then increases the likelihood of creating C-reactive proteins (C-RPs), an inflammatory mediator which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory conditions[ii]. Before you know it, you are feeling worry or overthinking induced stress. When stressed, this may bring about reactive or comfort eating – and the foods chosen by you may not be supportive of your health and well-being and may then act as another form of stress.
Prolonged stress, such as worry or overthinking induced stress, causes your sympathetic nervous system to continually send messages to your adrenal glands (endocrine glands located on top of both your kidneys) to release a substance called cortisol. In ‘life or death’ situations, the release of cortisol is an essential physiological response ensuring your body is ready to respond to the situation so that you are able to survive the offending stressor. This is referred to as the ‘fight or flight response’, however, when not threatened, fighting or flighting, as is the case with comfort eating due to worry or overthinking induced stress, and when cortisol and C-RPs are chronically elevated, this inevitably contributes to poor health and dis-eases associated with inflammation.
Psychoneuroimmunology and epidemiology, western scientific fields, have both associated long term ‘stress’ with a suppressed immune system, elevated cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as IBS and ulcers, fertility problems, memory impairment and damage to certain parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, fatigue, an increased likelihood of osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes, aggravated clinical depression, accelerated ageing and even premature death[iii].
Traditional medicine practices, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have also recognized the issue with chronic stress, such as worry or overthinking induced stress and its impact on your health and well-being. Based on the TCM theory of the five elements where each element corresponds to emotions, organs and meridians, strengthening an element will strengthen the associated organs and meridians, increasing your ability to process the related emotion as well as making your more resilient to the corresponding emotion. According to TCM strengthening the earth element will strengthen the spleen and stomach which improves your ability to process worry or overthinking as well as improving your ability to process these emotions. Being able to process worry and overthinking is important because prolonged worry or overthinking, as described above when no longer feeling carefree, may cause spleen or stomach disharmonies, possibly presenting as anxiety, breathlessness, stiff neck and shoulders, gastrointestinal problems, weak immune function, the production of mucous and phlegm, according to TCM[iv].
Based on the unhealthy effects of prolonged worry or overthinking induced stress, it is therefore essential that you are able to process these emotions so that you may prevent the systemic complications categorised by western medicine or TCM. Rather than reaching out for that comfort food or drink, there are other ways in which you can manage the effects of worry or overthinking for those times when your life is not carefree.
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You can perform the TCM advocated relaxation activity of Qi Gong[v], breathing techniques[vi] [vii], meditation[viii] or enjoy a relaxing massage[ix]. TCM also advocates the importance of food and drink choices as another way of dealing with worry-overthinking induced stress. The emphasis here is to support the organs (the spleen and stomach) from the impact of prolonged worry or overthinking. Choosing foods and drink that, according to TCM, that tonify the spleen and stomach meridians and organs may assist in supporting your body to return to wellness.
For example, from a TCM diet therapy perspective, food choices that may support the earth element, and its associated emotions, organs and meridians include vegetables such as alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, aubergine, bamboo shoots, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, marrow, pumpkin, shiitake mushrooms, squash, sweet potato, tomato and watercress; fruits such as apples, apricots, avocado, blueberries, cherries, dates, figs, grapes, kiwifruit, lychees, mango, pears, pineapple, plums and strawberries; grains such as barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, rice, spelt and wheat; proteins such as aduki (red) beans, broad beans, chick peas, kidney beans, lentils, peas, soybeans (yellow), tofu, anchovy, eel, tuna, whitefish, beef, chicken, duck, lamb, pork, lamb and eggs; nuts and seeds such as almonds, chestnuts, coconut, hazelnuts, linseed, peanuts and pumpkin seeds[x].
Although it is uncommon for western science to associate recommending foods that may alleviate worry or overthinking induced stress, it may be possible to associate foods and their effect on modifying physiological functions such as the release of cortisol and C-RP. For example, research reports that vitamin C rich foods act as antioxidants, which protect against free radical damage caused by oxidative stress associated with excessive stress factors. Vitamin C also has been reported to support adrenal function in times of stress[xi]. In knowing this information, you may consider consuming vitamin C rich foods when you are feeling consumed by worry or overthinking, such as kiwifruit, citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, and grapefruits), apples, berries (raspberries, strawberries and blueberries), pineapples, mango, cantaloupe, melon, tomato and vegetables, in particular red and green capsicums (bell peppers) and cruciferous vegetable such as broccoli.
Another support for your adrenals is licorice root due to its adrenocorticoid-like actions. No, not confectionary licorice! A cup of refreshing whole, dried licorice root tea may also support your adrenal glands during these times of prolonged worry or over-thinking[xii]. Avoid licorice root tea if you have high blood pressure as it raises blood pressure. If however, you suffer from low blood pressure, worry or over-thinking, then this may be a useful tea for you. Always consult your primary health care professional first, which also refers to food choices you make to assess your individual health needs and restrictions. If you have any food allergies or food sensitivities, please avoid any foods recommended throughout this blog.
Western clinical research provides a list of beneficial foods to reduce levels of another physiological by-product of stress, C-RP, which include:
- Green tea[xiii]
- Curcumin (an active constituent of turmeric)[xiv]
- Omega 3’s from deep-sea fish such as salmon and tuna. Nuts and flaxseeds are also essential for good health and is a well-known part of the Mediterranean diet. It is generally accepted that foods rich in these essential fatty acid have beneficial effects in reducing inflammation, such as C-RP[xv]. If your diet is deficient in this nutrients you may supplement with a high quality fish oil or vegetarian omega 3 supplement
- Magnesium rich foods[xvi] [xvii] such as whole grains grown in magnesium rich soils, dried figs, almonds, walnuts, cashews, kelp, sunflower seeds, dandelion, chamomile, broccoli, spinach and beetroot
- Quercetin rich foods[xviii] such as green tea, most fruits and vegetables and condiments such as fennel leaves, chilli and dill
- Vitamin C rich food[xix] such as most fruits and vegetables listed above
- Folic acid rich foods[xx] such as legumes (kidney beans, mung beans, lentils, soya beans) kale, spinach and broccoli
- Probiotics especially the Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG) strain[xxi]
- Dark chocolate[xxii]
It is now well accepted that stress, a significant factor in over-thinking and worry, is known to impact on your ‘microbiome’, that is, your good bugs! It has been shown that declining levels of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium in the gut are attributed to mental health issues[xxiii] It has been suggested that probiotics may be required during times of stress[xxiv], as is seen with worry or overthinking-induced stress. Knowing the health benefits of probiotics, it has also been argued that the consumption of fermented foods (a food and drink source of probiotics), such as sauerkraut, kefir or kimchi, may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health.
Before the prior knowledge of probiotics and microbes, the palatability, preservative, analgesic, and mentally stimulating or sedating qualities of fermented foods and beverages were well accepted by ancient civilizations and cultures. This has therefore set the stage for the purposeful application of fermentation to provide value in the areas of human nutrition, traditional medicine, culture (ceremonies)[xxv] especially during times of stress.
Carefree, food, drink summed up
It can be hard to shake the feeling worry or to stop overthinking. Feelings such as hopelessness, shame, emptiness or obsession can make it hard to maintain a carefree outlook on life. And once you are stuck in a pattern of negative thoughts, worry or overthinking, there is potential for these emotions to intensify. There are many ways in which you can promote a carefree attitude within yourself. Perhaps one of the most important ways is by re-considering what you eat and drink.
- Vegetables – alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, aubergine, bamboo shoots, Bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, marrow, pumpkin, shiitake mushrooms, squash, sweet potato, tomato, watercress, carrots, yams and okra
- Fruits – apples, apricots, avocado, blueberries, cherries, dates, figs, grapes, kiwi fruit, lychee, mango, pears, pineapple, plums, strawberries, pomegranates and paw paw
- Grains – barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, rice, spelt and wheat
- Proteins – aduki (red) beans, broad beans, chick peas, kidney beans, lentils, peas, soybeans (yellow), tofu, anchovy, eel, tuna, whitefish, beef, chicken, duck, lamb, pork, lamb and eggs
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, chestnuts, coconut, hazelnuts, linseed, peanuts, pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts (maximum 2 per day)
- Magnesium rich foods – dried figs, almonds, walnuts, cashews, kelp, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, broccoli, spinach, beetroot, chamomile and dandelion
- Quercetin rich foods – green tea, fruits and vegetable, fennel leaves, chilli and dill
- Vitamin C rich foods – kiwifruit, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, apples, raspberries strawberries, blueberries, pineapples, mango, cantaloupe melon, red and green capsicums (bell peppers), broccoli and tomato juice
- Folic acid rich foods – kidney beans, mung beans, lentils, soya beans, kale, spinach and broccoli
- Omega 3 rich foods – salmon, tuna and whitefish, fish oil supplement and flaxseeds
- Fermented foods – kefir, kimchi, tempeh, miso, sourdough, pickles and sauerkraut
- Dark chocolate
- Multi-strain probiotics with the Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG) strain
- Green tea
- Chamomile tea
- Dandelion root tea
- Licorice root tea
- Fermented drinks
- Tomato juice
We hope you enjoyed reading this blog written by our qualified and registered team of health care practitioners.
Eat, drink, be happy, healthy and carefree!
The pro•m•emo CAREFREE essence may assist with processing feelings of worry, overthinking, guilt, shame, hate, emptiness and obsession.
Use the Carefree essence if you feel consumed, overwhelmed, down or over-burdened.
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[i] Marshall J, PsychWeb, September 09, 2014 http://www.psyweb.com/lifestyle/depression/depression-anxiety-and-overthinking
[ii] Gegenava T, Gegenava M, Kavtaradze G. C-reactive protein level correlation with depression and anxiety among patients with coronary artery disease. Georgian Med News. 2011 May;(194):34-7
[iii] Ropeik D. The consequences of fear. EMBO Rep. 2004 Oct; 5(Suppl 1): S56–S60. doi: 10.1038/sj.embor.7400228
[iv] Maciocia G. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine p132, 1995 Churchill Livingston
[v] Jahnke R, Larkey L, Rogers C, Etnier J, Lin F. A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. American journal of health promotion : AJHP. 2010;24(6):e1-e25. doi:10.4278/ajhp.081013-LIT-248.
[vi] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, one of the National Institutes of Health: Relaxation Techniques for Health http://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress/relaxation.htm
[vii] Borge CR, Hagen KB, Mengshoel AM, Omenaas E, Moum T, Wahl AK. Effects of controlled breathing exercises and respiratory muscle training in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: results from evaluating the quality of evidence in systematic reviews. BMC Pulmonary Medicine. 2014;14:184. doi:10.1186/1471-2466-14-184.
[viii] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, one of the National Institutes of Health: Relaxation Techniques for Health http://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress/relaxation.htm
[ix] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, one of the National Institutes of Health: Massage Therapy for Health Purposes http://nccih.nih.gov/health/massage/massageintroduction.htm
[x] Leggett D A guide to the energetics of food based on the traditions of Chinese medicine wall chart White Pine Printers Inc 2005
[xi] Meletis, C. D. et al. Adrenal fatigue: enhancing quality of life for patients with a functional disorder. Alternative & Complementary Therapies. 8(5), 2002
[xii] Rouse, J. Herbal support for adrenal function. Clinical Nutrition Insights. 6(9):1-2, 1998
[xiii] Bogdanski, P., et al. Green tea extract reduces blood pressure, inflammatory biomarkers, and oxidative stress and improves parameters associated with insulin resistance in obese, hypertensive patients. Nutr Res. 32(6):421-427, 2012.
[xiv] Banerjee, M., et al. Modulation of inflammatory mediators by ibuprofen and curcumin treatment during chronic inflammation in rat. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 25(2):213-224, 2003
[xv] Niu, K., et al. Dietary long-chain n-3 fatty acids of marine origin and serum C-reactive protein concentrations are associated in a population with a diet rich in marine products. Am J Clin Nutr. 84(1):223-229, 2006
[xvi] Guerrwero-Romero, F., et al. Relationship between serum magnesium levels and C-reactive protein concentration, in non-diabetic, non-hypertensive obese subjects. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 26(4):469-474, 2002.
[xvii] In-TKing, D. E., et al. Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels. J Am Coll Nutr. 24(3):166-171, 2005.
[xviii] Chun, O. K., et al. Serum C-reactive protein concentrations are inversely associated with dietary flavonoid intake in U.S. adults. Journal of Nutrition. 138(4):753-760, 2008.
[xix] Block, G., et al. Vitamin C treatment reduces elevated C-reactive protein. Free Radic Biol Med. 46(1):70-77, 2009.
[xx] Solini, A., et al. Effect of short-term folic acid supplementation on insulin sensitivity and inflammatory markers in overweight subjects. Int J Obes (London). 30(8):1197-1202, 2006.
[xxi] Kekkonen, R. A., et al. Probiotic intervention has strain-specific anti-inflammatory effects in healthy adults. World J Gastroenterol. 14(13):2029-206, 2008. Institute of Biomedicine, Pharmacology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
[xxii] di Giuseppe, R., et al. Regular consumption of dark chocolate is associated with low serum concentrations of C-reactive protein in a healthy Italian population. Journal of Nutrition. 138(10):1939-1945, 2008.
[xxiii] Logana, A.C., Katzman, M. Major depressive disorder: probiotics may bean adjuvant therapy Medical Hypotheses (2005) 64, 533–538
[xxiv] Selhub, E.M., Logana, A.C., Bested, A.C.: Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. Journal of Physiological Anthropology 2014 33:2
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