Harmony, food, drink
Harmony is a state that you may enjoy in your life. Sometimes in life though, you may find yourself experiencing dis-harmony. Commonly, the feelings we feel when we experience disharmony are sadness or the absence of joy.
Experiencing sadness or the absence of joy lets you know that you are not in harmony with your life. When you get stuck in these emotions, it may negatively impact on your mind and body. This is commonly referred to as feeling ‘stressed’. Being stressed, may bring about reactive or comfort eating or drinking – and the foods often chosen are unsupportive of your health and well-being and may then act as an additional form of stress.
Prolonged 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 a stressful situation so that you are able to survive the offending stressor. This is referred to as the ‘fight or flight response’, however, when not fighting or flighting, as is the case with comfort eating due to the sadness or the absence of joy issues (usually a non-life threatening situation) this may then become detrimental to you and your health.
The western scientific fields of psychoneuroimmunology and epidemiology have both associated prolonged ‘stress’ with a weakened immune system, increased cardiovascular damage, stomach and intestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, decreased fertility, long-term memories formation impairment and damage to certain parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus. Other symptoms include fatigue, a higher likelihood of osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes, aggravated clinical depression, accelerated ageing and even premature death[i]. Furthermore, changes in blood pressure and heart rate have also been observed even when looking at imagery, which has been biased towards content, which were purposely designed to cause sadness[ii].
Traditional medicine practices, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have also recognized the issue with chronic stress, in particular associated with the emotion of sadness or the absence of joy and its impact on your health and well-being. Based on the TCM understanding of emotions and the TCM theory of the five elements, the emotions of sadness or the absence of joy relate to the fire element and the heart and small intestine organs, along with the pericardium and san jiao, which also belong to the fire element. This emotional state and issues around feeling that you are living in disharmony, may cause heart or small intestine disharmonies, which may present as depression, crying, tiredness, breathlessness and for women, amenorrhea (the loss of period)[iii].
Based on the unhealthy effects of prolonged sadness or absence of joy, it therefore is essential that you are able to process these emotions so that you may prevent the systemic complications categorised by western medicine or TCM, discussed above. Rather than reaching out for that comfort food or drink, there are other ways in which you can manage the effects of these feelings and avoid feeling as if your life is disharmonious. You can perform the TCM advocated relaxation activity of Qi Gong[iv], you can use breathing techniques[v] [vi], meditate[vii] or have a relaxing massage[viii]. TCM also advocates the importance of food and drink choices as another way of dealing with sadness and the absence of joy induced stress. The emphasis here is to support the fire element organs (the heart, small intestine, pericardium and san jiao) from the impact of sadness or absence of joy. Choosing foods that, according to TCM, targets the fire element, may assist in supporting your body from the unhealthy effects of prolonged stressors such as sadness or absence of joy.
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From a TCM diet therapy perspective, food choices that may support the fire element health in times of sadness or the absence of joy-induced stress include vegetables such as beetroot, endives, mushrooms (button) and scallions; fruits such as apples, crabapples, longans, persimmons, watermelon and goji berries; grains such as kamut, oats, rye, wheat and wheat germ; proteins such as aduki (red) beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, mung beans, peas, shark, eggs and cow’s milk, nuts and seeds such as coconut and coconut milk[ix]. Do not consume gluten-containing grains, dairy, nuts and so on if have an issue with these foods and consult your primary health care practitioner.
Although it is uncommon for western science to associate recommending foods for prolonged sadness or the absence of joy, it may be possible to associate foods and their effect on physiological functions. For example, prolonged sadness or absence of joy, as discussed above has an impact on the adrenals and the release of cortisol. Research does make the following findings with certain foods and adrenal function. For example, vitamin C rich foods may act as a reducing agent for the mixed function oxidase enzyme used in the synthesis of steroid hormones in the adrenal glands and as such support adrenal function in dealing with prolonged sadness[x].
Knowing this information, it would therefore make sense that when issues are inducing stress which causes sadness or absence of joy, it may beneficial to consume vitamin C rich foods, such as kiwifruit, citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, and grapefruits), apples, berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries), pineapples, pomegranates, mango and 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. A cup of refreshing and sweet licorice root tea may support your adrenal glands in such times of prolonged sadness or stress.[xi] Take caution if you suffer from high blood pressure, as it is not recommended to use licorice as a tea, for it can raise blood pressure. Always consult your primary health care practitioner before making any dietary changes.
Another nutrient that supports your adrenal glands and cortisol release when stressed is fish oil. Fish oil supplementation was demonstrated to prevent adrenal activation elicited by mental stress in healthy men with cortisol levels being significantly blunted [xii]. Other sources of fish oils include salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Walnuts and flaxseeds are a vegetarian source of the omega 3 oils found in fish.
A study conducted back in 2014 concluded that dark chocolate may also be helpful in times of mental stress. It was observed that the use of dark chocolate also reduced cortisol levels[xiii].
Understanding that stress may cause cardiovascular disease, as outline above, it would therefore make sense to also choose foods that have been reported to have cardiovascular benefits. Foods rich in selenium have been reported to support a healthy cardiovascular function[xiv] [xv]. Food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, almonds, oat bran and whole grains.
Fiber (both soluble and insoluble) has been demonstrated to lower the risk of heart disease due to their fiber content[xvi]. Foods that contain fiber include whole grains, oatmeal, barley, beans, okra, eggplants, and most vegetables and fruits such as citrus fruit (oranges).
Harmony, food, drink summed up
There are many ways in which you can promote harmony within yourself. Perhaps one of the most important ways, is re-considering what you eat and drink. The state of our bodies, minds and emotions are very much intertwined.
Eat some …
- Vegetables – beetroot, endives, mushrooms (button) and scallions
- Fruits – apples, crabapples, longans, persimmons, watermelon and goji berries
- Grains – kamut, oats, rye, wheat and wheat germ
- Proteins – aduki (red) beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, mung beans, peas, shark, eggs and cow’s milk
- Nuts and seeds – coconut, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios and pine nuts
- Magnesium rich foods – dried figs, almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, kelp, sunflower seeds, dandelion, chamomile, broccoli, spinach and beetroot
- Potassium rich foods – cooked tomato, celery, carrots, bananas, dried figs, raisins dates, avocado, parsley, garlic, lentils, mung beans, soybeans, Brazil nuts (maximum 2 daily), almonds, walnuts, peanuts and kelp
- Vitamin C rich foods – kiwifruit, citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, and grapefruits), apples, berries (raspberries, strawberries and blueberries), pineapples, pomegranates, mango, cantaloupe, melon, tomato and vegetables, in particular red and green capsicums (bell peppers) and cruciferous vegetable such as broccoli
- Lycopene rich foods – cooked tomatoes, paste & sauce
- Selenium rich foods – Brazil nuts (maximum 2 daily), almonds, oat bran and wholegrains
- Fibre rich foods – wholegrains, oatmeal, barley, beans, okra, eggplant, oranges and most vegetables and fruits
- Omega 3 rich foods – tuna, cod, mackerel, sardines, salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds or a fish oil supplement
- 70% dark chocolate
Drink some …
- Licorice root tea
- Pomegranate juice
- Coconut milk
We hope that you find this information useful and enjoy implementing some of these suggestions into your daily routine to bring about an added sense of harmony to your life.
Eat, drink, be happy, healthy and harmonious!
The pro•m•emo HARMONY essence assists with processing feelings of sadness, hurt, upset, loneliness, shock and dismay.
Also use the pro•m•emo Harmony essence if you feel trapped, lost, unloved, incomplete, uncomfortable, insecure or any of the above emotions.
[i]Ropeik D. The consequences of fear. EMBO Rep. 2004 Oct; 5(Suppl 1): S56–S60. doi: 10.1038/sj.embor.7400228
[ii] Schwartz GE, Weinberger DA, Singer JA. Cardiovascular differentiation of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear following imagery and exercise. Psychosom Med. 1981 Aug;43(4):343-64.
[iii] Maciocia G. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine p132, 1995 Churchill Livingston
[iv] 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.
[v] 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
[vi] 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.
[vii] 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
[viii] 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
[ix] Leggett D A guide to the energetics of food based on the traditions of Chinese medicine wall chart White Pine Printers Inc 2005
[x] Meletis, C. D. et al. Adrenal fatigue: enhancing quality of life for patients with a functional disorder. Alternative & Complementary Therapies. 8(5), 2002
[xi] Rouse, J. Herbal support for adrenal function. Clinical Nutrition Insights. 6(9):1-2, 1998
[xii] Delarue, J., et al. Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited by mental stress in healthy men. Diabetes Metab. 29(3):289-295, 2003.
[xiii] Wirtz PH, von Känel R, Meister RE, Arpagaus A, Treichler S, Kuebler U et al. Dark Chocolate Intake Buffers Stress Reactivity in Humans. J Am CollCardiol 2014; 63(21): 2297-9
[xiv] Neve, J. Selenium as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. J Cardiovasc Risk. 3(1):42-47, 1996.
[xv] Rayman, M. P. The importance of selenium to human health. Lancet. 356(9225):233-241, 2000.
[xvi] Eshak, E. S., et al. Dietary fiber intake is associated with reduced risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease among Japanese men and women. Journal of Nutrition. 140(8):1445-1453, 2010.
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