Smorgasbord Health Column – UnSeasonal Affective Disorder – Keeping your focus – Tryptophan by Sally Cronin


Normally I would refer to Seasonal Affective Disorder in February as the winter months take their toll on our physical, mental and emotional health. However, reading the various reports in the media on Vitamin D Deficiency being one of the causes for susceptibility to Covid-19 and raised concerns on the levels of mental health issues including depression, the comments from readers who are experiencing lack of energy and focus, I began to see some parallels to SAD, but six months ahead of schedule. You can find more about the Vitamin D connection to SAD and the foods to include on a daily basis to help reduce the likelihood of deficiency in Part Two

In the last two posts I explored the reasons why hundreds of thousands around the world may be experiencing an Unseasonal Affective Disorder in response to reduced sunlight during lockdown and travel restrictions resulting in reduced levels of Vitamin D. A risk factor that has been recognised by scientists in relations to Covid-19 and the immune system. I also shared my thoughts on our evolutionary process which has not moved as quickly as modern technology or lifestyle.

There is another chemical element to our well-being during the winter months and addresses the way we feel mentally. It is reported that depression is understandably already taking hold in the community, especially those who are isolated away from families and friends. The small gestures we take from granted are being denied and we feel the loss of their therapeutic benefits. Such as hugging and kissing a cheek; even talking face to face.

An essential winter additive.

In this post I want to cover other critical factors about our chemical makeup that requires re-tuning for the cold weather. It is similar to what we will do to our car to ensure it starts and keeps running at lower temperatures.

Only the fuel additive we need is L-tryptophan one of the 10 essential amino acids extracted from the food we eat, and used by the body to synthesize the proteins we need.  Its crucial role for those suffering from depression, anxiety, insomnia and other symptoms, particularly when the days become shorter, is in the production of two key brain hormones and Niacin or vitamin B3.

Only a small amount of the tryptophan that we eat is converted to B3 by the liver.  However, B3 has a vital role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins to obtain the fuel we need (ATP) as well as helping regulate cholesterol.  It is necessary for the formation of red blood cells and hormones and when it is formed, it continues to work with the tryptophan and also B6 to stimulate the production of serotonin and melatonin transmitters within the brain.

If you do not have sufficient B vitamins in your diet there is a risk of deficiency disease most commonly skin infections, diarrhea and if prolonged can lead to dementia).

Serotonin and Melatonin are key neurotransmitters are absolutely essential if your body and brain are going to function efficiently throughout the winter months.  Melatonin is a sleep related hormone secreted by the pineal gland and regulates our sleep patterns.  It would normally increase its activity in the dark months when the sunlight is not there to regulate when we sleep and wake, however in people who suffer from SAD it appears that levels rise much later in the night compared to those who do not suffer from it, causing insomnia.

The other neurotransmitter which for me is more key in the management of this winter cycle is Serotonin.  It regulates appetite, sleep patterns and our mood. Low levels are associated with depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, carbohydrate cravings, overeating and insomnia.  There is some very interesting research into Serotonin and SAD but there is a clear indication that depleted levels of L-tryptophan in the diet, resulting in even lower natural serotonin levels in the winter months, will cause these very common symptoms.

Foods providing Tryptophan

vegetablesSo – back to my basic diet with lots of vegetables, lean proteins, oily fish, olive oil, dairy, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, eggs and natural sugars like honey.  Here are some key foods to include on a daily basis to ensure that you are getting sufficient tryphophan to produce a balanced level of B3, Melatonin and Serotonin.

The highest concentration is found in

  • poultry – chicken and turkey
  • soybeans for vegetarians. 

Great amounts in

  • red meat,
  • tuna,
  • lamb,
  • salmon,
  • sardines,
  • halibut (good for Vitamin D too),
  • cod,
  • shellfish,
  • dairy products such as grass fed milk and butter
  • nuts,
  • seeds,
  • legumes
  • green leafy vegetables such as spinach,
  • asparagus,
  • Brussel sprouts 

There is smaller amounts in the carbohydrates

  • potatoes,
  • brown rice
  • wholegrain pasta
  • wholegrain bread
  • Oats

Although important for carbohydrates to be included as part of a balanced diet, if you are planning on eating a low fat, high carbohydrate based diet through the winter you are far more likely to suffer from SAD.

fruit-and-veg-bannerAnother key point about our diet during the winter months is that today we have access to so much more variety of fruit and vegetables year round.  Although I prefer seasonal vegetables and fruit as I think my body expects them at specific times and processes them more efficiently, I still love the fact that this whole range of nutrients is available whenever I choose.  The added benefit is additional Vitamin C which is so important during the cold and flu season.  More about those in later blogs……..

Next time – Despite restrictions on our movement and less incentive to get out in the winter weather we still need activity and stimulation for body and mind to overcome the blues……

©Sally Cronin – Just Food for Health – 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Your feedback is always welcome and if you do find that following any of the programmes that I have shared are beneficial then it would be great to hear about it.. you can email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

Medicine Woman’s Larder -Walnuts are all they are cracked up to be!


Medicine Womans larder

Evidence of walnut consumption was dug up, literally, in Southwest France during excavation on Neolithic archaeological sites dating back over 8,000 years. It appears that there were walnut groves in the hanging gardens of Babylon and in Greek mythology the walnut was highly revered and temples built to honour it.

The Latin name for the tree, Juglans Regia, comes from the Roman civilisation where it was called Jove Glans or the Royal nut of Jove. The nut and the oil have been used since ancient times, both as a food and for dyeing wool and are now worldwide commodities.

Walnuts are very versatile – chopped up on savoury or sweet dishes or used as a snack between meals they give you a very healthy nutritional punch. Omega 3 fatty acids are a special type of protective fat, rather than harmful fat, and it is something that the body does not produce itself. – 14 half walnuts provides you with over 90% of your daily requirement and if you look at the health reasons for taking Omega 3 you will understand how very important this small handful of nuts is.

Omega 3 is known to help protect us from cardiovascular problems, improve brain function, help with inflammatory diseases such as asthma and arthritis and in skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis. Walnuts also contain an antioxidant called ellagic acid, which boosts the immune system and protects against cancer.

walnut

What is the most important benefit of walnuts?

For anyone who suffers from elevated LDL (low density lipoprotein that when oxidised forms blockages in the arteries) levels in their bloodstream, eating walnuts is definitely helpful. It is one of those rare occasions when claims that certain foods can help a condition are permissible. In the case of walnuts the FDA in America were sufficiently convinced by scientific research into the benefits of the nuts in lowering LDL cholesterol that they allowed the health claim to be advertised on products containing the nut or the oil. This is down to the excellent levels of Omega 3 in the nuts, which contain the highest amount in 1 oz. compared to other nuts (2.5 g of Omega 3 against 0.5 g in other nuts)

Omega 3 helps prevent erratic heart rhythms and because the LDL, which causes platelets to clot, is lowered the risk of strokes is also reduced.

Omega 3 works on our brain function because our brains are actually 60% structural fat and needs to be supported in our diet by specific Omega 3 fats like those in walnuts, flax seeds and cold water fish like salmon. Part of the reason is that the cell membranes that everything has to pass through are mainly fat. Omega 3 is very flexible, and fluid, and can pass easily through the cell membrane taking other nutrients with it at the same time. This increases the cell uptake of nutrients making them more effective.

Studies of Omega 3 deficiency have highlighted some worrying trends. One of the most concerning is the evidence of depression in children. It has also been linked to hyperactivity, behavioural problems such as tantrums and learning difficulties. This deficiency is on the increase particularly in the United States, and the UK is not far behind.

Other beneficial nutrients in walnuts.

There are several other good reasons to include walnuts in your daily diet as they include the following nutrients:

Manganese; Needed for healthy skin, bone and cartilage formation as well as glucose tolerance. Also forms part of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase, which helps prevent free radical damage.

Copper is an essential trace element needed to absorb and utilise Iron. It is needed to make ATP and is also to synthesise some hormones and blood cells. Collagen needs copper, as does the enzyme tyrosinase, which plays a role in the production of skin pigment. Too much copper in the diet can depress levels of zinc and effect wound healing.

Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine; The Master Vitamin for processing Amino Acids – the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. It assists in the formation of several neurotransmitters and can therefore help regulate mood. It has been shown to help lower Homocysteine levels in the blood linked to heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. It produces Haemoglobin the Oxygen carrying pigment in the blood. It helps the release of carbohydrates stored in the liver and muscles for energy. It is involved in the production of antibodies and it helps balance female hormones. It is needed for the production of serotonin along with tryptophan and B12.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is the lowest in terms of levels needed by the body. It is responsible for normal sleep patterns. Vitamin B6 is needed for the formation of tryptophan, which affects serotonin levels. These serotonin levels influence sleep and mood.

During the day, snack on 14 half walnuts that is about 190 calories or chop up in salads or rice dishes.

Thanks for dropping by today and as always delighted to receive your feedback. Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health – Nutrients of the Week – Amino Acids.


smorgasbord health

There are two types of amino acid, essential and non-essential. There are approximately 80 amino acids found in nature but only 20 are necessary for healthy human growth and function. We are made up of protein and we require adequate amounts of amino acids if we are to maintain and repair the very substance that we are made from.

We need to obtain essential amino acids from our diet and our body will produce the nonessential variety on its own if our diet is lacking in the essential type.

ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS.

These are Histidine (essential in infants can be made by the body in adults if needed), Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Cysteine (essential in infants, nonessential in adults), Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Valine.

NON ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS.

Alanine, Aspartic acid, Arginine, Carnitine, Glycine, Glutamine, Hydroxyproline, Norleucine, Proline, Serine and Tyrosine.

THE ROLE OF AMINO ACIDS IN THE BODY.

Amino acids help make neurotransmitters, the chemicals that convey messages in the brain and also hormones like insulin. They are needed for the production of enzymes that activate certain functions within the body and certain types of body fluid and they are essential for the repair and maintenance of organs, glands, muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, hair and nails.

AN EXAMPLE OF ONE OF THE AMINO ACIDS.

I have often talked about tryptophan when discussing healing foods, and it is an excellent example of the role of amino acids within the body.

When we eat foods that contain tryptophan the body will use that to form the very important vitamin B3 or Niacin. Niacin is necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins to obtain the fuel we need (ATP) as well as helping to regulate cholesterol. It is necessary for the formation of red blood cells and hormones. Read more about B3 here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/vitamin-of-the-week-part-two-vitamin-b3-niacin-link-to-cholesterol/

When niacin is formed it continues to work with the tryptophan along with B6 to stimulate the production of the serotonin and melotonin transmitters within the brain that not only help regulate our mood but also our sleep patterns. Without tryptophan we would be more likely to suffer from insomnia and depression.

Some studies also show that tryptophan is also a natural painkiller and interestingly it may eventually be used to prevent tooth decay.

Tooth decay is usually the result of the action of our own saliva on carbohydrates that we eat. Those people whose saliva composition resulted in a rapid rate of starch decomposition in the mouth, were more likely to suffer from excessive cavities in their teeth. Those people whose saliva caused a slow decomposition of carbohydrates were found to suffer very few dental problems. Taking in dietary tryptophan has been shown to slow down this process and may well be included in toothpaste and chewing gum in the future.

Other studies indicate that autistic children suffer from a deficiency of tryptophan. Also that it might be useful as an appetite suppressant. In combination with with another amino acid, Tyrosine, it could help with drug addiction and is recommended to overcome jet lag.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BABIES AND ADULTS.

Due to the enormous growth rate of babies there is a difference in the essential or nonessential properties of amino acids.

An example of this is cysteine, which is considered to be essential in babies, which is why breast milk is very high in the amino acid and non-essential in adults. Due to its high antioxidant effects it may in part be responsible for the important boosting of the immune system in newborn babies that is supplied by breast milk.

When we are adults, we still require cysteine, but instead of obtaining it from our diet it is synthesised from another essential amino acid methionine.

Cysteine plays a role in our antioxidant processes protecting us from free radical damage and therefore chronic disease and ageing. It is currently being studied in relation to a number of medical conditions including peptic ulcers, liver health, the treatment of paracetamol overdose and metal toxicity.

It may also benefit respiratory disease due to its antioxidant properties but also its ability to help break up mucous. In the form of N-acetyl cysteine it may protect the body from cancer and there is a possibility that during treatment for cancer with chemotherapy or radiotherapy that it will protect the healthy cells but not the cancerous cells from any damage.

When I covered heart disease I looked at the role of homocysteine levels in the blood and how excess levels can lead to heart disease. Taking N-acetyl cysteine in supplement form may help reduce these levels as well as the LDL (lousy cholesterol levels) in the blood.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SOME OF THE OTHER AMINO ACIDS AND THEIR ROLE IN THE BODY.

There is not room to cover the roles within the body of all the amino acids but here is a brief look at the diverse roles of some of the individual amino acids within the body.

Alanine – a very simple amino acid involved in the energy producing breakdown of glucose and is used to build proteins, vital for the function of the central nervous system and helps form neurotransmitters. It is very important to promote proper blood glucose levels derived from dietary protein.

Arginine – plays an important role in healthy cell division, wound healing, removing ammonia from the body, boosting the immune system and in the production and release of hormones.

Carnitine – is produced in the liver, brain and kidneys from the essential amino acids methionine and lysine. It is the nutrient responsible for the transport of fatty acids into the energy producing centres of the cells, known as the mitochondria. It also helps promote healthy heart muscle.

Creatine – is synthesised in the liver, kidneys and pancreas from Arginine, Methionine and Glycine and functions to increase the availability of the fuel we need ATP (adenosine triphosphate). It is stored in muscle cells and is used to generate cellular energy for muscle contractions when effort is required. This is why many athletes will supplement with Creatine to increase stamina and performance.

FOOD SOURCES FOR AMINO ACIDS.

salmon

The best food sources of amino acids are dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, soybeans, quinoa, nuts and seeds.

Manganese and Beans -12,000 years of history and preparing them to avoid the wind factor.


smorgasbord health

This week the focus has been on Manganese a macro mineral that is rather overlooked as part of the chorus of nutrients that we need to be healthy. The stars that usually appear in nutritional information and articles are Calcium, Vitamin C and Magnesium. But without Manganese many of these headliners would be unable to sustain their role. Without manganese in our diet we would be at a higher risk of chronic diseases such as arthritis, asthma, osteoporosis and diabetes.

Including beans in your diet regularly provides you with 63% of your recommended daily requirement for this important mineral and if you eat plenty of green vegetables and berries with wholegrains; you will be unlikely to be deficient. You can check back with the other posts this week with the links provided. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/mineral-of-the-week-asthma-and-the-link-to-manganese/

Beans.. One of the main staple foods in the world for thousands of years.

14 BEANS 1387 E

Mention the fact that you are an ardent bean lover and people automatically give you a wide berth. Unfortunately this very nutritious food group has developed a rather anti-social reputation over the years but prepared and cooked correctly beans can overcome their wind producing properties.

HISTORY OF THE BEAN.

There is evidence going back nearly 12,000 years that peas were part of the staple diet in certain cultures and certainly natives of Peru and Mexico were cultivating beans as a crop 9,000 years ago. It is likely that they were one of the first crops to be planted when man ceased to be nomadic and settled into communities.

There are many types of bean used as a staple food in different cultures around the world including Black beans, Chickpeas, Kidney Beans, Navy Beans and Soybeans. In Asia where consumption of soybean products is very high it is regarded as one of the best preventative medicines that you can eat.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN HEALTH BENEFITS OF BEANS?

For anyone suffering high cholesterol levels, blood pressure, heart disease, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, Diverticulitis, colon cancer, diabetes or iron deficiency, beans are definitely on the healing foods list. One of the main health benefits of eating beans is their high fibre content.

Although fibre is not exactly up there on everyone’s favourite foods list it is extremely important to our overall health. Fibre is carbohydrate that cannot be digested and there are two types, water-soluble and water insoluble. Primarily water-soluble fibre comes from oatmeal, oat bran, nuts and seeds, fruit and legumes that include peas, lentils and beans. The insoluble fibre is mainly found in wholegrains, wheat bran, seeds, root vegetables, cucumbers, courgettes, celery and tomatoes.

Fibre acts like a vacuum cleaner, travelling through the blood stream and intestines collecting cholesterol plaque, toxins, waste products from normal bodily functions and anything else that should not be there.

Provided you do not pile high fat sauces and butter onto this group of foods they can be a very healthy aid to weight loss as fibre has no calories and the foods containing it are generally low in fat and high in nutrients.

WHAT ELSE IS IN BEANS THAT IS HEALTHY?

Beans are packed with nutrients as well as fibre including Vitamin B1 (thiamin) copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and tryptophan. The combination of nutrients will help boost your immune system, balance blood sugar levels, lower your risk of heart disease and help protect you against cancer.

Vitamin B1 (thiamin) is essential in the metabolism of carbohydrates and for a healthy nervous system. Every cell in the body requires this vitamin to form the fuel the body runs on, ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). Vitamin of the week B1

Copper is an essential trace mineral needed to absorb and utilise iron and also assist in the production of collagen.

Folate is a B vitamin essential for cell replication and growth. It is needed for our nervous system and heart health as folate helps lower homocysteine levels in the blood, a leading contributory factor in heart disease.

Magnesium is an essential mineral needed for bone, protein and fatty acid formation, forming new cells, activating the B vitamins, relaxing muscles, clotting blood and forming ATP. The secretion and action of insulin also needs magnesium as does the correct balance of calcium in the body. Mineral of the week Magnesium

Iron is an integral part of the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin in the blood, which is why a deficiency can cause fatigue and ill health.

Manganese boosts energy and the immune system and molybdenum another trace mineral helps detox the body of sulphites a commonly used preservative in processed food and one that many people have a sensitivity to. Also has many other health benefits including decreasing the risk of a number of chronic illnesses such as asthma, arthritis, bone density and diabetes.Mineral of the week – Manganese

Phosphorus  is essential for bone formation and production of red blood cells.   Also needed for the production of ATP fuel for energy. Small amounts are involved in most of the chemical reactions throughout the body.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is critical in the manufacture of serotonin a neurotransmitter that affects our mental wellbeing.

PREPARING BEANS TO AVOID THE WIND FACTOR.

If you are not used to fibre then you need to introduce it into your diet over a period of days. This guideline particularly applies to eating beans, as people who eat them regularly seem to have less of a problem. There are a number of preparation and cooking tips to ensure that you receive all of the benefits and none of the more anti-social side effects.

  1. Soak your dried beans for at least 6 hours before cooking. Change the water several times.
  2. Put the beans in a large pot and cover with cold unsalted water usually 3 to 6 times the amount of beans. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Drain the beans after 30 minutes and replace the water. Bring back to the boil and then simmer.
  3. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface of the water.
  4. When the beans have softened add some salt, as this will bring out there flavour. If you add salt at the beginning of cooking it can make the beans tougher. If you are on a low sodium diet then be careful about how much salt you add or use and alternative.
  5. When the beans are cooked you can prepare in a number of ways. Include in brown rice dishes; stir-fry with a little olive oil, seasonings and favourite spices.
  6. A lovely way to eat beans is in a casserole with tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, carrots, potatoes, celery and vegetable stock.
  7. Make your own baked beans with homemade tomato sauce and serve on jacket potatoes or on toast.
  8. You can blend with other ingredients and make hamburgers, meatloaves and pates.

If you have a dish that contains beans that you could share with us – a recipe and a photograph then please send to sally.cronin@moyhill.com.. No hurry just when you prepare next time and I will post with your links.

You can find the previous posts on the featured vitamins and minerals in this directory.

Vitamins and Minerals of the Week

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food for Health 2009

 

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