Thursday, November 4, 2010

Does Cutting Out Your Carbs Make You Grouchy?

Every diabetic knows, or finds out really fast, that there is an intense link between food and mood. If you cut out all or most of your carbohydrate consumption, chances are you will be grouchy and irritable around your family, friends, and coworkers. That's because your brain has to make do with less of a chemical called dopamine.

The neurotransmitter dopamine is the brain's "reward chemical." Our brains are trained to make dopamine when we eat salty, sugary, high-fat comfort foods. Just having the "feel" of comfort food in your mouth can stimulate the brain to make this chemical. In fact, just driving by the golden arches of McDonald's or seeing a hamburger wrapper can do the same thing.

But if you are type 2 diabetic dedicated to sticking to your diet and you are staring at a little plate of carrot sticks, actually, your brain's dopamine levels might go a little low. And, the fact is, nobody, diabetic or otherwise, ever goes around saying, "Yum! I just can't get enough raw broccoli!"

The answer is not to drive to McDonald's or the fried chicken place. There are other ways to get the dopamine going in your brain so you will feel good while your blood sugar levels get better, too. Here are five of the best

1. Get the creamy feel of comfort food without the fat and sugar by eating slow-cooked, low-glycemic index grains--in small portions--for breakfast. Instant cereals just won't be as satisfying, although you can cook a pot up to 3 days ahead and just reheat your daily serving. High-fiber oatmeal, in particular, stimulates the release of the satiety hormone cholecysotkinin in the same way as puddings, cheeseburgers, pies, and cakes, and the like. Oatmeal also contains carbs, so you need to limit your consumption--but it's a lot better for you than doughnuts!
2. Avoid processed foods, especially anything made with an instant soup mix or bouillon cubes. That's because they contain MSG, which both reduces insulin sensitivity and increases stress hormones, at least in animal studies.
3. When you can, eat curry. The curcumin in curry modifies the dopamine system in your brain in ways that add satisfaction to eating smaller amounts of food. Of course, you can also just take a curcumin supplement. One a day is enough.
4. Make sure you get good fats. Omega-3 fatty acids, either from microalgae or fish oil capsules, or from up to a handful (3-1/2 oz, 100 g) of nuts satisfies your appetite without making you grouchy. Adding nuts to your diet (assuming you are not allergic to them, of course) can actually help you lose weight despite the additional calories.
5. Don't skip meals just because your blood sugars are high. Eat normally, but just eat what's on your plan. You'll get your blood sugars right eventually, but an unplanned fast is not the way to do it.

If you have a type 2 teen, or you are a type 2 teen, be aware that (because of hormonal differences), boys with type 2 tend to be moodier than girls with type 2. It's important for all type 2 teens to stick to their diets, but boys in particular benefit from addition omega-3 fatty acid foods. For great information on dieting for weight loss, buy Bev's book Eat to Beat the Belly Fat Blues.

Selected Reference:

Lawrence JM, Standiford DA, Loots B, Klingensmith GJ, Williams DE, Ruggiero A, Liese AD, Bell RA, Waitzfelder BE, McKeown RE; SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study. Prevalence and correlates of depressed mood among youth with diabetes: the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study. Pediatrics. 2006 Apr;117(4):1348-58.

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