On my travel out to New York I sat in the plane next to a lady who after a quick introduction involved me into a deep discussion about “food and depression”.

It was not one of those agonizing in-flight stories; Actually, I would have loved to converse with her for hours more! People living in busy urban environments all know of others suffering from loneliness, having introverted torturing thoughts and being pained with inadequate feelings… I too sometimes feel “down trodden” or not as perceptive as I know myself to be. However, I have several methods of “coping” with the onslaught of depression. One of them is to change the “interior monologue” from bad to positive: Instead of allowing my thoughts to assume negativity I willingly can adapt to “correct” my dark spooks. I point in the mirror and say: ‘He you, I love you!  I will make you laugh’. When I frown back, I actually crack a smile…

In TCM we recommend to take a daily cold morning shower, meditate. Adapt a two minute yoga stretch because these actions initiate change; simply getting out of bed, opening the windows, allowing oneself to be happy by not drowning in “darkness” changes the path. Instead of watching NEWS listen to your oldies (loudly), take a quick dance step, lift your chin high and say something nice about yourself: “Hey! I’m the shit!” Talk to your plants. Point at your pet and tell her/him they are loved!

DO NOT sleep with your cellphone next to you. Turn it off when you go to sleep, until you’re up, out of bed and awake!

We are clearly the result of what we do and what we eat. Food is a major factor in how we feel; here is your blog that might encourage you to change a few things to curve your mood and for the wise one to avoid loosing your mind.

First off, if you are a moody person, cut back on sugar and never, NEVER consume anything that contains Aspartame. Let’s learn something about the chemistry that directly influences our neuro-receptors in the brain. This is important to understand when activating your full brain function while studying or preventing inherited genes from “freezing” our mental capacity. Whilst we are at the NEVER consume power-drinks named fittingly “Monster” or “Booster” – you kinda know they are bad, it’s just not totally respected how horrible their side-effects are. Manufacturers quickly jump onto modern science to create supplements based on isolated information and they will express (advertise) that we are all made from the same matter and hence react uniformly. These drinks are especially horrid when you’re depressed!

That’s when I am telling you to turn the NEWS back on and realize we are NOT the same. Made of equal matter, similar prepositioned in mobility but limited by genes and gravity – certainly not similar when acting outside human compassion towards others.

“Brain foods” are obtained from eating high protein such as meat, dairy, avocados, soy products, and certain nuts and seeds. What makes them ideal for mental health is their high content of phenylalanine that through proper combination and digestion convert into tyrosine (another amino acid) used in protein synthesis. For the few I lost above: A healthy brain needs kaffir, hard cheese, avocado, lentils, chick peas, seaweed, pumpkin, non-heated coconut fat, cold pressed oils and sesame seeds. For the lesser vegetarian there is lots of phenylalanine in meat, fish and eggs. Artichokes, parsley and oregano contain apigenine, an antidepressant and broccoli will help keep your liver healthy and detoxify.

In humans, phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that must be obtained from the diet and not from an isolated source (sorry, most isolated products have very little benefit…). In contrast, tyrosine can be synthesized in your digestive track from phenylalanine and is considered a non-essential amino acid. Both compounds can be altered into chemicals that affect mood and brain functioning by controlling the “side-dishes” you swallow at the same time. We eat terrible combinations of foods, they are often deprived of natural sources for phenylalanine and tyrosine, so frequently we take them as nutritional supplements. This is not ideal; it’s like a chest implant; it might look nice but there is no strength or actual physical function. Juicing and fasting during depression is NOT healthy!

L-Phenylalanine turns into L-Tyrosine that is converted into L-Dopa (dopamine) which stimulates the brain to either “like” or “crave”… A healthy brain needs this to function! And here is a dilemma, it can be abused to make you addicted to the wrong foods if viciously added. Industries (as do drug dealers) keep you hooked when promoting you to consume a chemically altered substance… Some people suffer from a genetic disorder called phenylketuria (PKU), in which phenylalanine is not metabolized. It can build up to toxic levels and cause retardation and death. The artificial sweetener Aspartame is one of the modern spike for growing brain illness in babies! A combination of aspartic acid and phenylalanine are a common component in diet sodas. I have clients with serious mental problems consuming daily sodas, pop-corn and artificially enhanced products while medicated to prevent loosing their mind. We are a weird species! I have a doctor friend that drinks diet coke daily and claims he is totally healthy…

Anyone with a family history of Alzheimer. Amyotophic (ALC) Lou Gehrig’s and neurodegenerative diseases should never consume artificially modified food products. These restrictions include ALL artificial sweeteners… yes, Stevia included! Before you run to the health store and buy DL-phenylalanine synthesized supplements try eating accordingly. Nature is chuck full with healthy solutions that are tasty and cause no side-effects. Health food stores hype their products that have unlimited shelve storage dates and are far revoked from “natural” (even so its printed BOLD on their packages).

Changes in dopamine levels can have beneficial effects on mood disorders such as depression and diseases such as Parkinson’s. People with PKU or who take antidepressants as well as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take supplements of phenylalanine.

Start your day with a positive thought! Drink a glass of room temperate water with a slice of fresh ginger in it (ginger significantly enhances cognitive function) and eat bran cereal or oatmeal that is only slightly sweetened (honey). Eat plenty of berries and fruit but do not eat bananas that are totally white. They are not healthy and do not contain as much phenylalanine compared to “spotted” ripe bananas.

You should eat an avocado every week, increase your consumption of pumpkin, blanched kale, cooked broccoli and bruised spinach. They are very difficult to digest raw! Eat chickpeas, humus, lentils and pumpkin seed whenever they are presented; It’s super rich on brain oil. Consume a few sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds or any (unsalted) nuts when feeling like “snacking” they curve appetite and nourish your skin and lungs. Pumpkin seeds and fresh pressed oils are ideal if not roasted or baked… Avoid pop-corn, sodas and anything that is lazed with sweetener, it most certainly will block good dopamine effects and is merely designed to keep you hooked. Dairy products when fermented (cheese, some yoghurt and butter) are healthy and rich on brain-fatty acids. Milk is not. If you are already affected with a neurological disorder you need to stay away from too much soy product, avoid artificial starches (bread, pasta, pastries) and consult with your doctor about foods that might interfere with your medication.

I am working on a recipes, specifically targeting foods that benefit the brain…

Until my flight back to Los Angeles… Enjoy and share!

TCMchef raphael

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