Food and Mood, Mood and Food


There’s definitely a few ways of connecting those two things.  Many people will recognise that certain moods lead us to consume certain foods.  If we’re low or tired we look for pick me up foods to lift that mood.  This can be successfully achieved with sugary foods which release endorphines. “Endorphines” is actually an abbreviation for “endogenous morphine”, meaning “morphine produced naturally in the body” and they certainly give us a good feeling if only short lived.  We might comfort eat looking for familiar foods which remind us of better times.

Stress can also lead us to eating the wrong foods – our body’s response to chronic (long term) stress is to try and put the brakes on.  Under acute stress the body isn’t interested in food , only in “fight or flight” and hasn’t time to digest.  If stress continues, the body expects the reserves will be used up and therefore needs high calorific food, which it therefore craves.  Those sources are so readily available this happens to a greater degree than the body expects or needs.  However it does act as a break to the cortisol being produced as the body believes it is safe because you’re eating.

Already you seen a 2-way street here between food and mood.

Food of course provides the building blocks for everything that goes on in our bodies and our head and it really is our fuel.  Getting the right fuel is essential for our bodies and minds to work effectively.  In the immediate moment, high fat sugary foods may do the trick, but long term they are not good news.  In particular, sugar, which will produce a roller coaster effect; after a sugar “high” blood sugars can plummet causing irritability and “hangry” episodes as we search out our next fix.

However, with a bit of knowledge we can search out food that will help us take control of these emotions and provide the nutrients to produce hormones which will make us feel good.  For instance, the hormone Serotonin is made mainly in the gut but a small percentage is produced from the amino acid Tryptophan which is an essential amino acid which means it must be obtained from food.  Tryptophan  is found in many foods such as oats, bananas, dried prunes, milk, tuna fish, cheese, bread, chicken, turkey, peanuts, and chocolate.  To get it from the gut to the brain it competes with other amino acids to get into the blood stream and it has been found that eating carbohydrates with a food rich in Tryptophan can benefit levels reaching the brain and therefore benefiting mood. (1)


(1) Richard, D. M., Dawes, M. A., Mathias, C. W., Acheson, A., Hill-Kapturczak, N., & Dougherty, D. M. (2009). L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications. International Journal of Tryptophan Research : IJTR2, 45–60.