There are certainly a number of reasons to feel down as we get older –
Loss of friends
Loss of loved ones
Loss of mobility
Having to move
When you are faced with enough stressful situations for long enough, your defenses can give way. It is normal to feel blue, for a while, at least. But did you know that prolonged stress has an effect on your body, not just your mind?
Any kind of chronic stress affects your nervous system. You make more of the pro-stress hormones like adrenaline, and less of the anti-stress ones. Too much adrenaline, too often, and your whole body becomes inflamed. So chronic stress can lead to chronic, low-grade inflammation.
Even worse, inflammation can actually cause depression, even without the stress. And depression causes more inflammation – a vicious circle. In fact, in some cases of severe depression doctors have prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs, along with anti-depressants, and have seen better responses than they were getting with anti-depressants alone.
Another source of inflammation is often your diet, especially if you use junk food to comfort yourself if you feel blue. So a few dietary adjustments might just be the thing to pick up your mood.
Sugar is everywhere, including places where it should not be, like pasta sauce. Sugar is also, literally, addictive. Read labels of sauces that you buy. If they have sugar, try versions without sweeteners. Find one you like, switch over, and you have just painlessly decreased one cause of inflammation.
Use a natural non-sugar sweetener like stevia instead of sugar. If it doesn’t taste quite right to you, try changing brands. Different brands have slightly different tastes, and by changing brands you might find one you like better.
Less fried food
Frying in oil, with or without a coating, makes any food more inflammatory
• Less French fries
• Less fried fish
Herbs and spices
Did you know that most herbs and spices fight inflammation? Use as much as you want of the following ones:
• Cinnamon – in desserts and coffee cake, of course, but also in coffee and tea, and in meat and poultry dishes, too.
• Turmeric – often used in Indian cuisine. You absorb more if you use it with black pepper, also part of Indian dishes.
• Oregano and basil – essential for pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce. (And the Mediterranean diet.) You can grow them in pots on your kitchen windowsill.
• Bay leaves – great in spaghetti sauce
• Rosemary – try in potato dishes
• Thyme – think chicken, especially chicken soup
Oily fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory action and help prevent heart disease, strokes, and even Alzheimer’s disease
Most vegetables have anti-inflammatory effects. Eat a variety of colors, to get all the anti-inflammatory ingredients. If you don’t like vegetables that well, and have difficulty increasing them in your diet, there are ways to hide them and sneak them into your meals.
• Leafy greens – both cooked and in salads
• Broccoli family – broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, high in sulforaphane
• Carrots – high in carotenoids
• Tomatoes – high in lycopene
• Onions and garlic – high in allicin
• Other veggies – add as many different colors as you can
Be careful here – fruits that are too high in fructose can be harmful
Fiber found in whole grains help nourish healthy bacteria in your gut. This has actually been shown to decrease inflammation in your whole body. I have not listed grains high in gluten – the gluten is inflammatory for many people.
• Brown rice
More poultry, less red meat
Meat from conventionally-raised sheep and cattle is pro-inflammatory. Grass-fed, grass-finished meat is better for you but poultry is best.
Red wine has resveratrol, found in red grape skins. Resveratrol has anti-inflammatory action. One 5 ounce glass of wine per day has been shown to help decrease the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. A few varieties are listed below.
• Pinot noir
• Cabernet sauvignon
• Red zinfandel
This blog previously appeared in slightly different form at sixtyandme.com