One benefit of the national debate over health insurance is the spotlight on health care itself. I don’t pretend to have the answer to the political quagmires, but I have to say I’ve enjoyed the deliberation (most of it anyway). Most of all, I appreciate seeing health care issues hashed out in a wide public forum. (I’m holding out hope that it will lead to a real discussion of genuine health itself. A few public figures have tried to steer it that way to little avail so far.) While politicians and talking heads bicker and vent, I tend to take more interest in the stories of independent-minded people who’ve learned to steer the system in their favor, those who’ve fought it tooth and nail and those who’ve checked out of it altogether to go their own route. (Gee, no one fitting that description here … wink). In the last year I’ve gotten a good number of emails from folks trying to do just that – navigating the health care system and their insurance companies as they take charge of their health and buck CW in favor of what they consider more effective interventions that complement their Primal journeys. Here’s one such message…
Just when you feel you’ve made the successful transition to Primal eating in everyday life, you stumble upon a scenario that sends you back to the drawing board. For some people, it’s the holidays. For others, it’s travel. For reader Brian, it’s regular camping trips into the real “primal environment”:
Each summer and throughout the year, I spend weeks at a time leading hiking, backpacking and camping trips in the backcountry. While this seems like it’s definitely a primal activity, traditional backpacking fare consists of oatmeal, tortillas, granola, peanut butter, pasta, rice, and beans. These foods are light, compact, durable, will fill you up, do not need to be refrigerated, and are easily packable. At the end of each week, though, I always feel worn out – depleted, almost – and I realize now that it is probably because of what I eat. Do you have any primal menu suggestions for those of us who actually live, at times, in a primal environment? (Hunting and gathering are unfortunately not viable options.) Thanks!
Clearly, we eat not just to fill our stomachs but to satisfy a whole host of biochemical drives. The brain is built to incentivize our efforts not just with the quieting of hunger pangs but the kick-starting of an intricate hormonal “reward” system. When it comes to diet, I’ve always said what nurtures the body nurtures the brain. The proof is in the biochemical picture. And while I wholeheartedly believe that we each choose what we eat and how we treat our bodies, there’s something to the science that shows addictive properties in junk food. I occasionally get emails on this topic. Here’s a timely one from last week.
It’s a common question I get: how to graciously decline the proudly presented delicacy, the traditional or long-labored sweet, the celebratory dessert. Like it or not, desserts are woven into our cultural doings and gatherings. As one reader put it recently, “I’ve been trying to go quasi-primal for about 6 months and have had very good results. A challenging situation that I’ve experienced is declining dessert offers from friends who LOVE to bake. How do I politely decline a chef’s generosity without offending them?”
I occasionally get emails from readers who are interested in lifestyle changes that can either complement or replace their conventional treatments for depression. Since our post a few weeks ago on antidepressants, I’ve gotten a slew of emails asking me about the role of nutrition in mental health. In response I thought I’d devote a Dear Mark to the general question of diet and depression. Thanks to all who wrote in or commented on the boards or forum!
It comes as no surprise that nutrition directly impacts brain performance just as it does the functioning of every other organ. Although the roots of clinical depression involve a complex (and theoretically contentious) mix of physiological, genetic and socio-emotional factors, the physical picture hones in on neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that travel between nerves in the brain. Of all the neurotransmitters, the key players in mood disorders are dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. When we talk about a diet that supports mental health, we’re essentially looking at nutrition that sustains both optimal neurological functioning and hormone balance.
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