Oct. 2, 2013: For most practitioners of the Western medical profession, health is defined as "the absence of sickness, pain, and disease." When your doctor asks you, "How are you feeling?" you know that he/she isn’t asking if you're over-the-moon because you've just won the lottery! The doctor just wants to know if you have any ailments. There will be some concern if you’re sad, since it might indicate that you are depressed, but generally the doctor’s there to diagnose bodily problems and recommend a solution.
In this column we are going to look at some of the shortcomings in this definition of the word.
Through the field of psychiatry, there has been an attempt to broaden the term "sickness" from including not only that of the body, but that of the mind, as well. But it's still a limited approach to medicine and one that gives low priority to factors such as stress, mood, and energy levels with which we are all preoccupied. When you throw in the lack of success the medical profession has had with afflictions such as depression, anorexia, and bulimia, its shortcomings are even more readily apparent.
Such factors as weight, stress, mood, and energy levels all play an important role in our overall happiness. It's hard to be happy if we are deficient in some or all of these areas. So while most of the medical profession is not concerned with your happiness, in this wellness column, at least, we are greatly concerned with it!
A healthy balanced body cannot have chronic mood and weight problems! There is a reason that such problems exist and, importantly, ways of dealing with them without debilitating diets and agonizing workouts.
At this point, I should add that I am indebted to Julia Ross and her book The Diet Cure, without which much of the following would not have been possible. She writes, "Depression, tension, irritability, anxiety, and cravings are all symptoms of a brain that is deficient in the mood-enhancing and pleasure-promoting chemicals called neurotransmitters."
So what are these brain chemicals that regulate our appetites and moods? There are five of them:
1. Glucose: adequate levels keep blood supplies stable
2. Endorphins: these are our natural comfort chemicals
3. Serotonin: it's our natural antidepressant and sleep promoter
4. GABA: it's our natural tranquilizer
5. Catecholamines: there are four of them, including dopamine and adrenaline. They are our natural energizers and mental focusers.
The good news is that we don’t have to take drugs, legal or otherwise, to fill up on these chemicals. Ms. Ross says:
Restoring depleted brain chemistry sounds like a big job--but it isn't. Three of the four key neurotransmitters are made from just a single amino acid each! Because biochemists isolate these key amino acids and extract them from special yeasts, you can easily add the specific ones that may be deficient. These 'free form' amino acids are instantly bioavailable (in other words, they are predigested), unlike protein powders from soy or milk, which are harder to absorb. Hundreds of research studies at Harvard, MIT, and elsewhere have confirmed the effectiveness of using just a few of these targeted amino acid precursors to increase the key neurotransmitters, thereby eliminating depression, anxiety, and cravings for food, and even alcohol, and drugs.
At this time, I’d like you to imagine--"understand" would be a better word--what happens when your brain realizes that some part of the body is deficient in certain essential nutrients. In fact, let's take the brain itself as a good example, and assume that the fuel required for the brain to function effectively is in short supply.
The brain isn't going to tolerate this shortage for long, and it sends out powerful biochemical messages ordering you to get it this fuel; and this fuel is glucose! You can get glucose in one of two ways; slowly, from complex carbohydrates found in vegetables and fruits, or instantly, from processed "foods" that contain refined sugars. Guess which one we go for?
It is not only candy and ice cream that have large amounts of sugar in them. As our society became concerned about the linkage between eating too much saturated fat and the incidence of heart disease, the food manufacturers began to take out the fat content in the "foods" they made and--yes, you’ve guessed it--substitute sugar in its place. And here's the best lesson of all: if they don’t add sugar, as indicated in the zero-fat yogurt container that I’ve just looked at, your body will crave it (i.e., the sugars) and/or the fat and not be content until it has received them.
So make sure that you have adequate fat in your diet, not too much and not too little. Olive oil, avocados, and coconuts are good non-animal sources of fat. Fish and meat, of course, also provide fats. Just don’t overdo it with the amount. Two ounces of fish or meat is sufficient to provide adequate amounts; you don’t need the six, eight, or more ounces that are so common in our diet.
Editor’s Note: Gregory Joseph can be contacted at
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are not intended as medical advice, nor are they intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional.