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WAKE UP AMERICA! The Hungry Brain

Diabetes, dieting, attention deficit disorders are better understood when we look at how our brains and gut work together.

Food For Thought

In the conference I attended lead by Dr. Merrily Kuhn, I learned the powerful relationship between our brain and our gut health.

In order to repair or minimize damage to our bodies, whether brought on by ourselves, our environment, or our genetics, we must understand what’s broken or missing.

Ever eat too much, get stressed, or have trouble sleeping? Your brain chemicals are having a party. These words from Dr. Kuhn may help you to be a better chaperone.

Plus I’ll let you in on a little secret to boost the benefit from that cup of coffee for your next race or exam!

The Hungry Brain

  • Our brains use 25% of our blood sugar. A normal blood sugar should be 80-100mg/dl. Under 60mg and you may feel constant hunger and impaired cognitive function.
  • Self control is affected by a low glucose level.  The prefrontal cortex of your brain slows and makes you want to eat everything.  (This is the area of brain targeted by anti-depressant drugs).
  • Overweight people are often resistant to Leptin which is a hormone in fat cells that tells the brain when the body has enough fat.
  • Ghrelin is a hormone that increases hunger and slows metabolism and will go up to try and regain weight lost. Competes with Leptin!
  • Eating low glycemic foods such as complex carbs, sprouted grains, quinoa, sweet potatoes can help in this battle of the hormones.
  • For breakfast and lunch eat more protein to improve energy and alertness. Eat more carbs for dinner to promote calmness. (Opposite of what I thought!).

The Stressed Brain

  • The best definition of stress I’ve ever heard:

“The sum of physical and mental responses to an unacceptable disparity between personal experience and personal expectations.”

  • Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland. Impacted by chronic stress, but also by sugar, salt and sex, cortisol levels fluctuate. Lower cortisol levels can trigger food cravings.
  • Levels reset during sleep. Adult cortisol levels peak between 6 and 8am. Teenagers between 9 and 10am.
  • Depleted cortisol levels can lead to depression, Type 2 diabetes, allergies, early menopause, and poor exercise recovery.
  • You can get your cortisol level tested by LABRIX Clinical Services if interested.
  • Chronic stress, such as caring for an ill family member, can create serious health consequences.

The Wired Brain: the Epidemic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Diet can have a huge impact on the treatment of ADHD.
  • Must remove MSG from diet! Look for these ingredients:
    • gulamic acid, amino acid, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast casinate, natural flavoring, natural spices
  • Avoid these items:
    • sugar & high fructose corn syrup, pesticides, hydrogenated oils, caffeine, salt (disturbs mineral balance)
  • Include these items:
    • Omega 3’s, B vitamins, protein, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K rich foods (bananas, apricots, cantaloupe, etc.)
  • Terrific resources:
The Anxious Brain
  • Make sure you have some protein at breakfast and fuel regularly with complex carbs.
  • Drink lots of water. Even mild dehydration can trigger anxiety.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol even though it calms you initially. When metabolized, it makes you edgy. Avoid caffeine for obvious reasons.
  • Avoid artificial flavors, preservatives, and dyes. (There are dyes in toothpaste!)

The Sleepy Brain 

  • 1 in 4 adults have sleeping issues. Most serious consequence of insomnia is a decreased ability to learn.
  • Just 1-2 hours less sleep decreases your natural killer cells by 72%. If 3-4 hours less sleep, symptoms mimic pre-diabetes.
  • Melatonin supplements
    • Don’t take if pregnant or trying to get pregnant and don’t give to children.
    • In order for Melatonin to be produced, the pineal gland must perceive darkness.
    • Food sources include: oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, bananas, barley
    • Foods high in Tryptophan (calming): seaweed, soy nuts, turkey, tofu
  • Magnesium
    • 500-1000 mg daily. Gradual increase to avoid stomach distress.
    • Can decrease pain, slightly lower blood pressure, helps you sleep
    • 75% of diabetics are magnesium deficient!
    • Food source:  dark, leafy greens
  • Avoid protein rich foods before bed. Increases dopamine which affects sleep.

My Takeaway

Best website for research on brands of supplements:

Good source for USDA listing of most food ingredients:

My greatest takeaway from this conference was the emphasis that our food is the first line of defense for what ails us. I look to my diet first before considering medical interventions.

I am 100% certain that children are overmedicated because their diets are ignored. If I were treating children as a therapist today, the first line of questioning would be about their eating habits.

For my next big race, I might add grapefruit juice or Tagamet to my breakfast with my coffee. The juice increases the effects of caffeine by 1/3rd and the Tagamet by 70%!

A Healthier YOU begins…

…by remembering that your ailments, from inflammation to anxiety, may be treatable with simple dietary changes that have only positive side effects. 

Dr. Merrily Kuhn’s books are available on Amazon.

The conference I attended was called, Food For Thought: How Nutrients Affect Mental Health and the Brain. Sponsored by The Institute for Brain Potential. Dr. Kuhn is a well respected expert and professor in Pharmacology, Pathophysicology, and Complementary medicine and has received 3 doctoral degrees. Consult with your personal physician with any questions and tailored recommendations to your specific needs. Please read intro to series for disclaimer.

"If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results." Jack Dixon


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