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TomGransnet (GNHQ) Fri 03-Nov-17 12:30:17

Q&A - How to eat for a brighter, happier wintertime

Jane Clarke will be answering your questions about diet and its correlation with mental health, and any queries you have on how to improve your mindfulness and physical well-being.

Please make sure to get your questions in for Jane to answer before we close entries on the 20th November at 9am!

Jane Clarke

Q&A - How to eat for a brighter, happier wintertime

Posted on: Fri 03-Nov-17 12:30:16


Lead photo

Jane Clarke

Mental health is a topic that’s been much in the news of late, with many people in the public eye acknowledging that fame and fortune are no protection from difficult times. Even if we’re fortunate enough not to live with depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, many of us will admit to finding life a struggle sometimes. This time of the year can be particularly troubling, when the days are shorter, the weather can be dark and gloomy, and the rush of festivities (Bonfire Night, Divali, Christmas and more) can make us feel overwhelmed or, conversely, isolated. At any time, an event such as bereavement, illness (ourselves or that of a loved one) or a break-in can be the tipping point that turns a generally upbeat mood into a time when we struggle to raise our spirits.

Many of my patients see me as a calm swan; an impartial confidante who won’t judge their fears when they are diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer, or if they or someone close to them has had a stroke or been diagnosed with dementia. But recently a treasured friend suffered a massive brain aneurysm at the young age of 42 and I’ve been struggling to maintain my equilibrium and positivity. As I explain to my patients, we can often cope with many psychological blows but then there comes a final straw and our body sends out a signal that we need to re-balance. For me, the telltale sign was a change in my sleep pattern. I started waking at 2am and struggled to persuade my body to go back to sleep for another couple of hours. I took out my nutritional, food and herbal remedies, re-engaged with my ballet classes, which I love, and started talking to a counsellor, and now I am sleeping much better and know that above the clouds the sun is shining.

Even if we're fortunate enough not to live with depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, many of us will admit to finding life a struggle sometimes.

I hope that if you are feeling low, you can find someone to talk to and an activity you enjoy that can help pull you out of the dip. Do look at what you are eating, too, as this is often one of the first things to suffer when we are finding it hard to cope emotionally. As John Gunther said, ‘All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast’. And I also love the Jewish proverb that states, ‘Worries go down better with soup’. Below are some quick suggestions and pointers on how to help improve your well-being:

- By changing what we eat, we can influence our moods and improve symptoms such as poor sleep, low energy and disturbed appetite (loss of appetite or a craving for certain foods).

- Nutrition-related factors such as iron-deficiency anaemia and coeliac disease, plus some blood pressure medication, can have mood-lowering effects, so consult your GP to ensure you’re receiving the correct help.

- Lack of B vitamins (found in wholegrains, fish, yoghurt, meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables) and low levels of selenium (Brazil nuts, shellfish, fruits and vegetables) can cause depression.

- It helps to stick to three meals a day plus a couple of snacks, rather than grazing on biscuits and easy-to-grab foods which take a away the appetite for a proper meal.

- Think about the flavours you love – my go-to comfort food is a spicy vegetarian curry – so that you look forward to eating. And if you prefer breakfast to dinner, go big on that and have a smaller supper.

- Planning ahead can really help if you’re not in the mood to cook. Writing a menu of meals for the week and shopping for those dishes can save you mental energy.

- Try inviting a friend over. We’ve created the Nourish Afternoon Tea to encourage people to get together over a cup of tea and a slice of cake, or a simple bowl of soup and some bread, as chatting and sharing a meal together is a surefire mood booster.

Do send me your questions and I’ll see if I can share some ideas to help you feel that bit better physically and emotionally. Please go to see your GP if you feel you may be depressed as there are a range of treatments available.

To find out more about Jane's work, visit her website here.

By Jane Clarke

Twitter: @NourishByJane

Grannyknot Fri 03-Nov-17 16:59:57

Hi Jane, I really enjoyed your article. I don't have any questions for you, just a thank you.

annsixty Fri 03-Nov-17 18:06:22

Yes, a very good article with lots of common sense.
We should stick to home cooked fresh meals, leave the take aways alone and finish with fresh fruit.
I will still have my wine though, that does my mood a lot of good.

Pittcity Fri 03-Nov-17 19:03:19

Is the old adage "A little of what you fancy does you good" true?

MawBroon Sat 04-Nov-17 09:04:39

A lot of good sense - and not a goji berry or grain of quinoa in sight!

kittylester Sat 04-Nov-17 11:40:45

Ann, wine is made from grapes - therefore fruit!

Riverwalk Sat 04-Nov-17 11:55:04

I note that Jane is a proper State Registered Dietician which explains all the good sense and wise words.

I'd like to ask her opinion on vitamins and supplements - so many people seem to take them by the handful.

NanKate Sun 05-Nov-17 07:43:03

Thank you Jane for your sensible down to earth advice on self help through stressful times.

'Above the clouds the sun is shining' really is a wonderful saying which I shall pass onto my DS who is going through a very difficult time in his life.

Because I am going through the upset with my DS and also have Polymyalgia I do not want another flare up as I am slowly managing to reduce my steroids.

I am about to have a session of acupuncture and an lucky to have good supportive friends.

I really would benefit from losing a stone. I have been investigating all different types of diets. I am not a big eater but obviously I am eating more than my body needs, I walk every day for about 25 minutes. I should add I also have an under active thyroid.

Can you Jane give me some of your sensible advice on how I can approach weight loss whilst also coping with a very stressful situation.

Many thanks.

JackyB Tue 07-Nov-17 06:47:32

This may be due to my having lived in Germany for over 40 years where people are notoriously obsessed with their bowel movements, but I do find that keeping the digestion active is extremely vital for the general well-being. This would have been the No. 1 priority for me and I am surprised it is not mentioned at all in the opening post.

At the other end of the system, going hungry is also a bad idea - small children are always miserable and difficult when they are hungry, as we all know. This also applies to most men. It may affect women, but I can't think of any examples; perhaps it's because we're the ones who put the food on the table, so we know when it's coming and can be patient.

PS. I once invited my sister-in-law for a meal of "foods that make you happy", which I put together after some light-hearted internet research. It certainly seemed to work. Afterwards, we were all in a good mood, and the main reason seemed to be that it left us feeling less bloated and "full-up" than usual.

Bridgeit Wed 08-Nov-17 20:03:57


bobbin Tue 14-Nov-17 09:29:30

hello Jane, I suffer from a very underactive thyroid and take a whopping great dose of thyroxine every day. In the summer, I'm fine, but as winter comes around I find the cold really gets to me (the disease means I feel the cold acutely) and can leave me unwilling to get out of bed in the morning. I often turn to comfort food - and too much of it - to keep me going, which just makes me feel worse in turn. Do you have any advice?

Caztown15 Fri 17-Nov-17 10:34:14

My husband was diagnosed with diabetes 2 a year ago, so we have been on a low carb, high fat diet with as little sugar as possible. We’ve both lost weight, his diabetes numbers are now in the normal range, and at the same time, my panic/anxiety attacks have all but disappeared. Best of all we’ve really enjoyed the new way of eating.

creativz Fri 17-Nov-17 10:51:49

Great article with lots of helpful advice, I think frequent exercise or taking brisk walks is number one for me, followed by the instant relief of a cosy hot water bottle, with plenty of fruit/veg and some decent chocolate grin it’s a recipe that does wonders for helping to ease the load and lift the spirit from the gloom, having the radio on is also a really good distraction, as it can often lighten the darkest corners of the mind. sunshine

nellgwin Sat 18-Nov-17 12:59:19

I found your article helpful, but was told this week that I have kidney problems plus kidney stones.
I am a vegetarian but have been told I now need to follow a vegan diet, no animal protein, eggs cheese dairy etc so low protein diet but no treatment for low hemoglobin count as medication can damage kidneys? Also low thyroxin levels, So need advice on diet but also still heart broken by my son's death and feel very low anyway.

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