By Elli Kmiec, MBA, RDN
Hi everyone, my name is Elli! I recently just joined the incredible team at Tone House as one of the in-House Dietitians alongside Ryan Turner. I look forward to meeting you all in person but here is a little backstory to get to know me first. I am a newish New Yorker – moved here 3 months ago from Chicago. However, I was born and raised in South Jersey (yes there is a South!) and grew up visiting NYC often. I received my undergraduate in Nutrition & Dietetics at West Chester University in PA. Then I decided to freeze my butt off for two years getting my MBA and completing my 1200 hours of supervised practice in dietetics in Chicago.
Why nutrition, & what makes me so different from other RDs? When I was seven years old my father suddenly passed from a heart attack. I spent most of my childhood frustrated, confused and wondering how an athlete, a retired Naval Lieutenant could die so young. Long story short, we realized it was his pivotal transition time into civilian life when his health rapidly declined in a short span. I learned how nutritional prevention/care could have played an essential role in this transitional time. So, I wondered how many other young veterans could benefit from nutritional guidance – and thus my passion to improve the nutritional well-being of young veterans was born!
I’ll be covering popular nutrition topics regularly on the Playbook. If you have any questions or request for me to cover, shoot me an email. I’m happy to help!
First up: being hangry.
You know that feeling when you don’t eat, and the smallest frustration makes you angrier than normal? Ever down a pint of your favorite ice cream because you were sad and afterward you just felt even sadder?
Well, I’m here to tell you that it is entirely normal to have so many emotions that seem to be related to foods. It is actually one example of a very important relationship amongst the body’s organs: the gut-brain relationship. Yup, that’s right. Your stomach and intestines work hand and hand every day with that complex brain on your shoulders. The field of nutritional psychiatry looks at what the foods we eat do to our bodies beyond the superficial changes that the world sees – it analyzes how the foods we eat directly alter our mental state and thus our behavior.
Let’s enter the field of nutritional psychiatry, shall we? C’mon, did you really think all we did was meal plan as Dietitians?
Your body is filled with numerous endorphins, which are neurotransmitters responsible for releasing “happy” chemicals in your body. And as my girl Elle Woods reminds us, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy”. What she didn’t know is what we eat gives us endorphins too! Eating produces serotonin, a neurotransmitter largely responsible for regulating your mood.
Roughly about 95% of your body’s stash of serotonin is produced in your GI tract – your gut can be quite happy huh? So, you may be thinking ‘why can’t I eat whatever I want if my gut has a boatload of happy hormones?’ Unfortunately, your crazy complex body couldn’t leave it at that. The production of your gut serotonin is highly influenced by your gut’s microbiome health.. Your microbiome health, in a nutshell, is the balance of bad and good bacteria. The bad bacteria are harmful and can make us sick or give us food poisoning. The good bacteria are the fighters that combat bad bacteria we ingest. They also positively influence the amount of serotonin we produce in our guts. Many things can negatively impact our microbiome health including taking chronic antibiotics or having a poor nutritional quality diet.
A poor nutritional quality diet contains foods such as refined grains, refined sugar, processed meats, or cooking fats at excessive high heat. These foods or cooking methods can cause increased cellular inflammation or damage the microbiome via the toxins and free radicals they release. In turn, we produce less serotonin – increasing the prevalence of depression and anxiety.
To combat this and promote a healthy gut microbiome we can consume foods like fruits, vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, and vitamins & minerals. This dietary manipulation can positively affect your brain plasticity. The high nutritional quality foods mentioned will promote “good” bacteria in the microbiome. Your serotonin production will be increased and neural pathways from your gut to the brain will be activated allowing you to utilize increased levels of happiness production.
I know that was a lot of science to stomach – pun intended. The most important thing to remember is that we need to be aware and mindful of the quality of the foods we ingest. If we take care of our gut and keep it happy, it will keep our brains happy too. So the key takeaway: avoid processed and refined foods as well as cooking at excessively high temperatures, and your gut will produce more serotonin. More serotonin = less hangry.
If you want to dive deeper into the nutrition or want to synergize your nutrition and performance goals reach out to me at email@example.com, or follow me on Instagram @thefuelologist!
See you on the Turf!