Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation

Log in to your ANA Ketogenic Nutrition Training Course HERE


Can’t see what you are looking for? Try typing a keyword into the search box below or search our Nutrition Digest Archives.

Newsletter Signup

Newsletter Homepage

Volume 38, No. 2

Mood Cure by Diet

On September 21st and 22nd, 2004, in both Oak Park and Morton Grove, Julia Ross enthusiastically presented NOHA with two delightful lectures, dealing with her experience over many years caring for people with various mood problems at her clinic. She pointed out to us that all our moods depend upon the neurotransmitters in our brains and we depend completely on the amino acids in the protein that we eat for the production of all our neurotransmitters. Thus, to aim for good health and good moods, we need to be sure to eat a fine supply of complete protein at all three meals every day and, if we need snacks, avoid the prevalent junk food. She has great suggestions and recipes in both her books.*

She arrived at our NOHA lectures with four colored balloons representing the four most common mood problems from which people suffer. Also, their clients often have major drug problems and many have struggled with obesity. In The Diet Cure, she deals with confronting the drug addictions and the obesity. Julia Ross wants to cure people from dieting, which so often fails. She wants to prevent them from following each new diet fad, perhaps losing a little weight, but then failing, and gaining even more weight! At her clinic they confront the mood problems first and then find that both addiction and overweight problems can be managed much more easily. She has questionnaires for people to find out which mood problems they have. Then, they know at the clinic which neurotransmitters need to be enhanced and what amino acids can give the body a jump start until excellent nutrition from their diet alone can take over completely.

She describes the four most common mood problems:

1) "Lifting the Dark Cloud: Eliminating the Depression and Anxiety Caused by Inadequate Serotonin"
The neurotransmitter serotonin is produced from the essential amino acid tryptophan, which is found in all complete protein foods, such as eggs, fish, meat, and cheese. However, tryptophan is found at lower levels than other essential amino acids and it must compete with some of them to pass our blood-brain barrier and produce the calming neurotransmitter serotonin. [See also, The Circadian Prescription: Get in step with your body's natural rhythms to maximize energy, vitality, and longevity by NOHA Honorary Member Sidney Macdonald Baker, MD, with Karen Baar, MPH, reviewed in NOHA NEWS, Fall 2002, pages 6-8.] Exercise can help to give tryptophan a competitive advantage. When muscles are working, there is a need for more amino acids from the blood stream for repair-all except tryptophan. Thus it reaps an advantage and can more easily pass the blood-brain barrier and produce the calming serotonin. Many athletes feel a fine mood-lift from exercise.

Ross points out that "tryptophan has been diminishing in our food supply for the past one hundred years, about as long as our rate of depression as been climbing! . . . .Wild game, like the venison our forebears ate, was much higher in tryptophan than the meat we eat today. The difference is largely the result of how the animals we eat now are fed themselves. Rather than the grasses and other plants that wild animas grazed on, our modern stockyard animals are fed low-tryptophan grains like corn. This fattens up the animals in record time but, as a result, the meat from these animals is much lower in tryptophan. To compound the problem, we humans have also increased our consumption of . . . grain-based carbohydrates like bread, pasta, corn, [and/or] cookies, which [have] further diminished our access to tryptophan." Our forebears liked to eat "three square meals a day," including lots of meat and game.

Ross points out that sunlight ("full spectrum light") is exceedingly important for the production of serotonin. People, who are low in serotonin, tend to have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and be depressed in the winter and even during the day when it tends to get dark.

Fibromyalgia, TMJ (teeth grinding, painful tension in the jaw), and migraines can be associated with low serotonin. Although fibromyalgia can have other causes, too, including low thyroid, they have found at their clinic that it usually responds very well to nutrient therapy, as does TMJ.

With adequate serotonin we feel not just calm but confident and flexible and can enjoy restful nighttime sleep.

2) "Blasting the Blahs: Rebuilding Your Energy, Motivation, and Capacity to Focus"
"Our clinic has had a major impact on the local coffee merchants. Because of us, they've lost hundreds of their former hard-core customers. Our secret? Being able to restore animation, energy, and focus naturally."

Tiredness all the time and lack of motivation have two basic causes: first, lack of certain brain chemicals-the catechoamines: dopamine, norephinephrine, and adrenaline, which can produce jolts of energy (Ross names them the "cats"); secondly, low thyroid function, which sometimes requires thyroid medication. Ross points out that "certain prescription drugs can inhibit the thyroid', one example, being "the estrogen birth control pills." Ross is eloquent on foods that interfere badly with thyroid function:

Wheat and its cousins rye, barley, and oats—these are the most exhausting foods on the planet. They're the only foods that can typically make you sleepy (and bloated) after meals and lower your vitality level all day. They are known to cause thyroiditis, a common and debilitating low—thyroid condition.. . .

Soy foods—As little as 3 to 4 tablespoons of soy per day can powerfully depress your thyroid function and lower your metabolic rate. This applies to soy-based infant formula and protein powders, soy milk, and tofu. . . . [See also, NOHA NEWS, Fall 2001, "The Downside of Soybean Consumption," by NOHA Honorary Member Beatrice Trum Hunter, pages 1-3.]

Cruciferous vegetables—So named for their cross-shaped blossoms, these vegetables include cauliflower, cabbage, collards, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, turnips, and rutabaga. These thyroid-suppressing veggies also contain indoles, dithiothiones, and other chemicals that activate enzymes that destroy carcinogens, so don't eliminate them, just don't eat them daily.

Millet—This is another grain that can be a thyroid suppressor.

The amino acid tyrosine, which is abundant in high-protein foods, supplies the essential ingredient for producing all the "cats" (catechoamines). At their clinic, they have had great success carefully using supplements of tyrosine "to overcome apathetic depression and attention deficits." Also, they have had satisfying success in treating addictions from sweets and coffee to cocaine. Ross refers to the discoveries by researcher in brain chemistry and genetics, Kenneth Blum, PhD, who found that even people with a genetic problem producing dopamine, which is the parent of the other two "cats," could be helped by using amino acids, especially tyrosine. Ross also learned from "the work of Joan Mathews-Larson, author of the marvelous book 7 Weeks to Sobriety, who was successfully using Blum's methods and other nutritional strategies in her outpatient alcoholism clinic in Minneapolis."

Typically, before treatment at Ross' clinic in California, these people are not only apathetic and can't focus but have also already become addicted to stimulant drugs (often including cocaine). Sometimes the essential amino acid phenylalanine is used with or instead of tyrosine. In both cases great care is taken and the clients are always aimed toward an excellent, protein-rich diet, so that they can gradually reduce and eliminate their use of amino acid supplements.

3) "All Stressed Out: How to Recover from Adrenal Overload"
Ross points out the many stressful circumstances in our lives. On the other hand, we can imagine how lovely it would be to look forward to and then take a quiet walk outside-just to enjoy ourselves-not rushing anywhere. However, we often let ourselves become "overloaded" with many unhappy consequences. She is eloquent on the ubiquitous bad diet in the United States, which causes major problems with stress. A system-shocking, stressful breakfast of coffee and sweetened cereal causes blood sugar to peak and then plunge. When blood sugar plummets (causing hypoglycemia), the adrenal glands are then activated to stem the emergency. Ross points out that "the one thing that may be harder on us than eating stressful foods is not eating anything. Skipping meals and going on low-cal diets create an inner emergency state (called starvation) that is highly stressful." In several chapters she gives excellent examples of meal plans, which include excellent fats, as well as the proteins that supply all our mood enhancing amino acids. These daily meals will maintain our blood sugar levels constant-not rising to a sharp peak and then plunging into hypoglycemia, which causes major stress and adrenal overload.

Other causes of stress can be infections; intestinal parasites and gut yeast or fungal overgrowth; allergens, including soy, which "is also known to interfere with the stress-coping hormones in the adrenals." Too much exercise can overwork the adrenals. "In fact, post exercise fatigue is a classic diagnostic sign of low adrenal function." Exercise, but do the right amount for your body, which may be just a little at first. Unfortunately, stress created by manmade toxins is now ubiquitous. "Some degree of chemical contamination in our air, food, soil, and water is now a constant reality both at work and at home."

Unbalanced sex hormones can also cause stress. This situation can easily occur when the adrenal glands are overworked producing the stress-response hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. Instead, the adrenal glands should be producing sex hormones, such as progesterone, which can turn on "the most relaxing chemical in the brain": the amino acid and neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutric acid). People are frequently helped with a GABA supplement. Often, Julia Ross has seen clients calmed in a matter of minutes with GABA.

Two other amino acids can also relieve stress: One is taurine, which "can actually turn off brain seizures!" The other is glycine, which helps to relax muscles.

4) "Too Sensitive to Life's Pain: How to Amplify Your Own Comforting Endorphines
Endorphins are brain chemicals that lesson pain and give us feelings of contentment and euphoria. They have the same receptor sites in the brain as the opiates. Interestingly, by using the drug naloxone-which plugs into the endorphin sites in the brain-we can block "the pleasurable effects of alcohol, marijuana, and chocolate, as well as tobacco, sweet and fatty foods, activities like sex and gambling," and even the enjoyment of the company of close beloved people like one's mother. Endorphin hormones, when not blocked, can raise significantly the pleasurable effects of all the above. "Meditation and running are also effective endorphin-level raisers, and bungee jumpers can count on a more than 200 percent endorphin increase! For obvious reasons, the lower in endorphins we are, the more drawn we are to these substances and activities."

There are several ways to become endorphin-deficient, including pain and stress. "If your pleasure chemistry is deficient, there really is a simple and direct way to build it up in a single day." What is "the winning formula? Twin amino acids, backed up by high-protein foods three times a day and few other nutritional armaments. . . . The twin formula is DLPA, a combination of the D- and L- forms of the amino acid phenylalanine."

Thus, Julia Ross deals with the major mood problems that afflict us. In The Diet Cure she states, "Amino acids are the key." She does caution us to use amino acids most carefully and basically as a crutch until our total nutritional intake is corrected. She warns about the dangers of rancid fats and trans fats from hydrogenated oils and points out that essential fats, vitamins, and minerals are needed for amino acid use from our protein intake. The amino acids "are stronger than willpower and more effective and safer for most people than drugs like Prozac and Fen-Phen. Available in every health food store in America, these isolated protein fragments are the miracle foods that your brain uses to make its most powerful pleasure chemicals: serotonin-your natural Prozac; dopamine/norepinephrine-your natural cocaine; endorphin-naturally stronger than heroin; and GABA-naturally more relaxing than Valium."

We have an epidemic of obesity in the United States today. Many of her clients are grossly overweight and have failed on every diet. In The Diet Cure, Julia Ross wants all these people to be cured from following diets. She wants them to forget about calories and concentrate on eating healthy food. She has many chapters on the good foods. People, who are stuck on diets, read about reducing calories and try to avoid "fats," not realizing that the healthy fats are absolutely essential. Our brains are 60% fat. We have to obtain the essential fatty acids from our food and/or supplements. We can pursue good fats and realize that they provide more than twice as much energy as either protein or carbohydrate so the fats are great for maintaining a sense of satiety for a few hours.

In her books, she has questionnaires directing us how to find out which amino acid deficiencies may be causing our problems. She explains the details carefully and tells how each client has been helped, at first with specific amino acid supplements, along with changing their diet. Then, gradually they eliminate their prescribed amino acids, learn to get excellent nutrition, and attain continuing health from their food, other supplements, and a proper amount of exercise.

*Julia Ross, MA, The Diet Cure: The 8-Step Program to Rebalance Your Body Chemistry and End Food Cravings, Weight Problems, and Mood Swings, Penguin Books, 1999, 402 pages, soft cover, $14.00.
Julia Ross, MA, The Mood Cure: The 4-step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions-Today, Penguin Books, 2002, 387 pages, soft cover

from NOHA** NEWS, Winter, 2005

**The American Nutrition Association was formerly known as the Nutrition for Optimal Health Association [NOHA].

For informational purposes only - not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor an endorsement by the American Nutrition Association®. Use permitted for non-profit and non-commercial uses or by healthcare professionals in their practice, with attribution to Other use only with written ANA℠ permission. Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ANA℠. Works by a listed author subject to copyrights as marked. © 2010 ANA℠