Mood Disorders – Food Vs Medicine

Our obsession with medicine and disregard for the effect of food and legal substances on our overall health, particularly our mental health.

I’ve been thinking about how we and the world of medicine are almost schizophrenic about what we put into our bodies. We are very aware about the effects and dangers of controlled drugs, only partly concerned with the effect of legalized drugs and totally oblivious to the effects of food that we consume.

Prescription drugs are very tightly controlled but legalized alcohol, over the counter drugs and food are consumed by almost everybody without any clear thought about what enters our bodies and what effect it or a combination of food substances will do to us.

Prescription drugs contain minute quantities of controlled substances that affect our bodies and our mental health. Doctors and pharmacists are trained to understand these drugs and the interaction of these drugs and how they can affect each other. Some drugs enhance each other’s actions while other’s can cancel each other out, produce unpredictable results, and some combinations can be life threatening. While the controlled drug interactions are carefully studied, interactions with ‘normal’ food intake is not.

A real example for me was a friend who was given warfarin after a routine operation to keep his blood from clotting. He then also took a couple of aspirin for a headache, probably for a hangover. The combination of the drugs (and possibly alcohol) thinned his blood to the point where he became comatose and survived only through quick medical intervention.

Another example is anti-depressants and other drugs that cause constipation. Yes, they tell you in the fine print! But they do not advise that you should greatly increase the very regular fiber content of your diet to avoid the certain formation of hemorrhoids.

Drugs and food actually come from the same or similar sources. Drugs are concentrated extracts from plant material or synthetic copies of such substances. Many foodstuffs contain the same substances found in drugs and many that have not yet been discovered as medically useful.

Pharmaceutically extracted and patented concentrations become prescription drugs that are then highly regulated by the FDA in the USA and similar bodies in the rest of the world. With the exception of substances like cannabis herbs and ‘exotic’ poppy plants, the world of herbalists is by and large totally uncontrolled. Yet, pharmaceutical medicines have their origins in herbal medicines.

My concern for more than 25 years has been to understand the causes of mood disorders, the sources of depression, panic attacks, compulsive behaviors and such, because I suffered from them all for more decades than I care to guess at.

The subject of food vs. medicine is vast, but for the purposes of this article I will concentrate on but the tip of the iceberg of ‘mind altering’ substances as an example of how ignorantly we approach food and its effects on our mental health.


Let’s start with the effects of blood sugar. High or low blood sugar levels have a direct impact on our overall sense of wellbeing and our moods. An appropriately high level of blood sugar makes us feel energized, positive and generally satisfied. Low blood sugar has the opposite effect. We feel week, tired, possibly frustrated and hungry. A candy bar, soda, starchy meal, or sweet beverage is a quick fix and we move on again. Too high a level of blood sugar makes us hyper for a while. Taken incorrectly, that is, in an un-refined form and without appropriate other foods, the sugar is absorbed into our blood stream quickly and we feel good, but it is also metabolized very quickly, turned into weight gaining fat as quickly and in a very short time, our blood sugar levels drop and the cycle is repeated.

Just about everybody is aware of the weight gaining consequences of this routine but little regard is given to the mind / mood cycles that go along with this cycle. These mood cycles actually make us think and act irrationally. The easiest example would be the disregard for known dietary consequences. A less common understanding of the irrational behavior that goes along with this routine lies in anger outbursts, simply feeling low or irritated or moody, resulting in us saying and doing things we would not normally do. From the intake of high doses of sugar we may experience bursts of too high a level of blood sugar which makes us hyper for a while, before we drop down again. (Does anybody recognize the symptoms of bipolar or manic depression disorder here?)


Next, we should look at caffeine, (coffee, many sodas, tea, chocolate, and many over the counter drugs). We need a boost, so we have a cup of coffee. The effect wears off quickly so we have another and another…. We feel OK or good while we keep this up, but it is when the caffeine levels in our bodies drop that we suddenly get into ‘kick the dog’ mode.

Many ‘A type personalities’, hardworking career people, arrive home exhausted, irritated and frustrated, night after night. Have a look at your caffeine routine. At the office you probably have a regular stream of caffeine being fed into your blood stream and then, on the commute home, it works itself out of your system and your mood hits a low, just as you get home!


Would you believe that your bath routine can affect your mood? It is often said that too much of anything is not a good thing, and never has it been more true than about what we put into our bodies, but it is also true of our obsession with hygiene! Every time we wash our bodies with soap we wash off a layer of natural oils that nature provides as a way for us to absorb vitamin D from sunlight. While most other vitamins are generously provided by eating a variety of fresh vegetables, fruit and protein sources, vitamin D is rare in natural foods. Exceptions include fish liver oils, especially Cod Liver oil that is generally available as a supplement.

Calcium and Vitamin D

What makes Vitamin D so important? This rare vitamin is essential for our bodies to absorb other essential vitamins and minerals, notably, Vitamin E, Vitamin A and Calcium. Without Vitamin D in your body you can drink as much milk as you like and your body will simply pass the essential calcium. So what? As adults our bones and teeth have been formed, right? Wrong! We need calcium daily and without other sources we start taking calcium from our own bone structures, weakening our bones and teeth resulting in a variety of skeletal diseases later in life. But this article is about the effects of food and other routines on our moods and mental states. If our calcium absorption level drops to the level where we source it from our own bones, havoc rages in our mental states. Low mood levels and downright unexplained depression is the result. This is one simple explanation what many people know as the winter blues. In winter the sun is scarce and we hide under layers of clothing or indoors.

Of course too much sun is also a bad thing, and most people have a good old soap shower or bath after a long sweaty session in the sun, and down the drain goes the precious vitamin D. So what is the answer? Change to an Eskimo diet of raw fish is one answer. (By the way, fish liver oil has been the saving food substance for many peoples living in very cold and snowy regions.) The other easier answer is of course making sure that you get regular supply of vitamin D which these days is normally added to commercial milk, but just to make sure, check that your daily vitamin supplement has a healthy dose of vitamin D component.

Recreational drugs

I wish I did not have to mention alcohol or tobacco. These are such obvious sources of mind altering substances, but it is so universally abused that doctors basically have given up on pointing out the effects or dangers. If you care about your mood swings, down cycles, depression, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, anger outbursts, shaking and sweating attacks, start plotting your alcohol use. Tobacco abuse symptoms should be known by everyone, and any smoker will know the instant high you get from taking your first puff after a long break. I surely do not need to go into much more detail about these substances, except to point out that these substances interfere and basically negate the effect of prescription drugs meant to treat mood disorders!


As with legal recreational drugs, cannabis needs a mention as it is often argued that Cannabis is no worse than alcohol or tobacco. Maybe so, but ‘no worse’ is hardly an accolade. Surely I don’t have to go into much detail of its effects but additionally to other mind blowing effects, cannabis is responsible for paranoia! Who wants to live with that?


By comparison to minute quantities of substances in controlled drugs, we consume vast quantities of uncontrolled substances without giving it a thought. This is crazy.

The link between substance abuse and mood disorders is seldom obvious because the mood disorder often manifests not while you take the substance, but sometime after you have ceased taking it, so one is inclined not to see the link. (In the term substance abuse I include sugar, caffeine, tobacco, soap, alcohol, cannabis, over the counter drugs, and any of the same or regular food that you consume routinely.)

So, what do we do?

  1. For a start if you suffer from mood fluctuations of any kind, including depression or anxiety, it is a good idea to start tracking what you eat and drink, by the hour. On a second access, track your moods. Look for correlations between your intake and your moods as far back as 7 days. An example of a 7 day effect would be shaking and sweating or headaches that manifest up to 7 days after you have stopped taking the substance, is alcohol and other drug withdrawal symptoms. It’s called the DT’s. Some over the counter drug detox symptoms can manifest for as much as 21 days!
  2. Secondly, make sure that you take good multivitamin and mineral supplement every day. Even vary the supplement product from time to time. You never know whether the contents actually match the label description.
  3. Thirdly, vary your diet widely and regularly. If you have a specific liking for any specific thing, take care and limit your intake.
  4. Four. Learn as much as you can about nutrition. You cannot read enough about it. Vegetarians and vegans especially should be aware of the limitations of their food choices and make sure that they consume foods that provide essential minerals and vitamins normally obtained from animal products.
  5. Five. We do need blood sugar. Avoid refined sugars and starches. Choose pasta and potatoes over white bread, cakes, sodas and candy. Here’s a life changing tip: Eat a portion of protein along with a small amount of starch (sugar)…. This has the result of the sugar being available to the blood over a longer period as opposed to in a single rush and staying in the blood stream longer. Typically the blood sugar level will be as high as with a portion of starch or sugar on its own! So you feel good for longer on the same portion. You won’t need to top up your blood sugar levels every hour and guess what! You will lose weight! So if you follow the logic so far, a hamburger made from fresh ingredients, or poached eggs on toast, make excellent meals!

For more on how to control mood disorders, anxiety or panic disorders without medicine, visit

Wedding Traditions From Around The World Explained

In many cases a marriage is recognized both by a church and the state. While the legal requirements for a wedding are established by the state, many couple wish to follow certain religious traditions to have their marriage recognized in their church as well. In the Catholic religion marriage is considered sacred and is one of the sacraments of the faith. The Catholic Church puts forth their own requirements for a marriage to be recognized in the eyes of the church.

The Claddagh ring has a special meaning in a traditional Irish wedding. The Claddagh ring is a traditional ring that looks like two hands holding a heart that is adorned with a crown. Tradition holds that Claddagh rings be passed down from mother to daughter. As these rings are meant to be passed down for generations, it is not considered proper to buy a Claddagh ring for yourself. Yet another tradition involving the Claddagh ring relates to how it is worn. An engaged or married woman or man would wear the ring with the tips of the crown facing towards their fingertips. In this position the ring is considered to be turned inward and symbolizes that the heart of the person wearing the ring is taken. A man or woman who is not involved in a romantic relationship would wear the ring with the tips of the crown facing towards their wrist. This outward position of the ring symbolizes that the person wearing the ring is reaching out for companionship.

Traditional Irish weddings also adhere to several unusual superstitions in an attempt to ward off bad luck. A rain or overcast day might be cause for concern at a traditional Irish wedding. This is because one of the strange superstitions is that the sun must shine directly on the bride to ensure that the couple will be blessed with good luck. Birds also factor into some of the traditional Irish superstitions. Hearing a cuckoo bird or seeing three magpies are also considered to be signs of luck for the couple.

Another Catholic wedding tradition requires that previous marriages receive an annulment before the couple can be married in the church. Even if the previous marriage was not held in the church or recognized by the church, they still require an annulment before they will perform a marriage ceremony. In this situation a divorce decree is not enough. The previously married party will have to seek an annulment that verifies that the previous marriage was not valid.

A traditional Irish wedding usually concludes with a toast that has been recited for many years. At the end of the reception the guests will gather around the couple for the final toast. The couple will begin the toast by saying, “Friends and relatives, so fond and dear, ’tis our greatest pleasure to have you here. When many years this day has passed, fondest memories will always last. So we drink a cup of Irish mead and ask God’s blessing in your hour of need.”

The guests then respond to the toast with the following answer: “On this special day, our wish to you, the goodness of the old, the best of the new. God bless you both who drink this mead, may it always fill your every need.” “Friends and relatives, so fond and dear, ’tis our greatest pleasure to have you here. When many years this day has passed, fondest memories will always last. So we drink a cup of Irish mead and ask God’s blessing in your hour of need.” The guests respond: “On this special day, our wish to you, the goodness of the old, the best of the new. God bless you both who drink this mead, may it always fill your every need.”

Of course, no traditional Irish wedding complete without the presence of bagpipes and kilts. It is customary for friends and family members to bring along their bagpipes and pipe the couple into the mass and into the reception. They may also continue to charm the guests with an assortment of bagpipe tunes suitable for dancing. Not only do friends and family members enjoy performing for the couple and the other guests but they also enjoy taking the opportunity to dress in traditional kilts for the occasion. The look and sound of the bagpipers creates the feel of a truly traditional Irish wedding.

A traditional Irish wedding is a festive occasion filled with good friends, food and music. In addition to these traditional elements the Irish people also have traditions regarding the Claddagh ring and standardized toasts that are used to wish the new couple well. Superstitions also play a role in a traditional Irish wedding. Many of the traditional superstitions relate to objects or occurrences that are thought to bring the couple good luck.

Planning a Wedding? Don’t Forget the Officiant!

My husband and I have been pastors for over sixteen years, serving in Protestant congregations and as campus ministers at a large university. During that time we’ve presided over a lot of weddings – probably close to a hundred between the two of us. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that unless a couple is an active member of a church or already friendly with a minister or judge, one of the last things couples tend to think about as they do their wedding planning is who will do the ceremony.

Most couples work hard to find the perfect dresses for the bride and bridesmaids, and the appropriate tuxes for the groom and ushers. They ask nieces and nephews to be flower girls and ring bearers, and book space for the wedding and reception months in advance, in addition to arranging for catered food, the cake, beautiful flowers, and a professional photographer. They order the perfect invitations to be sent the appropriate weeks in advance of the big day, select rings, and book the piano player, organist, string quartet, and soloist. But one of the last things many couples plan for is who will officiate at their wedding. In fact, for many, it’s not even on the “to do” list until the last minute.

I can’t even begin to count how many times someone has called our office asking if we do weddings for non-members of our congregation. We do, under the right circumstances, and tell them so. Then they tell us that they are getting married in a week. Or two days. Or tomorrow. And they wonder if we will do their wedding. I’m not kidding. They made all of their other wedding plans well in advance, the flowers are due to arrive on time and the cake is just about to go into the oven, but they forgot to arrange for who would preside over the spiritual ceremony itself, not to mention sign the wedding license and make the whole thing legal. And unfortunately, in most cases, we can’t just drop everything and preside over their wedding on such short notice.

Now I certainly understand that not everyone is an active member of a spiritual community, so you may not have a priest or pastor or rabbi or other religious cleric standing by to do the wedding. And that’s fine – being part of a faith community isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we each have our own spiritual path and way of journeying on it. But if you are in the process of planning a wedding, and don’t have a pastor or other cleric you know who could do the ceremony, consider adding “Find an Officiant” to the top of your wedding to do list.

The Officiant can be any ordained minister who is licensed by your state to do weddings. Or it can be a judge or justice of the peace. If you are on a cruise, the Captain of the ship can marry you! Some folks ask their friends to get ordained online, and then they have them do the ceremony – and that’s fine, just make sure your state recognizes the ordination as legal. Whatever the case, just make sure you find someone who is licensed by your state to officiate. (If you don’t have a relationship with the Officiant before the wedding, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $300 for your Officiant, depending on: how much, if any, pre-maritial counseling is involved; how much planning of the actual ceremony is involved; travel considerations; and whether or not there is a rehearsal to attend the night before the wedding. You can ask how much is charged before your first meeting together – most will let you know their fee up front.)

The bottom line is this – it’s your special day, you’ve put hours of thought and planning and work into making it special. Just remember, when you are choosing between prime rib and salmon, and deciding between live music or a DJ, and trying to figure out whether to have an open bar or cash bar, somewhere in the mix make sure you include finding someone to actually preside over the wedding. Because the simple fact is this – if you don’t have an Officiant, there can’t be a wedding!