The Main Role of The Stomach In Digestion

The stomach can be described as a muscular J-shaped bag that sits in the thoracic cavity, which joins the oesophagus to the small intestine. The esophageal and pyloric sphincters act as barriers to the oesophagus and small intestine, respectively. The main function of the stomach is the digestion of protein. For this to happen the stomach must secrete a range of protein digesting enzymes to break the peptide bonds in the protein, as well as stomach acid to aid the denaturation process. As this occurs, the stomach gently contracts to create a liquid mixture that is called chyme. It is often overlooked how important this process is to health, because the protein is held in the stomach for some time, and other food components are trapped there with the protein. This may partly be responsible for the weight loss effects of protein, as the slowing of the passage of starch through the alimentary canal in this way can significantly delay the digestion and absorption of glucose and significantly lower insulin levels, which may have a weight loss effect. 

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Citrus sinensis as an Anxiolytic and Antidepressant

Citrus sinensis is the scientific name for the sweet oranges varieties that are commonly eaten as fruit. There is evidence that consuming oranges is beneficial to health, and this relates partly to their phytochemistry. Oranges are high in flavonoids of the flavone subgroup. Studies have examined the neurobehavioural effects of oranges on animals to assess if they are able to affect the central nervous system in a significant way. For example, in one study, administration of Citrus sinensis extract to animals caused significant changes to the animal’s behaviour when they were exposed to experimental stress. In particular the animals became less nervous and showed signs of decreased anxiety, indicating that the orange extract may have acted on the central nervous system to reduce anxiety. In addition, the same researchers noted that the behavioural changes elicited by the oranges could also be equated to an antidepressant-like effect. Consuming oranges regularly may therefore have benefits on mental health. 

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Coutens, B., Rekik, K., Harster, A., Etienne, P., Noirot, V., Frances, B.,  Mouledous, L. and Guiard, B. P. 2020. A Citrus Based Sensory Functional Food Ingredient Induces Antidepressant-like Effects: Possible Involvement of an Interplay between the Olfactory and the Serotonergic Systems. Neuroscience. 451: 149-163
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Saffron as a Source of Kaempferol

Kaempferol is a phytochemical that belongs to the large polyphenol class of chemicals. Within this group, kaempferol belongs to the flavonoid subclass, and is further separated into the flavonol group. The molecule kaempferol contains free hydroxyl groups, and these chemical groups make the molecule able to scavenge free radicals. When consumed by humans and animals, kaempferol is able to reduce oxidative stress and in this way can prevent disease. Crocus sativus (saffron) is a rich source of kaempferol, and this may explain some of the antioxidant activity of saffron. Saffron has been shown to be useful in the treatment of mood disorders, and because kaempferol has also shown this property, it may be the kaempferol within saffron that confers this attribute. Consuming saffron has been shown to be superior to consuming many other herbs when considering mental health, and excellent results have been evidenced in the literature for those who consume the herb therapeutically. 

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Hadizadeh, F., Khalili, N., Hosseinzadeh, H. and Khair-Aldine, R. 2003. Kaempferol from saffron petals. Chemistry Preprint Archive. 2003(7): 234-239
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Quercetin to Treat Anxiety?

Quercetin is a phytochemical that belongs to the flavonol sub-group of flavonoids. The molecule is hydroxylated three times, and each hydroxyl group can interact with a free radical to reduce oxidative stress. This gives quercetin a good antioxidant potential, and may explain its therapeutic benefits. One such benefit is the ability to positively affect mood and to protect neuronal health. A number of studies have been performed that provide evidence for this claim. For example, in one animal study mice were exposed to stress through deliberate immobilisation (something they do not like and which causes anxiety) and then provided with behavioural tasks. When the mice were administered quercetin, the behaviour they exhibited in these tasks could be described as  less anxious than animals with no quercetin. Analysis of tissues from the quercetin mice showed that a significant antioxidant effect had occurred. Therefore quercetin may provide protection from mood disorders through its ability to reduce oxidative stress. 

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Samad, N., Saleem, A., Yasmin, F. and Shehzad, M. A. 2018. Quercetin protects against stress-induced anxiety-and depression-like behavior and improves memory in male mice. Physiological Research. 67(5): 795-808
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Is Soy a Mood Elevating Food?

Soy contains isoflavones which belong to the flavonoid class of polyphenols. Isoflavones have been shown to have particular effects on the hormonal systems of humans and animals because they may be able to interact with the oestrogen receptor. Studies have evaluated the effects of soy rich diets on animals in order to determine if the hormonal effects cause changes in behaviour and mood. In one study rats fed a high phytoestrogen diet composed of soy extracts were shown to have significant changes to their behaviour when they were placed under stressful conditions. These changes included behaviour that could be described as showing a reduction in the degree of anxiety they experienced. It is unclear how these changes are elicited in the rats, but they were present in both male and female rats. As changes to learning and memory were also observed, it is likely that the phytoestrogens are able to directly or indirectly affect the brains of rats. It could be that the phytoestrogens can affect the brain by changing the hormonal milieu as a whole. 

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Lephart, E. D., West, T. W., Weber, K. S., Rhees, R. W., Setchell, K. D., Adlercreutz, H. and Lund, T. D. 2002. Neurobehavioral effects of dietary soy phytoestrogens. Neurotoxicology and Teratology. 24(1): 5-16
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Gut Bacteria as Mood Modulators

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Winter Time: Increase Your Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient required for a number of functions in humans. Unlike most animals, humans do not have the ability to synthesise vitamin C endogenously and so must consume their vitamin C in the diet. The requirement for vitamin C increases during times of stress, and in the case of animals their endogenous synthesis goes up concomitantly. Winter is a highly stressful time due to cold weather and harsh conditions, and there is an increased requirement for vitamin C during this time in humans. One function for vitamin C is to maintain collagen synthesis and failure to maintain an adequate dietary intake can cause skin dryness and cracking, something that can become apparent in the winter. Vitamin C is also required for the immune system, and this too can contribute to the increased requirement during winter months. It is always best to try to obtain vitamin C from fruit and vegetables, although supplements can be used sparingly where access to food sources is limited. 

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Is Achyranthes aspera (Apang) an Antidepressant?

Achyranthes aspera grows throughout tropical regions of the world but is thought to be native to India. In India, locally the plant is called Apang. Traditional Indian medicine uses various parts of the plant for therapeutic purposes, and this may relate to the wide variety of phytochemicals the plant contains. Some of these chemicals have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of mood disorders including depression. Studies have investigated the antidepressant effects of Achyranthes aspera in animals in order to establish if extracts of the plant could be used for antidepressant purposes. In mice, administration of extracts of Achyranthes aspera were shown to reduce helpless behaviour, which in animal models of behaviour is said to be indicative of antidepressant effects. These results are supported by other studies showing that Achyranthes aspera has significant anxiolytic effects in animal models. There available evidence supports a role for Achyranthes aspera in the treatment of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. 

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Barua, C. C., Talukdar, A., Begum, S. A., Buragohain, B., Roy, J. D., Borah, R. S. and Lahkar, M. 2009. Antidepressant-like effects of the methanolic extract of Achyranthes aspera Linn. in animal models of depression. Pharmacologyonline. 2: 587-94
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Achyranthes aspera for Mood Disorders

Achyranthes aspera is commonly known as prickly chaff flower. The flowering plant belongs to the Amaranthaceae family and in India, where it grows natively, it is locally known as Apang. The plant is used in traditional medicine for a number of ailments including fevers and infections, and for these treatments the stem, leaves and flowers of the plant can be used. Evidence suggests that extracts of Achyranthes aspera may be useful in the treatment of mood disorders. Researchers have investigated possible mood elevating effects of Achyranthes aspera with animals models. In one such study, researchers administered Achyranthes aspera extract to mice and then exposed them to experimental stress. The results of the study showed that the Achyranthes aspera extract provided significant anxiolytic effects and the behaviour of the mice was changed as a result of the extracts. The authors suggested that alkaloids, sterols and terpenes may be responsible for some or all of the anxiolytic effects. 

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Barua, C. C., Talukdar, A., Begum, S. A., Borah, P. and Lahkar, M. 2012. Anxiolytic activity of methanol leaf extract of Achyranthes aspera Linn in mice using experimental models of anxiety. Indian Journal of Pharmacology. 44(1): 63
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Isoflavones as a Treatment for Anxiety and Depression?

Flavonoids are a group of phytochemicals that belong to the larger polyphenol class. Flavonoids have been shown to have particular health effects, one of which may be improvements in mood. This may relate directly to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of flavonoids. One sub-group of flavonoids is the isoflavones. These flavonoids possess some of the metabolic effects of other flavonoids, but in addition may be able to act on the hormonal system. In this regard they can balance oestrogen excess or deficiency and are therefore useful in the treatment of female hormone disorders including the menopause. The menopause is associated with mood changes and can be a risk factor for the development of anxiety and depression. By helping alleviate the negative symptoms of the menopause, isoflavones may indirectly improve mood and lower the risk of developing anxiety and depression in females of menopausal age. Isoflavones are present in a number of herbs including red clover (Trifolium pratense).

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Lipovac, M., Chedraui, P., Gruenhut, C., Gocan, A., Stammler, M. and Imhof, M. 2010. Improvement of postmenopausal depressive and anxiety symptoms after treatment with isoflavones derived from red clover extracts. Maturitas. 65(3): 258-261
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