Nutrition and Mental Health
There are many studies that prove the impact nutrition has on mental health. Eating healthy for mental well being is not a new concept, but it is something that many of my clients struggle with. In our fast paced, high demand, and over-stressed culture there are many easy ways to fill your belly without having to think. Fast food, processed foods, and sugary foods are cheap, quick, and tasty. Also, for many people who struggle with anxiety and depression it can be common to look to food to cope. It makes sense – eating activates the brain’s reward system and creates the feel-good chemical dopamine. However, our brains and bodies rely on whole and natural foods to thrive, and when we are not nourishing our bodies with what they need, we will inevitably develop health issues, diseases, and poor mental health. I recently read a metaphor that explains that consequence well… if you have a car that requires diesel, you wouldn’t put regular gas in the car. If you put regular gas in the car, it wouldn’t function properly, it would be at risk of detonating, the power of the car would be reduced, and the car might be ruined. Similar to cars, our bodies and their complex systems require natural and healthy foods to function at our best. Even though many people “function” on a poor diet, they are not functioning at their best, and many people develop life threatening illnesses by not properly nourishing their bodies.
I highly recommend reading This Is Your Brain on Food by Uma Naidoo. She outlines the devastating impacts an unhealthy diet has, not just on our physical bodies, but also on our mind. Mental health is not separate from our physical health, and we cannot hope to get mentally healthy without addressing our nutrition. Mental well-being requires a whole-body approach. Your body needs a large variety of nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, healthy proteins and other natural plant-based foods. It is well researched that highly processed foods and sugars are a cause of anxiety and depression. It is also well researched that an unhealthy gut microbiome leads to numerous mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, etc.
It is important to note that working on your mental health requires a wholistic and comprehensive treatment plan. Changing your diet might not be the only thing required to heal anxiety and depression, but it will lead to significant improvements. Therapy is always an important factor in helping develop healthier habits and to help address negative thought patterns and trauma – things that food alone won’t change. For many people, there might be an emotional reliance on unhealthy foods. There may also be disordered eating behaviors that seem healthy on the outside, but don’t feel good on the inside.
I am here to help you change your relationship with food. You can find freedom in a healthy relationship with food. You don’t have to feel enslaved to impulsive eating, sugar cravings, etc. It does require work; it does require facing difficult parts of ourselves that may feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. It requires continually educating yourself, creating new routines and systems, and building awareness of your tendencies with a willingness to make changes. But it IS possible, and you are worthy of mental and physical health. Reach out today if this is something you would like help with.
P.S. Some resources I’ve found to be really helpful:
- This Is Your Brain on Food by Uma Naidoo; as well as her website: https://umanaidoomd.com/6-pillars-of-nutritional-psychiatry/
- One of my favorite podcasts: The Healthier Together Podcast with Liz Moody- I also follow her on Instagram, and I love her cookbook!
- I also really love Dr Will Cole, and I follow his blog and podcast and Instagram: https://drwillcole.com/
- The National Library of Medicine has many articles on Nutritional Psychiatry/Psychology for example: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/
- Find a local Functional Medicine Doctor or Nutritionist