Does A Link Exist Between Nutrition And Mental Health?

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Nutrition Blog

More and research is finding that a nutritious diet isn’t merely good for your body. It’s great for the brain as well. This knowledge is birthing a concept which is called nutritional (or food) psychiatry. Traditionally, psychiatrists and psychologists haven’t been trained to ask about food and nutrition. However, diet is possibly the most powerful intervention we have. By assisting people with shaping their diets, we are able to improve their mental health and decrease their risk of psychiatric disorders.

How can good nutrition help with mental health?

The Low-Down On Nutritional Psychiatry

Regarding nutritional psychiatry, through research, we are learning that the food which we eat has an impact on how we feel emotionally.

There are some people who seek out complementary treatments such as food-mood interventions in addition to allopathic medications in order to boost their chances of improving mood as well as anxiety.

It’s vital to note that such complementary treatments could benefit mild to moderate depression and anxiety. However, these are not expected to affect suicidal ideation or a psychiatric emergency.

How Your Nutrition Affects How You Feel

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which helps to:

  • Regulate sleep and appetite,
  • Mediate moods, as well as
  • Inhibit pain.

As about 95% of your serotonin is manufactured in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined by a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes perfect sense that the inner works of your digestive system don’t just assist you to digest food but also direct your emotions.

What’s more, the purpose of these neurons — and the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin — is highly influenced by the umpteen good bacteria which make up your intestinal microbiome. These bacteria play a vital role in your health:

  • They protect the lining of your intestines as well as ensuring that they provide a strong barrier against toxins in addition to bad bacteria,
  • They prevent inflammation;
  • They enhance how well you absorb nutrients from your food; and
  • They are responsible for activating neural pathways which travel directly between the gut as well as the brain.

Studies have associated “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, with a typical “Western” diet and have demonstrated that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who consume a traditional diet.

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Scientists explain this difference owing to the fact that these traditional diets tend to be high in:

  • Vegetables,
  • Fruits,
  • Unprocessed grains, as well as
  • Fish and seafood.

In addition, they contain only slight amounts of lean meats and dairy. They also don’t have processed and refined foods as well as sugars, which is a staple of the “Western” dietary pattern. As well, many of these unprocessed foods are fermented which means that they thus act as natural probiotics.

This may sound farfetched but the idea that good bacteria not only influences what your gut digests and absorbs however that they also affect the extent of inflammation across your entire body, in addition to your mood and energy level, is getting traction among researchers.

How A Good Diet Can Help

In terms of creating a healthy diet to help with your mental health, it is simple – unprocessed, nutrient-rich, low in refined sugar, and fresh vegetables.

Unprocessed foods tend to contain higher amounts of nutrients and vitamins that will help your body to function better. Some nutrients to look out for in particular, for mental health, including omega-3, B Vitamins, and Vitamin D. High amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, that can be found in salmon and dark green leafy vegetables, help to improve brain function and are suggested to reduce the risk of depression.

B Vitamins, such as B12 that can be found in eggs, milk, and meat, help to boost your immune system and have been shown to support mental health. Vitamin D is vital for brain function, particularly when it comes to our moods and critical thinking. You can increase your Vitamin D intake by choosing to include foods such as salmon and tuna, eggs, and other dairy products.

Lastly, as mentioned, your gut health plays an essential role in your mental health so you should avoid foods that will aggravate or inflame your digestive system, such as those with refined sugar, and make sure to eat plenty of probiotic foods that will help you maintain a healthy digestive environment. You should also eat regularly to keep your body fuelled and choose slow-release foods like wholegrain products that will stop your blood sugar from rapidly falling and climbing throughout the day.

It is essential to treat your body with respect and fuel it with good quality foods. Keeping your gut bacteria healthy and eating foods that are high in nutrients will help to improve the way your body functions, and this, in turn, will help you to better understand and deal with your mental health.

Contact Trifocus Fitness Academy

The saying ‘you are what you eat’ is very true – it’s not just an old wives’ tale. Learn more about nutrition by going on our Specialised Nutrition Course. For more information, please follow this link.

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