When most individuals think about nutrition they think in terms of their physical health. However, nutrition is also an essential component of one’s mental health. A healthy mind and body are quite important elements in coping with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Nutrition often plays an underutilised, undervalued as well as ignored role with respect to mental health.
In order to be able to better appreciate the link between mental health and nutrition, firstly it is important to understand some ways in which mental health has an impact on an individual’s well-being:
- Mental health issues may cause people to lose appetite or under-eat, so depleting the body and brain of required nutrients,
- Mental health issues can aggravate medical conditions,
- Mental health issues are linked to neurochemical imbalances in neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin or – alternatively – norepinephrine,
- Mental health issues may lead to macro- and micro- nutrient deficiencies as well as overall malnourishment,
- Mental health issues may lead to individuals being overweight or underweight, and
- Mental health issues may negatively impact one’s sleep cycle and have far-reaching implications in one’s ability to sleep in recovery.
Should I Share Meals With Other People?
There are so many advantages of eating meals with other people. These range from the psychological, social to the biological. They give us a feeling of rhythm and uniformity in our lives, a chance to reflect on the day as well as feel connected to others. Biologically speaking, eating your meals in upright chairs assists with our digestion. As well, talking and listening slows us down so we don’t eat too quickly.
Make the most of mealtimes putting aside at least one day a week to eat a meal with family and friends. Select a meal which is easy to prepare so it doesn’t become a chore. Share the responsibility so that everyone has a different task: doing the shopping, setting the table, cooking or washing up, for instance. Keep the TV off so you can all talk and share.
A Healthy Gut
Researchers continue to demonstrate that the old adage – that you are what you eat – is true. The most recent time was through exploring the strong connection between our intestines as well as our brains.
Our guts and brain are physically linked through the vagus nerve. The two have the ability to send messages to one another. Whereas the gut is able to influence emotional behaviour in the brain, the brain can also alter the kind of bacteria that is living in the gut.
Gut bacteria produce broad range of neurochemicals that the brain utilises for the regulation of physiological and mental processes, in addition to mood. It’s believed that 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin, which is a mood stabiliser, is produced by gut bacteria. Stress is believed to suppress beneficial gut bacteria.
The Practice Of Mindful Eating
Paying close attention to how you happen to be feeling when you eat, as well as what you eat, is one of the very first steps in ensuring that you’re getting well-balanced meals and snacks. As many of us don’t pay close attention to our eating habits, nutritionists make the recommendation of keeping a food journal. Documenting what, where as well as when you eat is a fantastic way to gain insight into your patterns.
If you find that you overeat when stressed, it may be useful to stop what you’re doing when the urge to eat arises as well as to write down your feelings. Through doing this, you could discover what’s really bothering you. If you undereat, it may assist to schedule five or six smaller meals rather than three large ones.
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