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Nutrition: The Missing Link in Mental Health
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Where there is mental illness, there is often a poor diet. Poor nutrition can lead to and intensify mental illness. Optimal nutrition can prevent and treat mental illness.
Many of us believe we are eating well and have a good diet by providing the basics to sustain ourselves. The truth is a “good” diet is not the key. The key is an “optimal” diet that provides the ingredients that are necessary for ideal brain function.
Changing your eating habits to include the foods that help you function better takes time and requires that you change your thoughts, beliefs and behaviors surrounding food. Adding proper nutrition to your self-care toolbox will promote maximum energy, amazing health benefits and a sound emotional state.
Nutrition matters. Not just for your body; for your mind. It will take some time to learn how you function best. Some of us thrive amazingly well as vegetarians while others find they are best suited as meat eaters. Understanding your needs and how to achieve the best diet for you is a major link to bettering your mental health.
Keeping a food diary is an excellent first step to begin the process of changing your eating habits. It will also help change your thought process around food and nutrition. By keeping a record of your “food and mood” you will notice patterns that correlate with what you are eating. For example, some foods may bring about digestive issues, with the discomfort comes anxiety or stress. Some foods may bring your energy levels down which can exacerbate depression.
To begin exploring your current eating behaviors and the connections between “food and mood” answer these questions:
- How often to I prepare my own meals?
- How often do I eat fast food?
- How am I preparing meals?
- Which foods make me feel more energetic?
- Which foods bring down my energy levels?
- Am I eating when I am hungry?
- Am I eating when I am anxious, bored, stressed, angry?
- How do certain foods make me feel emotionally?
- Are there foods I enjoy, but don’t eat?
Consider having blood tests done to find where you may have deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium, B vitamins and minerals (zinc, selenium, iodine, iron, calcium). Determining individual deficiencies will help you develop a nutrition and supplement plan. Other issues affecting your mental health and overall health could be heavy metal overload, which can alter your brain chemistry. Addressing your gut health is of major importance; absorption of nutrients is dependent upon gut health. The inability to properly metabolize B12 and folate, which is indictive of a disturbance in the methylation process. (Methylation is a critical biochemical process in the body that includes eliminating toxins from the body, fighting infections and neurotransmitter synthesis.) A disruption in this process can have a direct impact on mood disorders. All of these can be tested with blood or hair follicle test.
Adding a daily physical routine will also help. Not only will it increase your energy levels, help you sleep, eliminate stress and elevate your mood, but, you will find an increase in self-esteem as well. Anything you can do to lift your spirits, feed your mind, body and soul is the ultimate pathway to mental health.