What Is The Role Of Nutrition In Mental Health
The food consumed by an individual does not only affect physical health it has a significant impact on the mental status and overall well-being of an individual. Daily food intake influences sleep patterns, temper, concentration, energy, hunger, and pain levels. Consumption of a good diet leads to better mental health, enhances mood, boosts energy and focus, causes feeble feelings of pain, and improves general performance. Whereas a poor diet consisting of a high concentration of sugars, processed food, and deficient nutrients results in lethargy, irritability, abnormal sleep, and critical health issues in the long term like diabetes, obesity, etc.
Hydration And Mental Health
Over 70% of the human brain is made of water. This makes sense since dehydration is more likely to affect your mood. Dehydration causes one to feel tired and confused. It may also cause anxiety. Additionally, dehydration might cause low concentration levels and confusion since the brain isnt working as its supposed to. Make sure you drink at least six glasses of water each day to stay hydrated and with your brain functioning efficiently.
How Can Food Affect Mood
Knowing what foods we should and shouldnt be eating can be really confusing, especially when it feels like the advice changes regularly. However, evidence suggests that as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat may also affect the way we feel.
Improving your diet may help to:
- improve your mood
- help you think more clearly.
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Priorities And Next Steps
In moving forward within this active field of research, it is firstly important not to lose sight of the wood for the treesthat is, become too focused on the details and not pay attention to the bigger questions. Whereas discovering the anti-inflammatory properties of a single nutrient or uncovering the subtleties of interactions between the gut and the brain may shed new light on how food may influence mood, it is important not to neglect the existing knowledge on other ways diet may affect mental health. For example, the later consequences of a poor diet include obesity and diabetes, which have already been shown to be associated with poorer mental health.11313233 A full discussion of the effect of these comorbidities is beyond the scope of our article , but it is important to acknowledge that developing public health initiatives that effectively tackle the established risk factors of physical and mental comorbidities is a priority for improving population health.
Looking After Your Gut
Sometimes your gut can reflect how you are feeling emotionally. If you’re stressed or anxious this can make your gut slow down or speed up. For healthy digestion you need to have plenty of fibre, fluid and exercise regularly.
Healthy gut foods include: fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, beans, pulses, live yoghurt and other probiotics.
- It might take your gut time to get used to a new eating pattern, so make changes slowly to give yourself time to adjust.
- If you’re feeling stressed and you think it is affecting your gut, try some or breathing exercises.
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What You Can Do
Whatever the reason, research focusing on nutrition and mental health shows promise in utilizing the Mediterranean diet, or at least components of it. We cant say that changing your diet will miraculously change your mental health without other intervention, but incorporating new dietary habits into your life may be worth exploring in conjunction with your mental healthcare routine including therapy, medication, exercise and self-care. It is important that you work with your mental health providers to establish a safe, healthy plan for your care. There is little harm in taking steps to change your diet and see how you feel. You may be pleasantly surprised by how altering what you eat impacts your well-being overall. Keep track of changes you notice and if you find it has positive effects for you, it may be worth a more permanent change. Regardless of how it ultimately works, oftentimes we must rely on the fact that if it works, it works.
Eat At Regular Intervals
By eating regularly, you will keep your blood sugar levels consistent. So why is this a good thing? When blood sugar drops, it leads to tiredness and irritability, and inconsistent blood-sugar levels have even been linked to mood disorders including depression and anxiety. If your blood sugar spikes, this will be followed by a dip and youll be hit by these issues. So eating erratically might be doing more harm than just leaving you with a rumbly tummy.
Nutritionist Sonal Shah explains, If you get hungry often in the day and this affects your mood, concentration and energy levels, then eating at regular intervals is important. Eating every three to four hours is fine to prevent ones energy levels dropping as a result of blood-sugar levels dipping.
But the Nutritionist Resource member warns this doesnt mean you should eat all the time: Its not ideal to continuously snack on foods throughout the day, as this grazing doesnt allow the appetite and insulin hormones to regulate optimally.
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Food And Mood: How Do Diet And Nutrition Affect Mental Wellbeing
How The Foods You Eat Affect Your Mental Health
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system dont just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions. Whats more, the function of these neurons and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin is highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome. These bacteria play an essential role in your health. They protect the lining of your intestines and ensure they provide a strong barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria they limit inflammation they improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food and they activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain.
This may sound implausible to you, but the notion that good bacteria not only influence what your gut digests and absorbs, but that they also affect the degree of inflammation throughout your body, as well as your mood and energy level, is gaining traction among researchers.
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The Skinny On How Dieting Affects Mental Health
Weve all heard about being hangry. You go without eating for a while and suddenly every little thing irritates you and it just wont stop until you get some food in your belly. If just going without eating for a little bit is enough to affect your mood, what does dieting do?
Making that big of a change in what you eat, as well as the quantity and frequency, is bound to have some pretty notable effects on your brain. These ideas have spurred a huge amount of research thats attempting to find the links between food and mental health.
Nutrition and mental health are intricately linked. Over the past few years, researchers have made several major discoveries about the ways our dietsand the act of dietinginfluence major mental health conditions and our everyday moods. Understanding these connections furthers our ability to manage our mental and physical health, as well as boosting the effectiveness of our diets.
Which Foods Are Best For Mental Health And Wellness
Poor diet contributes to one in five deaths each year, according to research, killing more people globally than tobacco or high blood pressure. This is a crucial time where making even small dietary changes can lead to substantial health benefits, mentally and physically. Start with the foods you eat.
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Proneness To Chronic Diseases
Diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic conditions have all been related to mental health issues like schizophrenia and depression. This is why it’s crucial to get regular medical checkups and checkups if you have a mental health condition so that your doctor can diagnose you and, if necessary, start early intervention.
Best Diets For Mental Health
One landmark clinical trial, the SMILES study, demonstrated that a diet rich in plant-based foods may be a future treatment option for major depressive disorder. So even though there is no specific diet for mental health, clearly there are some eating patterns that are better for mental health than others.
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Your Mental Health And Diet Are Connected
Poor diet also affects mental health. Unhealthy diets or skipped meals can further compromise a persons resilience to overcome stress and increase feelings of anxiety or fatigue. A well-rounded diet can help to address feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, and more for a healthy mental state throughout any stage of the addiction recovery process.
Nutrition can also provide the necessary focus and mental energy to effectively engage in dedicated therapeutic outlets. This can help an individual get more involved in dedicated therapeutic programs while also ensuring that an individual is mentally prepared for the social components of an effective recovery.
Whats The Link Between Food And Mood
A healthy, balanced diet can improve your mood, help you think better, and boost your energy levels. Nevertheless, some elements are involved in your diet to benefit your mental statefrom how much carbohydrates you require daily to how vitamins and minerals affect your mental well-being. Continue reading to understand how what you eat affects your mental health.
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Diet And Mental Health: Is There A Link
Historically, mental health conditions have been treated with psychiatric therapies like counseling, medication, and sometimes hospitalization.
Today, an emerging field called nutritional psychiatry emphasizes how diet and nutrition affect the way people feel mentally. It aims to support treatment of mental health conditions with diet and lifestyle changes .
Its something we may have taken for granted in the past, but it makes perfect sense that the foods we eat have just as much effect on our brains as they do on the rest of our bodies.
One reason our food choices affect our brains so strongly is that our gastrointestinal system or whats more commonly referred to as the gut is actually very closely connected to the brain.
The gut is home to trillions of living microbes that have many functions in the body, such as synthesizing neurotransmitters that send chemical messages to the brain to regulate sleep, pain, appetite, mood, and emotion.
In fact, theres such an intricate network of interactions between the two that the gut has been nicknamed the second brain. Formally, the relationship between the two is called the gut-brain connection or gut-brain axis (
Want to make your diet more nutrient-dense but not sure where to start? Check out Healthlines guide to healthy eating in real life.
How A Nutritionist Can Help
Mental health and wellness require a holistic approach. Eating a balanced diet that contains the nutrients your brain and gut needs can complement other therapies and approaches youre using to manage mental health.
To ensure youre getting the right foods for your particular circumstances, it can help to seek professional support from a nutritionist. They will be able to talk to you about your needs, take into account your individual requirements and tailor a diet plan to suit you.
On the face of it, our diets may seem to be sufficient but our digestion, absorption, health history and inherited health traits can affect the amount of nutrients our body needs. One or more of these factors can tip the balance towards poor mental health. A personalised approach to diet and lifestyle can also help you regain physical and mental well-being.
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Foods For Brain Health
It sounds logical that the foods that are best for the body would also be the ones that promote brain health. This is supported by the results from a large European study that showed that nutrient-dense foods like the ones found on the Mediterranean diet may actually help prevent depression.
The nutrients that may help brain health include:
- Zinc low levels of zinc can cause depression.
- Omega 3s may improve mood and do help improve memory and thinking.
- B12 A report by Ramsey and Muskin that was published in Current Psychiatry in 2013y, noted that low B12 levels and elevated homocysteine increase the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimers disease and are linked to a 5-fold increase in the rate of brain atrophy.
- Vitamin C The report by Ramsey and Muskin also noted that, Vitamin C intake is significantly lower in older adults with depression.
- Iron iron-deficiency anemia plays a part in depression.
Eating nutrient-dense foods like whole grains, leafy greens, colorful vegetables, beans and legumes, seafood, and fruits will boost the bodys overall health including brain health. Both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which eliminates sugar, were found to significantly improve symptoms in the patients who took part in one study on diet and mental health.
The next time you reach for the chips and soda, ask yourself if they are benefiting your brain. Then, grab some cultured yogurt or an apple instead. Remember every bite counts!
How Does Junk Food Affect Mental Health
While it can feel tempting to reach for the ice cream carton on a tough day , the emotional comfort of sugary, highly processed foods is only temporary.
Several studies have found that a typical Western diet thats high in processed foods is strongly correlated with an increased risk of developing depression, mild cognitive impairment, and ADHD.
Along with the lack of essential micronutrients in processed foods, junk food also tends to be high in sugar, artificial ingredients, preservatives, and highly processed oils. These cause inflammation throughout the body and brain, and can send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster that can leave you feeling sluggish or irritable.
destructive bacteria in the gut, which in turn releases more toxins into the body and causes further inflammation, fueling a downward spiral.
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The Importance Of Proper Hydration
About 60% of the human body is made up of water, and your brain is about 73% water. Thats why hydration is so important to your body and brain health. There are actually quite a few studies about dehydration, mood, anxiety, and depression.
One 2014 study found that drinking more water improved fatigue and alleviated confusion and bewilderment.
Other research has found that drinking plain water can lower the risk of depression and anxiety in adults. Even just 1.36% dehydration in young women caused headache symptoms and lowered mood, concentration, and perceived task difficulty.
Try To Avoid Junk Food When Youre Tired
Recent science tells us theres a reason why were tempted by those high-carb, sugar and fat products when were tired. If this is a short-term problem or one off, its not likely to cause issues in the long term, but if its ongoing it can become a chicken-and-egg situation.
Certain foods can impact digestion and make you feel unwell, and this is intricately related to mood, says Shah. She continues: An example is feeling uncomfortably bloated, which leads to sluggish feelings accompanied by a brain fog, and this then impairs mental clarity. It swings both ways, so if you feel tired, with this low mental focus, anxiety, irritation and mood, you may reach for refined foods low in vitamins and minerals, which give you a quick high that is short lived.
The same applies to comfort eating when stressed. Comfort eating is emotional eating, and the triggers and reasons for it vary from individual to individual…. Food shouldnt be used as a way to control emotions. Habits and eating behaviours take time to address, and I would recommend working with therapists to establish the reasons for them and heal them, continues Shah.
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Q: Are There Nutritional Interventions With Proven Preventive Potential For Mental Disorders
However, many studies confirm that higher dietary quality in adulthood is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline . Additionally, the intake of antioxidant polyphenols in older adults is associated with improved cognitive ability . Another study showed that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil and nuts was associated with improved cognitive function in an older population .
Therefore, we undertook an analysis of diets that could potentially affect mental health such as the MIND diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the ketogenic diet.
The MIND diet is a dietary recommendation to counteract neurodegenerative brain changes and improve nervous system function. This diet is beneficial for cognitive decline in the aging process, as well as for the prevention and progression of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimers disease . The MIND diet combines the principles of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which are based on a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grain cereal products, olive oil, fish, and seafood, and moderate consumption of dry red wine with meals . Studies prove the positive effects of the DASH and Mediterranean diets on other diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and obesity .