Linking Nutrition and Mental Health

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January 2, 2021

There’s long been evidence that poor mental health is not always something that happens in isolation. The National Health Service in the UK identified several factors that can contribute to mental health crises. These include upbringing and environment, life experiences, and genes. While it’s definitely important to look at the physical and genetic causes of things like depression or anxiety, understanding how our lifestyles can affect our mental health is also important. 

Previously, we talked about ‘How Posture Affects Your Mental Health’, and increases your negative thinking. If something as simple as posture can impact our mood and behavior, what more the nutrients we take in through our diet? Today, we’ll talk about the links between nutrition and mental health, and why food can often be your greatest support. 

What Am I Eating? 

First, let’s take a look at our diets. Our bodies and minds need fuel to work properly, but not just any fuel will do. You may notice that you feel heavier and get tired more easily with fast food diets or diets high in fat, carbohydrates, and sugars. On the other hand, if you’re eating something like the Mediterranean diet, which is high in vegetables, whole foods, and low in red meat, you might feel lighter and more cheerful for longer. 

Taking supplements? They can work much in the same way. Taking a vitamin D3 supplement by Brightcore, for example, might have you feeling better than when you aren’t taking it. DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acid supplements might have your mind feeling sharper, and your mood more consistent. But why does this happen? 

How Are Mental Health and Nutrition Linked? 

The connections between mental health and nutrition have been well documented in recent years. According to psychiatrist Dr. Drew Ramsey, helping people shape their diets might actually aid in reducing the risk of psychiatric disorders. As the medical field builds a more holistic approach to mental health, mapping things like diet can be an important part of the healing and recovery process. 

The key to this is your digestive system. It breaks foods down into their simplest base forms. Nutrients are then absorbed into your bloodstream via the small intestine and delivered to different parts of your body. The Harvard Health Blog explains how serotonin, 95% of which is produced in your gastrointestinal track, can be greatly impacted by diet and more. The Mediterranean diet mentioned above, rich in vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, can thus lower your risk factors for depression or other mood disorders. 

Why Should We Eat Better? 

Nutritional psychiatry is a growing field, and one that people would do well to pay attention to. Over the last decade or so, huge strides have been made in determining how our food affects our mental health. We now have a deeper understanding of how our bodies and minds make use of food. 

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a mood disorder or are simply looking for ways to improve your mood, changing your diet can be a helpful solution. Living with mood or psychiatric disorders can be difficult for anyone, and the road to better mental health is long and difficult. Your mind and body need all the help they can get— which is why addressing something as basic as your diet can make such a difference.

Alex Hanna

By day, Alex works as a technologist. By night, he runs Challenge the Storm. Suffering from depression and anxiety, himself, he dedicates every day to help one single person. Something as small as putting a smile on someone else's face may have a bigger impact than you think.

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