How Good Nutrition Affects Mental Health

It’s very rewarding when people from Massachusetts let me know the positive effects of the diets we recommend and how good they feel. Many write or tell their coach that the good nutrition not only helped them feel better physically, but it improved their mental health. It’s well known that exercise can improve moods and help people with anxiety or depression, but most people fail to realize that what you eat makes a big difference, too. Everything you eat has specific nutrients or causes the creation of substances that can affect the biochemicals in the brain.

Start with the gut microbiome.

What is your gut microbiome? It’s the fungi, bacteria, and other microbes in your digestive tract. They break down food and create enzymes that control many functions in the body. Many studies have been done on gut microbes and their effect on the body. A more recent medical procedure is a fecal transplant for depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. It sounds radical, but it works. The sample is taken from someone both physically and mentally healthy and then transplanted to the patient. How does that prove a change of diet can help? Your gut microbiome is controlled by the food you eat. Certain diets encourage the microbes that provide mental health benefits to thrive when you consume specific foods.

Sugar boosts your energy and then slams it to the ground.

If you eat sugar or products with added sugar, you’ll feel the effects both physically and mentally. The ride up can be great. You have a boost of energy and are ready to take on the world. Then, suddenly, that energy drops and you’re either a screaming maniac, weeping like a baby, or simply too worn out to continue. Low blood sugar affects people in a variety of ways. To add insult to injury, sugar causes inflammation that adds to bodily stress. It can lead to mental diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Studies show a diet high in sugar increases the potential for depression and mood swings.

It still goes back to the belly bugs.

The waste from the microbes in your gut may control your mood, but they also control the hormones in your body and nervous system. There are many types of hormones beyond sex hormones. Hormones are simply messengers. They tell your body when to sleep, when to get up, whether you’re full or hungry, and a host of other things. The gut microbes help produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter. It directly affects your mood by making you feel good. It takes more than just the right microbiome. It takes the raw materials to create serotonin. Consuming foods with tryptophan, an amino acid necessary for serotonin creation, boosts its production.

  • Foods containing tryptophan and necessary for creating serotonin include salmon, poultry, spinach, eggs, seeds, nuts, milk, and soy products.
  • Eat food high in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber provides food for beneficial bacteria. It’s found in whole grain, fruits, and vegetables. Studies show that people who are on a diet high in these foods had a lower risk of depression.
  • The body needs a balance of omega 6 and omega 3. Pre-industrialization populations at ratios ranging from 1:4 to 4:1. Today, the American diet is 16:1 with 16 the amount of omega 6. Studies show too much omega 6 can increase violent behavior.
  • A study comparing the Western diet to the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet found that the more processed food in the diet, the higher the risk for depression.

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