How Nutrition Affects Mental Health

If you’re a regular at Team Worx in Alexandria, VA, you understand that both diet and exercise affect your whole body and help you lose weight. Most people understand that exercise can boost their mood, primarily through boosting circulation, burning off hormones of stress and replacing them with feel good hormones. Nutrition affects mental health, too. Since biochemicals affect your behavior, it only makes sense that if you provide the right types of food, they’ll contain the nutrients that help boost those biochemicals.

Feed your belly bugs.

Microbes in your digestive system play a role in your mood and emotions. Studies on the gut microbiome of people with anxiety and depression compared to those that don’t show that there’s a difference in the species. Microbes that produce short-chain fatty acids, thought to regulate the nervous system, are more prominent in people without depression or anxiety. Also, people with anxiety and depression tend to have more microbes that cause inflammation. While scientists still aren’t sure why that correlation exists, some think it’s because some bacteria may stimulate the vagus nerve, one that controls such responses as heart rate, mood, digestion and the immune response. Others think it may be due to the inflammation some bacteria cause.

You’ll boost your energy when you eat healthy.

Having adequate energy is important for both the body and the brain. It’s also important to provide food that’s high in antioxidants, preventing damage from oxidative stress. In fact, many studies are following anti-inflammatory herbs and their effect on diseases of the brain like Alzheimer’s and dementia. The energy has to come from natural sources and not those with added sugar, since sugar can cause fluctuations in insulin and inflammation. Various studies show a diet high in sugar adds to the potential of mood swings and depression.

Is your brain having problems sending messages?

Your diet can also play a role in whether you have problems sleeping, your appetite patterns, mood swings and sensitivity to pain. You might be surprised, but all those things are greatly influenced by serotonin, which is created in the digestive tract. The digestive tract has millions of nerve cells and neurotransmitters, all directly affected by the gut’s microbiome. There are body and mood friendly microbes and ones that cause harm. A healthy diet improves the colonies of body and mind beneficial bacteria, fungi and other microbes.

One study showed that people who eat a diet high in whole grains, fruit and vegetables are at less risk of depression. Another study showed that schizophrenia patients who took an antibiotic targeting a certain bacterium had fewer symptoms.

One study investigated the difference between a traditional Japanese diet, the Mediterranean diet and the typical American diet and found that the more processed food the diet contained and less fermented food, the more potential for depression.

Studies show that food high in omega-3 fatty acid helped reduce the number of violent events significantly in a prison. Vitamin B, D, tryptophan and folic acid also improve mood.

Herb like cinnamon can help ADHD and reduce irritability. Dopamine rich foods, such as green tea and nuts improve focus. Dark chocolate boosts serotonin. Magnesium containing food, such as cashews, beets and summer squash are good for anxiety.

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