top of page

Nutrition and Mental Health

In recent years, more attention has been paid to the astounding and far-reaching effects that food can have on our health. In addition to playing a role in maintaining a healthy weight and staving off cardiovascular disease, our diet can also influence our resistance to disease, our likelihood of developing cancer, and may even help preserve cognitive function as we age. 

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that nutrition affects mental health as well. A healthy diet can boost brain function and improve mood, but research also suggests that deficiencies in certain nutrients may contribute to or exacerbate neurodivergent conditions such as: depression, anxiety, ADHD, ASD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). 

It is commonly accepted knowledge that serotonin helps regulate sleep, appetite, moods, and pain. Did you know that 90-95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract?

Specifically, production is influenced by the “good” bacteria in your gut. These good bacteria serve as a protection in the gut, limit inflammation, help you absorb nutrients, and “activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain”.

Serotonin is our happiness hormone, and the more we can promote this "happiness hormone" the happier we can feel!

While simply making changes to your diet is no substitute for other forms of mental health treatment such as medication or therapy, eating healthy may help alleviate or manage symptoms. Combing Counselling and Nutrition services is what Homedica does to help you from the inside out.

When studies of the traditional Japanese or Mediterranea diets were compared to a typical Western diet, researchers found “the risk of depression is 25-35% lower in those who eat traditional diets”. These traditional diets do not contain processed and refined foods or sugars, but rather are fresh, unprocessed, or even fermented (fermentation can act as a natural probiotic).

With these direct links between mental health and diet, consider the following suggestions that can also improve your mental health (and diet)

Sugar is not your friend. 

We’ve all heard this before, but the science behind what sugar does to our system is most relevant. Many of us have been guilty of reaching for a candy bar when we're feeling stressed or sad. However, that sugar boost might leave you feeling worse, rather than better.

Studies have proven a connection between diets that are high in refined sugars and impaired brain function, including symptoms of mood disorders like depression. Sugar can exasperate emotional regulation that occurs with ADHD/ASD issues, happiness occurs with the consumption of sugar and simple carbs, then we have a blood sugar crash, which can lead of emotional outbursts. This continuous up and down of our blood sugar levels out a strain on our pancreas, and over time can lead to increase blood sugar issues.

Anything that provides an artificial spike and has addictive properties (like sugar), might feel good in the moment but has a negative impact on our health, both physical and mental. Those delicious refined sugars promote inflammation and stress and take up valuable real estate in the body. Our bodies need nourishment and consuming a 80/20 whole foods/processed food diet is imperative to support out mental and our physical health.

Be nice to your gut. 

Your gut exerts a tremendous amount of influence on the rest of your body, including your mental health.

Poor gut health has been linked to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. When your gut gets inflamed, that inflammation places so much stress on your system that you release molecules that directly influence brain function. 

To keep your gut (and your brain) happy, make sure your diet includes things like prebiotics, probiotics, fruit, vegetables, and legumes.

Probiotics or gut symbionts are living organisms that can help suppress inflammation in the gut and repair intestinal linings. By addressing these inflammatory properties in your gut, the harmful molecules referenced above are no longer released. Studies have been conducted on both humans and animals that show probiotics can lead to reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Not all probiotics are created equal and just because a food package says it has probiotics, that does not mean they are the right kind or of the right quality. Choosea good quality professional probiotics brand and alternate between different professional alternative branded probiotics so that you get good gut symbionts that adhere to the gut lining and help you produce more serotonin naturally.

Probiotics are so sensitive to temperature, storage time and caffeine as these can all destroy a good probiotic. Like everything we put in or on our bodies, contact a nutritionist that understands a good brand what ones are the best to consume to increase your gut flora.

Don't omit your omega-3s.

Omega-3 fatty acids have a host of health benefits—among them, the ability to potentially help treat symptoms of depression and regulate the symptoms of bipolar disorder. You can find omega-3s in foods like fish, seeds and nuts, soy, avocado and flax oils.

Let’s talk about the science behind why omega-3s are good for you and your brain. Omega3s, DHA in particular, play a critical role in forming the cell membrane structures in the retina, sperm, and the brain. They have additional health benefits throughout the body, but when it comes to the brain, their work forming cell membrane structures helps create healthier brain cells. DHA has an affinity to the brain and is recommended to those who are very young, to the elderly and anyone with a neurodivergent issue like ADHD/ASD.

16 views1 comment
bottom of page