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How to Use Food to Manage Your Mental Health

How to Use Food to Manage Your Mental Health


Moods are not created in the mind alone, but in partnership with the body. Ask anyone who has eaten ice cream to cheer themselves up, and they'll tell you that's true. What we feed the body can have an enormous impact on how we feel.


Deficits in key vitamins and minerals can mimic mental health conditions. Even if you don't have a medical deficiency, giving the body more helpful nutrients can still improve depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.


Correcting faulty thinking and avoiding destructive behavior can improve the way you function when you have a mental health condition. But many people who have poor mental health have suffered trauma, leaving their body feeling frazzled even if they have participated in therapy. Appropriate nutrition can help in these cases, too.


Using Food to Treat Mental Health Issues


Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications work directly on the state of the body through altering levels of neurotransmitters in the gut and/or brain. But food can also do this, and usually has fewer side effects than many pharmaceuticals.


While you should never stop taking medication without consulting your prescriber, providing appropriate nutrition for your body could reduce some mental health symptoms and thereby potentially lead to reduced dosing or need for psychotropics.


Certain foods can be superstars when it comes to managing mental states. Eating and drinking itself is a sociable activity and can signal to your body that you're safe and can relax. The act of chewing is calmative and reduces stress.


But managing your mental health and mood using food does not mean chowing down on cheeseburgers and downing wine for comfort. It involves eating strategically to calm and soothe your body and consuming nutrients that produce good-mood chemicals.


Guzzle Your GABA


If you've ever suffered from addiction, OCD, excessive rumination, or any form of obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior, you may be low on gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA).


GABA is a calmative brain chemical that works to counteract excitatory states in the body. Consuming foods to help your body produce GABA can help to counter anxiety, stress, and racing thoughts.


Drinking green tea is one of the most effective way to give yourself a GABA boost; it contains high levels of L-theanine, a building block of GABA. Organic cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are also great choices.


Aim to eat foods that are high in Taurine, such as shellfish and poultry. Taurine helps to activate the GABA receptors in the brain.


Soothing Serine


If your mental health is poor as a result of trauma, you may have an overactive 'fight or flight' response. You might have difficulty relaxing because your body is constantly on alert for danger, pumping out cortisol, the stress hormone.


This means that even normal stressors, whether mental (e.g., work or family pressures) or physical (e.g., noise pollution, computer screens), can leave you feeling anxious, drained, or overwhelmed.


But there is a nutrient that can shift your body back to 'rest and digest' mode. Phosphatidyl-serine blocks the over-production of cortisol, providing neurological and mental calm without the emotional numbing that some medications can cause.


Phosphatidyl-serine works even better when paired with phosphatidyl-choline, which helps the body produce acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter which operates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest versus fight or flight).


Beef liver and egg yolk are the richest sources of these magic ingredients. If you don't fancy all that on your plate, a spoonful of non-GMO organic sunflower Lecithin provides ample quantities of both.


Healing Heat


If you suffer from depression, you may sometimes feel the world is dark, scary, empty, and lonely even when things are going well, and you're surrounded by good people.


If positive thinking can't convince your body that the world isn't a bleak hellhole, consume something hot. Studies show that physical warmth decreases feelings of loneliness, pain, and discomfort.


Hot curry is a cure-all; the spices have mood-boosting benefits of their own. Capsaicin, found in chili peppers, has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms. Porridge is the perfect fix; oats also help the brain produce serotonin, the same neurotransmitter that anti-depressants target.


Make a batch of organic vegetable broth to heat up when you're feeling low. Be sure to add spinach, which is high in magnesium, a calming mineral. If you struggle with overeating, keep the kettle on the go and make herbal teas you enjoy.


Gut Feelings


Numerous studies have linked mental health problems with vitamin and mineral deficiencies. An unhealthy gut leads to improper absorption of nutrients, so it's crucial to be good to your belly if you have mental health issues.


Eating healthy food will not be as effective if your gut is out of whack. Organic grass-fed organ meats, skin, and bone broth are great for healing the gut because they contain collagen. Eat whole wild-caught fish, including the skin, and make yourself real chicken soup by boiling the carcass.


If you're vegetarian or vegan, fermented foods will help increase your good gut bacteria and improve your digestion. Include natural yogurt and unpasteurized pickles in your diet. Eat plenty of prebiotic foods, such as garlic, onions, and leeks.


Why Food for Mental Health?


We survived and thrived on this planet for a long time without pharmaceuticals or therapy. Our ancestors actively used certain foods to achieve wellness. Nutrition should never be discounted as an enormously helpful part of mental health treatment along with modern treatments.


If you've done endless work on healing your mind, but are still stuck with symptoms, it's worth looking at your menu. The stomach is called 'the second brain' for good reason. What you eat, drink, and absorb has a huge impact on your mental well-being.


Improving your general diet is good, but tailoring your nutrition to solve specific problems could be even better. Maybe you'll even find certain miracle foods that work better than any medicine for your mind and body

Beth Burgess

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