Medical studies prove that food plays a very crucial role not only for our physical health, but also for our emotional health. Nutritional psychology uses the beautiful connection between healthy food and a healthy mind to offer people tasty and effective help. So-called nutritional psychiatry is an emerging modality that helps people get rid of psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. Take care of your mental health with taste with the help of good food.
What is nutritional psychiatry?
Based on the premise that what we eat affects our mood, nutritional psychiatrists, unlike conventional psychiatrists, incorporate food into their overall treatment plans. Nutritional psychiatry relies on certain nutrient-packed foods - foods full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, probiotics, prebiotics, and protein. This diet is designed to reduce brain inflammation, better regulate serotonin and dopamine, and influence a variety of other mood-enhancing responses.
What does the brain have to do with our gut?
The brain connects to the gut via the vagus nerve. This "vagus nerve" works like a two-way highway, constantly sending signals and chemicals back and forth between the brain and the gut. One of these chemicals is serotonin, our natural mood regulator. Outside of the brain, our body produces over 90% of serotonin. This process takes place in the gut - exactly where our food is digested and broken down into vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Through this process, we get a natural symbiosis between food and body chemistry.
So what should we eat to feel better?
Good mental health depends on a well-nourished brain. Doctors offer a few guidelines for building a diet that supports a healthy mood. Remember, however, that "well-nourished" does not mean "perfect." So don't be afraid of the occasional juicy cheeseburger or the occasional bowl of pasta. Instead of judging yourself if you're having a piece of cake, enjoy it thoroughly. We're only human and we shouldn't be blinded by the rules of the diet war, balance is important in life. In other words, one pizza a week won't make or break your body's microbiome - and it certainly shouldn't break your spirit.
Limit sugar (including artificial sweeteners) and semi-finished products
Many industrially processed foods combine "empty" calories with other chemicals and additives such as dyes, preservatives, fillers and sweet additives that can cause inflammation, which "makes our brains depressed, anxious and unfocused. The sugar-fed gut microbiome craves more sugar. Sugar causes inflammation in the body and is associated with lower levels of BDNF, a protein that helps our brains adapt to stress. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin are also on the no-go list, due to their potentially toxic effects on mood-regulating neurotransmitters and brain chemistry. Next, watch out for simple carbohydrates like white rice and pasta, which also fall into the category of sugars.
Add plenty of vegetables, legumes and leafy greens.
Replace unnecessary inflammatory or nutritionally neutral foods with dark chocolate, peppers, citrus, berries, leafy greens, lentils, asparagus, broccoli, berries and other healthy foods. These foods contain microbiome-healthy fiber and mood-boosting vitamins and minerals such as iron, folate, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins A and B.
Our digestive tract is home to approximately 100 trillion bacteria and microorganisms that play a major role in our health. Eating active cultures helps crowd out unhealthy microorganisms and increases the healthy flora in our microbiome, which improves our mood and our overall health. Foods like kefir, yogurt with no added sugar, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and buttermilk all contain important, gut-healthy bacteria. Probiotics are best supported by prebiotics: foods like oats, allium, garlic, apples and beans.
Reap the benefits of omega-3s, limit saturated fats and include lean proteins
Fish such as sardines, salmon, tuna and mackerel are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation in the brain and can be a great source of vitamin D. Avocado and olive oil help replenish fats rich in healthy nutrients. Lean beef, shellfish and poultry are rich in iron, which boosts mood. Grass-fed beef, chia seeds and nuts all contain valuable omega-3s as well. Limit saturated fats such as margarine.
Limit alcohol and caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine play a vital role in our mental health. People who suffer from nervousness and regularly drink alcohol have poorer sleep and have trouble falling asleep. The risk arises when you drink more than one drink a day for women and two a day for men. Caffeine stimulates the threat processing area of the brain and reduces function in the area that helps regulate anxiety. Limit your daily coffee consumption and try incorporating calming chamomile or turmeric tea into your beverage list. Also remember to drink plenty of water: about four to six glasses a day, and more if you sweat a lot or play sports.
Holistic mental health care
Nutritional psychiatrists integrate food into broader treatment plans that may include medication, psychotherapy, acupuncture, yoga, exercise, and so on. It's really about bringing all the possible practices together to achieve the most powerful effect. Food helps, but it should not be seen as a magic wand.
For example, if someone claims that celery juice can cure depression, this is a naive idea that can harm your health. What this means in practice is that every doctor and psychiatrist in agrees that their patients would be better off eating really healthy, unprocessed foods. Nutritional psychiatry won't cure all mental illness, but it will certainly help improve brain health and alleviate the symptoms of mental illness.