Mental health complaints are becoming more common in the western world, with 50% of the population experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression at some point in their lives. There can be many contributing factors that have led this including an increase in stressors (family, work, financial, social), changes in sleep patterns and hyper processing of food, as well as less time spent outdoors and moving our bodies. Each individual factor can then contribute to our personal risk profile so looking more broadly at what the key considerations are for you is a vital step in being able to keep a level head.
First, understand that what you are experiencing is common to many people and that you are not alone. Second, reaching out for help is a sign of strength—it takes courage and acceptance—and will enable you to begin the process of bringing your vitality back through care and support.
The following are some ways in which you can improve your overall health, both physical and mental, through the food you eat and which you can implement right now.
The more stages of refinement that a food goes through (away from its natural state) increases the probability that it will trigger an immune response in the gut.
There are a number of very common foods that can trigger an inflammatory response. Some of these include:
grains (including corn)
Symptoms of inflammation such as fatigue, brain fog, flat mood, PMS and constipation are all frequently reported by patients experiencing depression. These signs of systemic inflammation are psychiatric pretenders in that they mimic symptoms associated with mental illness. This explains why depression has been called an inflammatory disorder.
To experience better health, try avoiding the trigger foods and eating more food in as close to its natural state as possible.
Eat real food
Deciding to reduce your intake of refined foods often raises the question, ‘What is there left that I can eat?’
The great news is that there is plenty of choice and by making this decision you will be naturally drawn towards a wholefoods-based diet. Further, with organic produce you will be reducing your exposure to pervasive pesticides and herbicides, such as glyphosate, which are known to disrupt our hormones.
What you eat can also affect how your body responds to stress so by reducing the refined foods and discovering the vast range of wholefoods available you’ll not only be physically healthier but mentally healthier too!
Get the balance right
Much of the health that we have is a result of the bacteria that live within us. They outnumber our cells 10 to 1. This means looking after these bacteria goes a long way to keeping us healthy.
Antibiotics and refined foods are being consumed more now than ever before and this creates a pretty barren environment for these health-giving bacteria to live in.
When the organisms in the microbiome send distress signals, a host of health effects can occur and range from depression and other psychiatric complaints to brain disease, stroke and seizures.
We must eat well to look after our gut bacteria and keep the balance right.
A person can receive adequate nutrients, yet factors like stress, smoking, pharmaceuticals and environmental toxicants may be interfering with the body’s ability to absorb them.
Nutrient deficiencies could be contributing to mental health challenges, with shortfalls in vitamin B12, Magnesium, Zinc and essential fatty acids commonly seen.
Our body doesn’t work as well as it could when there are not enough of these key nutrients. Clinically, I find people are often surprised by how much different they feel when they start getting adequate amounts of nutrition.
Ensuring you are getting adequate nutrients and your body is able to absorb it will help to make sure you are functioning at your best.
If you need further guidance, please seek professional assistance. Our naturopaths would love to assist you so feel free to book an appointment.
Written by Phil Chua BHSc
Naturopath & Herbalist