We usually tend to think that mental health is all in our head. We tend to think that our thought patterns, feelings, behaviors, and values are just how we have learned to relate to the world.
While yes, our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are very much influenced by past learning, family patterns, and current surroundings, our mental health is very much affected by what we have been eating.
This makes sense right? If our brain is the organ that is producing our psychological reality, it would make sense that just like other organs in our body, our brains are very much affected by the nutrients that we intake.
Nutritional psychiatry is a very new field of research and practice that has been growing in the past couple of years. Scientists have already found research to support that different types of diets very much affect our mood.
Not surprisingly, foods that are fried and contain large amounts of processed sugars have been correlated with higher rates of depression and anxiety when compared to individuals who are eating a Mediterranean diet. Similarly, researchers have connected our stomach health to our serotonin levels which play a key role in how our brain is functioning.
In fact, researchers have linked the regular consumption of probiotics to enhanced mental health. It sounds like research is leading to a general theme that whatever we have thought has been healthy to eat for our bodies, is also healthy for our cognitions and emotions.
The important takeaway here is that taken together, what we eat affects more than our waistline and physical appearance. The foods we eat very much affect how we feel and think on a daily basis. Obviously, a change in diet is not going to make your mental health problems disappear, but it is important to consider how your diet might be negatively impacting your everyday mental health.
In the mental health community, we like to talk about individuals as bio-psycho-social-spiritual organisms.
When looking at mental wellness, we cannot only consider psychological health, we have to also consider the biological aspect of our lives which includes what we are consuming each day. While nutritional psychiatry is a young area of study, it sounds like similar rules apply to brain health as the rest of our body.
Our brains need the proper fuel to run properly, so it might be time to take an inventory of what you are eating each day and ask yourself if it is helping or hindering your brain functioning.
You can find my source article and more at Harvard’s health website here: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626
And if you’re looking to expand your mindfulness practice, check out 25 Ways to Practice Mindfulness to Lower Anxiety & Increase Self-Care.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Adolescent | MA, LPC
I provide a safe environment for pre-teens and teenagers to process life’s twists and turns so that they can remain resilient and thrive. I work with parents and their children to create a plan to answer the big life questions, to heal broken relationships, and nourish deep connections.
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