Feeding The Mind

By: Eike Daube ACSW

Your mental health is a collective of multiple factors that need to be considered for overall wellbeing. Research has shown that nutrition can drastically impact a person’s mental health, specifically in regard to stress, anxiety, and depression. If you are someone who suffers from the following mental health related issues, then read on as the following information may assist you on your wellness journey.

Let’s discuss the Gut-Brain Connection The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut. Have you ever gotten really nervous and almost immediately had a stomach ache mmmmm yes….

It is important to note that majority of our stress related emotions (anxiety) is a inflammation response in the body. Inflammation in the body can be a list of varying hormonal responses but the major hormone that causes majority of the chronic illness running rampant in our country is cortisol. Cortisol is directly correlated to the fight or flight response (stress). What we also know is that certain foods we eat also increase/ignite an inflammation response in the body. It’s this ying and yang development in the body where the food we eat can cause an emotional response and the emotions we experience can cause a physiological gut reaction.

Research has reported that about 80-95% of our serotonin is produced in the gut. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts your entire body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other. Serotonin also helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion.

As you continue reading you will see a recommended diet that has been known to support overall brain functioning called the Mediterranean diet. As you also continue you will also see the 3 major supplements to incorporate into your diet for added mental health support and mood stability.

Mediterranean Diet:

  • Eat: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.

  • Eat in moderation: Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt.

  • Eat only rarely: Red meat.

  • Don’t eat: Sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils and other highly processed foods.

Avoid These Unhealthy Foods

You should avoid these unhealthy foods and ingredients:

  • Added sugar: Soda, candies, ice cream, table sugar and many others.

  • Refined grains: White bread, pasta made with refined wheat, etc.

  • Trans fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods.

  • Refined oils: Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and others.

  • Processed meat: Processed sausages, hot dogs, etc.

  • Highly processed foods: Anything labeled “low-fat” or “diet” or which looks like it was made in a factory.

Exactly which foods belong to the Mediterranean diet is controversial, partly because there is such variation between different countries.

The diet examined by most studies is high in healthy plant foods and relatively low in animal foods.

However, eating fish and seafood is recommended at least twice a week.

The Mediterranean lifestyle also involves regular physical activity, sharing meals with other people and enjoying life.

You should base your diet on these healthy, unprocessed Mediterranean foods:

  • Vegetables: Tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, etc.

  • Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches, etc.

  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.

  • Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas, etc.

  • Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams, etc.

  • Whole grains: Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta.

  • Fish and seafood: Salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, etc.

  • Poultry: Chicken, duck, turkey, etc.

  • Eggs: Chicken, quail and duck eggs.

  • Dairy: Cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, etc.

  • Herbs and spices: Garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, etc.

  • Healthy Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados and avocado oil.

3 Major Supplements to incorporate into your diet:

1. Magnesium: modulates activity of the body's stress-response system, and studies suggest increasing magnesium intake may reduce anxiety, ease stress and minimize the response to fear.

2. Zinc: plays a significant role with respect to the stress response. Proper maintenance of zinc status can help to stabilize serum cortisol levels over time,1 and zinc intake has been shown to temporarily inhibit cortisol secretions. However, in turn, prolonged stress will deplete zinc concentrations in the blood.

3. Reishi: one of the most commonly used adaptogenic mushrooms because of its benefits to overall wellness. It works to boost the immune system, relieves stress and anxiety, helps one feel more balanced and get deeper sleep. Reishi stimulates the immune system to prevent infection.