Nutrition & Mental Health
The foods we eat can dramatically impact focus, moods, and energy for the better or for the worse.
How does food make me feel bad?
- Unhealthy and processed foods cause inflammation which is highly associated with all chronic disease, including mental, behavioral, and neurological health conditions
- Processed foods are often high in calories but low in nutrients, often leading to nutrient deficiencies that interfere with optimal functioning
- Unhealthy foods are addictive, and can cause rapid fluctuations in neurotransmitters such as dopamine when they are eaten
- They can lead to wild swings in blood sugar, which lead to rapid changes in mood, focus, anxiety and irritability
- If you are eating foods you are sensitive to, you are increasing the amount of inflammation in your body, even if they are considered to be healthy foods
What are food allergies?
Food allergies can be severe, also called anaphylactic allergies, or more mild. The more severe allergies (like peanuts and shellfish) are mediated by fast acting IgE antibodies and can be life threatening. The less severe allergies, also called food sensitivities are mediated by slower to respond IgG or IgA antibodies. These antibodies produce a system-wide inflammatory response and can be associated with mental and neurological health conditions. This phenomenon is often associated with “leaky gut” in which micro-tears in the gut lining allow for particles of food that have not been completely digested to enter the bloodstream. Identification of offending foods can be accomplished by an elimination and challenge diet or by blood tests. Following a strict diet without the identified allergies for a period of 3-6 months accompanied by the use of homeopathy and other gut-healing therapies can greatly reduce the impact individual foods have on your mood.
How does food make me feel good?
- Healthy, unprocessed foods that look the way they look in nature are high in nutrients and give you increased energy and focus
- Whole foods help maintain stable blood sugar control which reduces anxiety, irritability and depression
- Whole foods, especially plant foods, reduce inflammation which improves most symptoms associated with chronic disease – even the physical symptoms like aches and pains!
What type of diet is best for mental, behavioral and neurological health?
The exact type of foods that will be best for you will vary based on your individual constitution. Generally speaking, a diet high in vegetables (especially dark leafy greens and bright colors), quality protein and healthy fats while low in sugar (including fruits) and processed foods will have most people feeling better. Individuals with specific health concerns may need to consider specialized therapeutic diets.
Do your doctors ever use nutritional supplements?
Yes, when they are indicated for the individual. Some common supplements we prescribe are:
- High quality multivitamins/minerals ensure daily nutrient needs are met even in a state of inflammation which reduces the amount of nutrients you can absorb from your food.
- Fish oil helps reduce inflammation and has omega-3 fatty acids that are vital to neurological health and repair.
- Probiotics help reduce inflammation, help restore ideal microbiome balance, increase nutrient absorption, and even make some nutrients on their own!
Occasionally, high doses of specific nutrients are indicated when a deficiency has been identified through a thorough case history or lab studies. On occasion, mental health conditions are due to a genetic defect in processing nutrients. In these cases, higher doses of bioactive nutrients will be indicated for a longer period of time.