Blending Food With Mood: How Eating Right Affects Mental Health

eating right affects mental health

Mental health, particularly depression, is a global concern. Despite an increase in mental disorder treatment, the illness is increasing rather than decreasing, more common in young people. The 20th Century has witnessed a dietary shift globally. There’s an increase in the consumption of snacks, sugars, high-energy, and takeaway foods. On the other hand, the use of fiber-dense and nutrients foods is declining.

As we always say, what we eat affects not just our physical health but our mental health and wellbeing too. Our brain takes care of our thoughts, our physical movements, breathing, and senses. It works continuously 24/7, which means your mind requires premium fuel. Our food is fuel for our brain, and hence what we eat directly affects the function of our brain and, ultimately, our mood. Eating high-quality foods loaded with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants nourish our brain and protect from oxidative stress.

Food = Mood

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our appetite, sleep, moods, and inhibit pain. Fact, 95% of our serotonin is produced from our gastrointestinal tract, and it is lined with a million neurons or nerve cells. The inner workings don’t just help digest food but guide our emotions.

The billions of good bacteria influence the function of neurons and serotonin production. These good bacteria make up our intestinal microbiome. These bacteria protect our intestines lining and creates a strong barrier against toxins and limit inflammation, improve how well nutrients are absorbed and activate neural pathways that travel between the gut and the brain.

Studies reveal that when people intake probiotics, their stress perception, anxiety levels, and mental health improve as compared to people who did not take probiotics. Other studies have shown that traditional diets like the Japanese or Mediterranean diet have shown that the depression risk is 25% to 35% lower compared to the modern diet.

how eating right affects mental health

These traditional diets are high in fruits, vegetables, unprocessed grains, seafood, and fish and moderate amounts of lean meats and dairy. Sugar is considered a significant reason for inflammation and feeds harmful bacteria in the GI tract. It also causes a temporary spike in dopamine, a “feel good” neurotransmitters. This results in a fleeting sugar rush followed by a crash that breaks down your mood.

While sticking to healthy food, you face fewer mood fluctuations, a happier outlook, and an improved concentration. To sum up, good food = a good mood!

What type of food should you pick?

So, what should you put on your plate? Here’s a quick overview of what food you need to put in your cart.

  • Whole foods: Food colorings, preservatives, and other additives may induce or worsen hyperactivity and depression. Remember to eat real food or minimally process food. Think of fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • Fiber: Fiber helps your body absorb glucose or food sugars, helping you avoid sugar crashes. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are rich in fiber.
  • Antioxidants: They are called inflammation fighters. They are commonly found in leafy green, vegetables, berries, turmeric, Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon, and black chia seeds. Dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants but indulges in moderation.
  • Folate: Folate helps with dopamine production without forcing sugars in the body. You can find them in lentils, greens, and cantaloupes.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential in the production of serotonin, and we get it from sunlight. However, reishi, cordyceps, and maitake mushrooms are a good source of Vitamin D.
  • Magnesium: They take care of everything from muscle and nerve function to keeping heartbeat steady. But it’s also essential for the food-mood connection. A magnesium deficiency can hurt your gut bacteria and cause depression. Find them in dark chocolate, almonds, cashews, spinach, leafy vegetables, beans, and bananas.
  • Fermented Foods: Fermented food are loaded with probiotics- live bacteria good for your GI tract. They are hidden in kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha. These foods are also high in sodium, so consume in moderation or avoid them if you have high blood pressure.

What do you need to do?

Start paying attention to your diet. What are you eating? How are different foods impacting your mood? Try switching to a clean diet for a few weeks—which means cutting out sugar and processed foods. You can add fermented foods or try going dairy-free or grain-free. See how you feel. You can slowly introduce new superfoods in your diet accordingly.

Incorporating functional foods in your diet can be a little challenging in the beginning, but you can prepare a week meal. Inrush, you can use frozen or canned vegetables minus the salt, whole-grain couscous, or quinoa. You can switch from white rice, bread, or pasta for whole-grain versions. And replace a bag of chips, pick a side salad packed with seeds, nuts, and colorful vegetables. It may take some adjustment but it is essential that you do whatever it takes to help your mental health so that you can live a healthy, happy, and productive life.

 

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Inheriting Mental Disorders

In the research of finding causes of mental disorders, scientists are connecting the dots at genetic factors. Often, we get the compliment that we look like our parents. We might have their mannerisms, physique, cleverness, attitude, or physical features. But does it relate to the fact that my parents are the reason for my anger or anxiety? Is it because I suffered a tragic loss of my brother in the growing years? Or is it written into my DNA?

The fact is, if a family member has a mental disorder, the chance of an individual having a mental disorder is higher. Even though mental illness is inherited, there may be differences in the symptoms among family members sharing the disease.

One person might have a mild case, while others will have a severe case. However, mental illness does not follow a pattern of inheritance.

Mental health is sometimes a difficult topic to talk about. Those who deal with it always looks out for a reason to avoid the discussion. 

Mental illness is not about a single gene but a collection of genes. According to a recent study, the chances of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder being carried down through family members depend on the type of mental illness and severity. See the table below-

 

 SchizophreniaBipolar
Lifetime chance (the chance of someone in the general population developing the condition during their lifetime)1 in 100Bipolar
If one of your biological parents has the condition13 in 1002-30 in 100
If both of your biological parents have the condition45 in 10015 in 100
If your brother or sister has the condition9 in 10050 in 100
If your identical twin has the condition40-50 in 10040 – 70 in 100
If your non-identical twin has the condition10-15 in 10020  in 100
If a second degree relative has the condition (for example, your aunt, uncle or grandparent)3 in 1005 in 100

 

Always remember the chances of not developing a mental illness even though it runs in your family is high, then chances of developing one. The table clarifies that the chances of not developing bipolar are 97 out of 100. That’s on the positive side.

Source: https://www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/carers-hub/does-mental-illness-run-in-families/

 

The Intersection Of Mental Illness And Inheritance

  • Epigenetic Regulation: This affects how a person perceives and reacts to environmental patterns and may contribute to mental disorder. Epigenetics is not a constant one. It goes on and off over time — a right combination of epigenetic regulation and environmental factors are responsible for a mental disorder to develop.
  • Genetic Polymorphisms: Polymorphisms found in our DNA make us unique as an individual. It alone may not lead you to mental illness. However, the combination of many specific polymorphisms and environmental factors can lead to the development of a mental disorder.

For example, in addiction, genetics plays a significant role in knowing whether someone is likely to develop an addiction or not. But there are a lot of other things that one should consider–like the environment, mental health history in your family, and complications you might have. Parents who have experiences with mental disorders in the past can help children equipped with solutions when they see the first symptoms. 

The Risk

The probability of developing a specific mental disease is high when a biological parent or other related family members have the same condition. Researchers are working extensively to find patterns in twins and adopted children. The risk of developing schizophrenia is 1% in the population, but the risk is ten times higher if a parent suffers from the illness. The chance increased to about 40% if both parents have schizophrenia.

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The lifetime risk of schizophrenia is correlated with the degree of relationship to the patient (first-degree relatives are at higher risk than second-degree relatives)

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2696847/

How Can Parents Work on Mental Health Challenges?                                                                                         

  • Talk to your child: You may feel a little anxious before taking this issue up. But speaking openly about mental health issues and your story is an invaluable way to reduce the risk of passing the illness to your child. Make your children aware of your behavior, how difficult you feel sometimes, and how they can help you overcome those challenges together as a family. There’s no shame in feeling depressed or anxious. Explain to them don’t blame anyone. Children often internalize their parent’s moods. This will lay a foundation for them to stand with strength when they walk down the same mental health path in their life.
  • Inculcate healthy exercise: Try and incorporate daily exercising and meditation sessions in your family wellness program. It helps to boost your therapy while improving your child’s concentration and memory. Explain to them how the treatment is helping you improve your disease. Your kids will learn at the early stage how it is essential to take care of mental and physical health equally.
  • Don’t fear but teach: It is common that those with mental health issues fear of passing the illness to their kids. There is a genetic element to many mental disorders. Please don’t shy away from the fact that there are chances that they might not inherit them. There are so many factors that you don’t have control over. Right now, you have the power to create the most supportive and nurturing environment for your kids, where they can talk openly to you and share their challenges.
  • Stop Punishing Yourself: You have both good and bad days while going through mental health issues. Honestly, parenting is challenging, and it can trigger mental health issues. Do not ignore these signs and, if possible, take a break and divert your energy on your mental condition. When your kids are aware of your situation, they will understand and help overcome those periods.  

There’s no hidden fact that mental health issue is a tough topic, and we all have a fear of passing them to our children. But believing in fear and creating an overprotective environment might pull your kids away, affecting your conditions. It’s better to talk about the situation with your doctor. Learn how you can bring this topic with your family and build a support team, not just for yourself but for your future generations. Unlike yesterday, we are having a healthy discussion on mental health. As we see, more solutions and support are coming forward to help people suffering from mental health disorders live a healthy and fuller life.

Natural Supplements For Depression

Everybody Gets the Blues

Are you feeling blue? Are you down in the dumps, lacking energy, or sleeping all the time? Or, perhaps your motivation to accomplish your previously-longed-for dreams has suddenly vanished. Maybe your concentration is gone, or you don’t feel like eating. Or, maybe you suddenly want to eat all the time? Is self-worth an issue recently? Are you having thoughts of death or suicide, even passively?

All of these (slightly scary) symptoms are signs of depression. Having one, some, or all of these types of symptoms happens to everyone at one time or another. However, when it seems that “blue” is the only color you can use to describe how you are feeling, it’s time to do something more. When you feel depressed for two weeks or more, it is time to take action. 

The National Institute of Mental Health, in their 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, reports that approximately 17.3 million adults in the United States have had at least one major depressive episode. This number represents about 7.1 percent of all adults in the United States.

An occasional bout of the blues is not abnormal, but persistent depression is not something out of which you can talk yourself. Seeking the expertise of a healthcare professional is always the place for people with depression, or for people who have symptoms of depression, to begin. Getting a proper diagnosis can only occur by talking to a healthcare professional. Once correctly diagnosed, the course of treatment that you and your health care professional develop together may require a long-term approach, but it is entirely up to you what this approach will entail. Part of your treatment plan may include psychotherapy, along with FDA-approved prescription medications for treating your depression. Another avenue that you and your health care professional may discuss is the use of natural remedies for the treatment of depression. 

The Downside of Prescription Antidepressants

Common medications prescribed for people with depression are known as antidepressants. The Food and Drug Administration states that most prescription antidepressants fall into one of the following classifications: SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants), and MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors).  

Prescribed antidepressants affect varying neurotransmitters in the brain in a few different ways, and many people who suffer from mild to moderate depression find antidepressants to be beneficial. However, many people do not want to be prescribed antidepressants.

There is a long list of possible side effects that come along with antidepressants; however, that can sometimes encourage people to choose a different route of treatment.  

Here are some of those:  

  • Feeling nauseous, dizzy, tired all the time
  • Having dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • A loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Experiencing nervousness
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Weight gain
  • A change in sexual function or sexual desire
  • Sleep disturbances 

 There are also more severe risks, such as developing high blood pressure, suicidal thinking, or the possibility of congenital disabilities in women who are pregnant. Another reason people may not want to be on a prescribed antidepressant is that there are, indeed, less drastic options. Or, their depression may not be severe enough to warrant the use of prescription antidepressants. For these candidates, there are other approaches. One alternative might be to try natural supplements for depression. There are many supplements available for use as a means to help depression.

San Diego Natural Depression Treatment

Enter: Natural Remedies

People with depression who might be interested in trying natural remedies have several choices. There are several dietary supplements available that may alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. 

Most nutritional supplements work by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help your mind and body function. One of these neurotransmitters is serotonin. Dietary supplements include herbs, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. 

St. John’s Wort 

The most commonly used supplement for depression is St. John’s Wort. St. John’s Wort, also known as Hypericum perforatum, is a plant. When used as a dietary supplement, it acts in a way similar to reuptake inhibitors, affecting neurotransmitters in the brain.  

Omega-3 fatty acids 

If you ask any dietician or psychiatrist, they’ll likely tell you that Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the essential vitamins for cognitive function. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to help with depression. This fatty acid is found in fish oil and marine algae believed to be a brain-boosting over-the-counter dietary supplement that helps the serotonin in your brain work better. Serotonin helps regulate mood, social behavior, aid in appetite and digestion, and also helps with your sleep, your memory, and your sexual function.  

Ginkgo Biloba 

Ginkgo biloba helps reduce symptoms of depression by improving protect neurotransmitters. Another dietary supplement, chamomile, has tranquility-enhancing properties that help people with depression.

San Diego Depression Treatment

Having depression can be debilitating. Talking with your health care professional should be your first step in developing a plan to combat depression. Together with your doctor, you may develop a treatment plan that includes supplements as remedies for depression. Their medicinal qualities can help alleviate stress, enhance the effects of neurotransmitters, and work to decrease the symptoms of depression.

Talk to your doctor to see which supplement for depression is going to be your best option. You should not stop taking any current medications without talking to your health care professional. Also, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements for depression. Many dietary supplements may interact with other medications that you are taking, and many cause unwanted reactions or side effects.

Common Comorbid Mental Illnesses That Occur With OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a significant anxiety disorder that is chronic and relatively common in the United States. 

OCD is characterized by many different symptoms, though it mainly presents itself through uncontrollable and intrusive thoughts, known as “obsessions,” followed by repetitive behaviors, or “compulsions”.

Although OCD is a severe mental illness to have, other mental illnesses also often occur with it, such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and depression. 

Unfortunately, a dual-diagnosis has the potential to make treatment a bit more severe and complicated sometimes. Having a thorough understanding of comorbid disorders that often occur alongside an OCD diagnosis, however, can contribute to a more clear course of treatment and better recovery odds. 

Comorbidity in mental health treatment is when someone exhibits more than one mental illness at once. For example, anxiety and depression are often jointly diagnosed. Usually, each of these illnesses can either lead to other disorders’ development or feed each other simultaneously. Therefore, all medical and psychological professionals prefer to treat all comorbid diseases at the same time.

Understanding OCD

The term “OCD” frequently occurs in mainstream conversations nowadays. Many people claim they have the Disorder simply because they have “Type A” personalities and are quite organized. However, this is a dangerous way to speak of such a mental illness, considering Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder involves its sufferer experiencing more distress and destruction than someone who prefers to double-check their work or keep a calendar may experience.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a mental disorder that lies within the category of anxiety disorders. 

Those with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder exhibit certain common traits like perfectionism and sometimes even superstitiousness. 

Obsessions involve intrusive thoughts, images, and urges that cause significant distress to the individual experiencing them. When it comes down to it, obsessions are thought to stem from some subconscious fears or even a need for control. Some obsessions may include:

  • Fear of germs and contamination
  • Frightening thoughts that occur about harming one’s self or other people
  • A need for symmetry
  • Intrusive, disturbing sexual thoughts
  • Extreme religious beliefs
  • Hoarding

Compulsions are actions, behaviors, and habits that are the direct responses to the fears created by intrusive thoughts and obsessions. 

Some compulsions include:

  • “Checking” behavior, such as someone being consistently late to work from checking whether their door is locked an inappropriate number of times
  • Excessive cleaning or hand washing
  • Praying, or repeating certain words over and over again until one feels calmer
  • Replaying of scenarios in one’s head repetitively
  • Rumination
  • Reassurance-seeking

In general, someone with OCD is unable to control their obsessions and compulsions to the point of extreme distress and detriment. It is at this point that someone may seek help.

Misconceptions About OCD

Although Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can involve an extreme fear of germs and subsequent obsessive hand washing in many cases, not all obsessions and compulsions are the “common” ones discussed frequently. Someone doesn’t need to exhibit stereotypical OCD traits to have OCD. 

Some other types of OCD and OCD-related mental illnesses exist, such as Relationship Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (ROCD). Although not in the DSM-5 (the manual that many psychological professionals use to diagnose mental disorders) another subtype of “Pure O” exists. Pure O is defined as when someone experiences obsessions without acting on them or developing external compulsions.

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OCD and Panic Disorder

Considering OCD is included in the category of anxiety disorders, other anxieties have an enormous potential to occur alongside it. One anxiety disorder is Panic Disorder, where someone experiences panic attacks or subconsciously interprets an unnecessary amount of danger towards real or imagined stimuli. 

Considering many OCD sufferers’ compulsions develop from the fear of their obsessions, it’s not uncommon for them to also experience panic attacks as a result of their thoughts. 

OCD And Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder shares many common symptoms with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, such as constant “checking” behavior. 

BDD is characterized by the unhealthy preoccupation that some people have about their looks – and we’re not just talking about vanity. Those with BDD often hone in on certain flaws they see on their bodies, whether that’s a deformed body part or an imperfect curve. san diego ocd treatment centerMany people with Body Dysmorphia also tend to be intently focused on continually improving their appearance, whether through diets or surgery, as well as asking for reassurance about their looks. Often people with this Disorder will also avoid situations that may reveal their perceived flaws, such as going to parties or other social gatherings. 

Although Body Dysmorphia can contribute to eating disorders, the two illnesses are not exactly the same.

OCD And Depression

OCD and Major Depressive Disorder are known to exist comorbidly. No matter which mental illness develops first, the two can feed incessantly off of one another. Obsessive-compulsive Disorder can cause someone to feel stuck, hopeless, and suffer from low self-esteem – all of which are symptoms of depression.

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Not only this, but depressive disorders are speculated to occur due to an imbalance of brain chemicals like Serotonin- the very same Serotonin that many believe is to blame for OCD. 

Other comorbid illnesses can exist with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder than what was mentioned in this article. Professional treatment is needed for someone to recover from any mental illness. However, treatment isn’t the only answer. Those who suffer from OCD and other cognitive diseases must work to better themselves as well, exhibit bravery and resilience, and have a strong willingness to grow.

If you or a friend or family member are suffering from OCD, Contact Solara Mental Health to get treatment today.