Last Updated on April 28, 2022 by Morris Green
If you are suffering from any mental health condition, like anxiety, depression, ADHD, or addiction, or if you’re just feeling stressed and overwhelmed by life, it can be extremely hard to eat well. It’s totally normal to reach for comforting foods when you feel down, but if you’re in a state of constant mental struggle, this can become a toxic cycle.
The truth is, a diet lacking in nutrition that’s full of sugar and greasy, processed foods is likely exacerbating your mental state. While eating like this can give you temporary comfort, the havoc it wreaks on your body is ultimately much worse for your mental health.
The Role of Nutrients
If you don’t get enough nutrients, your body can suffer. For example, a deficiency in vitamins B1, B3 and B12 can cause you to feel tired and irritable. A lack of folate and selenium can lead to low mood or even depression. And not getting enough iron can lead to weakness and fatigue.
It’s recommended to check with your doctor if you have any deficiencies. In order to make sure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need, it’s also a good idea to take supplements. One good example is green or red superfood powder for making drinks. They are made with concentrated versions of fruits and vegetables and are full of nutrients.
Role of Hydration
If you have a mood disorder, then you’ve probably been told more than once to drink more water. It’s true that some oversimplify the role of hydration in alleviating mental health symptoms, however, its role should not be dismissed.
The brain needs adequate water levels to function properly, and when dehydrated, it will slow down and become inefficient. This can limit your brain’s ability to create serotonin and amino acids that play a key role in mood.
Drinking enough water can decrease stress and anxiety, increase energy and focus, and alleviate feelings of low mood. It can also decrease your likelihood of having a panic attack.
Role of the GI Tract
Did you know that about 90 percent of serotonin is made in the gut? This is because the healthy bacteria in the stomach produce the neurochemicals that support mental functions like memory, learning and mood regulation. That’s why the stomach is called the “second brain.”
Getting enough fiber, soluble and insoluble, as well as eating nutritious foods and drinking enough water are all critical to gut health. You may also consider taking a probiotic, which aids digestion and increases the healthy bacteria necessary for cognitive function. You can also eat fermented food like sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso which naturally contain probiotics.
Avoid consuming too much sugar and processed food, which leads to stomach inflammation and feeds bad bacteria. Having poor digestive health can also lessen your ability to absorb nutrients, leading to a higher likelihood of nutrient deficiencies that worsen mood and energy levels. Digestive problems like IBS have also been linked to a higher likelihood of mental health conditions.
Role of Inflammation
Processed foods and excess sugar have been linked to increased inflammation in the body and brain. Inflammation is a known trigger for a vast number of disorders and diseases, including anxiety and depression.
It can also drive a number of other symptoms like fatigue, headaches, stress, muscle stiffness and loss of appetite, which can aggravate mental health problems and make it harder to make healthy choices.
At the end of the day, if you have an ongoing mental health condition that impacts your daily life, only changing your diet is unlikely to be enough, and you should talk to your doctor. However, it is important to know how your diet influences your mind so that you can make the best choices possible going forward.