Nutrition: Food is information. There is a connection between the food you eat and your body and brain’s biochemistry. Doesn’t it make sense that dietary change would be the most impactful means of affecting our microbiome, gut-brain signaling, and inflammation?
And therefore your overall health? Since inflammation is a key component to our mental wellness, we want to start with addressing inflammation by food sources and then discuss nutritional strategies that will optimize your health goals.
Sugar - Blood glucose impacts inflammation and HPA Axis (See blog #3).
Gluten and Dairy - Gluten and casein (protein from dairy) activates proteins in the gut that open tight junctions and cause inflammation.
Omega - 6 - Promotes chronic inflammation. While omega-6 is an important nutrient, the standard America diet (SAD) too often contains too much omega-6 in the form of fried and processed foods.
Nutritional Strategies to Address Inflammation
Eliminate These Foods:
Packaged and Processes Foods
Contains hydrogenated oils, preservatives, dyes, refined carbohydrates, flour, and sugar.
Include These Foods:
Fermented Foods - Provides beneficial bacteria to re-balance gut microbiota. Good sources are sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and pickles (even pickle juice).
Be educated and mindful in your purchases. First and foremost, read your labels. Put it back on the shelf if they contain sugar, preservatives, dyes, and anything you don't know what it is!
Figure out what yogurt at your preferred grocery store actually contains beneficial bacteria. Your major brands like Danon and Yoplait are high in sugar and contain NO beneficial bacteria.
*If you live in Colorado, did you know that if you shop at Natural Grocers, all meat is grass-fed, antibiotics free, fruits and veggies are organic, and all yogurts are fermented. This helps take the guess work out of your shopping. Check with your natural food markets in your area as to their standards. I checked out what yogurt brands Natural Grocers carries and then transferred that information over to other grocery stores in my area when making purchases.
Bone Broth - Can aid in decreased gut inflammation and permeability, contains essential amino acids and minerals that are vital to immune and brain function. 1
Best source is to make your own. Cook a whole chicken in the slow cooker on Sunday for protein meal options throughout the week. Cook the carcass in water, add a splash of apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper as needed.
A good storage tips is to freeze the broth in ice-cube trays. Allows for longer shelf life, ease access, and great for when needed in recipes.
I'll often add a cube to my morning lemon, ginger, turmeric tea.
Whole Foods - Base your diet off all natural foods - fresh vegetables and fruit, grass-fed and humanely raised meat, poultry, wild caught fish, and raw dairy.
Proteins and healthy fats stabilize blood sugar and provide substrate for brain health, muscle development, and help reduce inflammation.
Minerals have a metabolic impact on inflammation, hormone, and neurotransmitter function. 2
Studies have shown changes in anxiety, depression, and mood from exercise. 3
Helps control blood sugar imbalances that often appear as depression.
Increases oxygen supply (brain).
Stress relief and mood stability due to impact on HPA Axis.
Increased sense of well-being.
Release of endorphins (natural mood enhancer and pain killers).
Stimulates production of mitochondria - vital for general health - metabolic health, which in turn plays into ones mental health.
Increases blood circulation to the brain.
Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Simply, sleep allows time for the body to heal and repair.
Distinct association between inadequate sleep and mental health conditions - secondary comorbidity to mental health dysfunction. 4
Bi-directional relationship between insomnia, depression, and inflammation - insomnia predicts the risk of depression by 14 times after a year. 5
Circadian rhythm hinges on sleep habits, impacting our control of our hormones. 5
Nighttime sleep primes inflammatory signaling while lost sleep results in daytime inflammation. When sleep loss extends to four or more days inflammation becomes dysregulated. 5
Meditation - Calms both body and mind - stimulating a parasympathetic response. Ultimately generating a Relaxation Response.
Possible Forms of Meditation:
This is a very individualized element, below are some ideas, finding something that works for you is key.
Progressive muscle relaxation.
Repetitive mantra’s / prayer.
Relaxation Response Creates:
Slower heart rate.
Lowered blood pressure.
Are environmental factors of our modern world affecting our mental health?
In addition to stress, diet, and lifestyle, environmental toxins have been discovered to further generate the inflammatory response.
Much of these toxins come from our environment and are difficult to avoid - pollution for example.
Toxic exposure is not new, however the toxic load experienced today is higher than it’s ever been - pesticides, heavy metals, medications, hygiene products, plastics, food and water contamination, cookware, and food additives to name a few.
The largest exposure comes from self-care products where we do have control over.
What Are Signs of Toxic Overload?
Brain fog, memory problems, depression, and anxiety.
Estrogen dominance and other hormonal imbalances.
The key to preventing toxic overload is reducing the toxic burden, while at the same time enhancing the body’s ability to detox - complete avoidance in the world we live in is impossible.
Listed below are some links to resources that will help guide you in making some environmental detox changes in your life:
Environmental World Groups - EWG - www.ewg.org
Healthy Home Economist - www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com
During the past four months we have uncovered that the approach of “curing the brain” is not the answer. But, rather approach mental health disorders and mental fitness in general from the approach of the whole-body’s ecosystem. Realizing that symptoms are our body’s way of communicating chronic imbalances, dysregulation, and deficiencies and that mental health conditions are most often the byproduct of something deeper. When symptoms are addressed, symptoms are most likely resolved.
When properly supported our body’s ability to heal itself can allow us to not only feel good physically, but mentally as well. And isn’t that what we all want? When we have both - we are then able to pursue a purposeful life. Everyone is unique and there is no one size fits all approach. If you or someone you care about is suffering from mental health conditions, unresolved health symptomolgy's, in addiction recovery and would like to create change by means of a personalized holistic approach to their health please contact me at email@example.com.
Working together we will combine a whole-body practice; not to replace therapy, counseling, or other treatments, but enhance the optimal outcome through nutritional support and lifestyle medicine.
Rodriguez E. The Five Health Benefits of Homemade Bone Broth. Natural News.com. May 15, 2019. Accessed December 2021. https://naturalnews.com/2019-05-15-the-5-health-benefits-of-homemade-bone-broth.html#.
Muscaritoli M. The Impact of Nutrients on Mental Health and Well-being: Insights from the Literature. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2021. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2021.656290.
Guszkowska M. Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood. Psychiatr Pol. 2004; vol 38(4): 611-20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15518309/.
Blackwelder A, Hoskins M, Huber L. Effect of Inadequate Sleep on Frequent Mental Distress. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2021; 18: 200573. http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd18.200573.
Brogan K, Loberg K. A Mind of Your Own. Thorsons. 2016.