Search

Holistic Methods to Take Charge of Your Mental Health

The intention of the past five weeks was to allow you the opportunity to learn that you have

the power to create change - change that will transform your body, mind, and ultimately your life. In this last blog, I will share with you some ideas in which you can optimize your overall health and therefore your mental well-being.

Nutrition:

Diet is an obvious place to start when we want to create change within. Food is not solely a means for fuel, but a vehicle of delivering biological messages that enable optimal functionality. 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? Since inflammation is a key component in our mental health we will start with addressing inflammation by food sources and then discuss nutritional strategies that will optimize your mental health goals.

Inflammation:

Sugar - Blood glucose impacts inflammation and HPA Axis.

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.

Nutritional Strategies:

Eliminate: Packaged and processes foods

Contains hydrogenated oils, preservatives, dyes, refined carbohydrates, flour, and sugar.

Include:

Fermented Foods - Provides beneficial bacteria to re-balance gut microbiota.

Bone Broth - Can aide in decreased gut inflammation and permeability, contains essential amino acids and minerals that are vital to immune and brain function. 1

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

Lifestyle Medicine:

Exercise - Studies have shown changes in anxiety, depression, and mood from exercise. 3

  • Helps control blood sugar imbalances that often appear as depression

  • Lowered inflammation

  • Increases oxygen supply (brain)

  • Better sleep

  • 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

  • Distinct association between inadequate sleep and mental health conditions - secondary comorbidity to mental health dysfunction. 4

  • Bidirectional 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

Forms of Meditation Can Be:

  • Yoga

  • Breathing exercises

  • Progressive muscle relaxation

  • Guided imagery

  • Repetitive mantra’s / prayer


Relaxation Response:

  • Decreased metabolism

  • Slower heart rate

  • Muscle relaxation

  • Lowered blood pressure


Environmental Detox:

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 to depression. 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?

  • Systemic inflammation

  • Brain fog, memory problems, depression, and anxiety

  • Fatigue

  • Obesity

  • Infertility

  • Chronic pain

  • Estrogen dominance and other hormonal imbalances

  • Immune dysfunction


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:

Environmental World Groups - EWG - www.ewg.org

Healthy Home Economist - www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com


During the past five weeks we have uncovered that the approach of “curing the brain” is not the answer. But, rather approach mental health disorders from 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, depression and anxiety 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 and would like to create change by means of a personalized holistic approach to mental health wellness please contact me at kvargo@mindfulnutritionforlife.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.

References:


  1. 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#.

  2. 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.

  3. 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/.

  4. 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.

  5. Brogan K, Loberg K. A Mind of Your Own. Thorsons. 2016.

0 views0 comments