In the month of May, we highlight Mental Health Awareness Month and I’ll be bringing you topics related to Mental Healthcare this month on the Friday Facts Live Series. As a physician, I seek to help those challenged by mental health conditions by destigmatizing mental health conditions and the need for support, and by educating others on helpful ways of improving their own mental health and on helpful ways to be a supporter for others who are experiencing mental health challenges.
For today’s Mental Health discussion, I wanted to chat with you all about the concept of Food and Mood. Not only does it rhyme! But there is a correlation between what we eat and how we feel.
Studies show that inflammation within the body and brain can be a contributing factor to mental health conditions. So let's break this down a bit further. What foods typically contribute to inflammation within the body…those would be highly processed foods like packaged snacks, sugary drinks, refined grains like crackers and white bread, red meat, cheese, dairy products, butter, and oils.
On the contrary, more plant based foods like Dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables have natural inflammatory properties.
I often see in my practice, many individuals who have low vitamin levels which also can contribute to fatigue and mood disorders. These same processed foods don’t contain the necessary vitamins and minerals for maintaining a healthy mental state.
Take a listen to the Essence of Health Tea Time Podcast, episode 32 where I discussed important components of your yearly wellness exam and the importance of vitamin testing because these small changes can have a great impact on your mood and mental health.
I know some of you may ask “Well what about B12…isn’t that gonna be low if I only eat a bunch of plants?!?” That’s discussed on that podcast episode too. Long story short….your B12 can be too low regardless of if you just eat plants or if you eat plants and animal products. B12 can have a significant impact on your mood and is easy to supplement if needed.
Other aspects of our diet that impact our mental health are related to those hormones and neurotransmitters that our brain needs to function properly to support a healthy mood balance for us.
Studies have shown that there is a connection between what is happening within our gut (our digestive system) and its correlation to what is happening within our brains - the gut brain connection. The gut contains lots of nervous system components and microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, and other microbes that help us to digest food healthfully.
When we eat unhealthy foods, this upsets this particular connection and sets this process out of balance, therefore affecting our brain and the signals that it needs to function properly for our mental health. When this happens it can affect our mood and make us feel sad or upset. That's why it's important to eat healthy foods that keep this connection within balance and happy, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Think about how you felt the last time you ate a fast food meal. Did you feel sluggish, tired, or not energized?
Compare that to how you felt when you ate a more healthful, likely home cooked meal. You likely felt more energized, insightful, and able to function through your daily activities.
This is because of the impact of the food that we eat on our brains.
So eat healthfully and live happily, friends!
Beyond improving your diet, treatment is possible for mental health conditions including counseling therapy and medication therapy. So don’t suffer in silence and seek professional help from your local doctor or mental health clinic if you or someone you know are having these feelings.
Let’s prioritize our mental health, not just in the month of May but for every day of the year.
If you or a friend or family member are experiencing a mental health crisis, I encourage you to reach out immediately to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can call 988, 24 hours, 7 days a week. You can also text the word HOME to 741741. Or go online for an online chat at 988lifeline.org.
If you have felt down, sad, tearful, anxious, having trouble sleeping, or have problems with concentration; all of these could be signs of a mental health condition. I encourage you to reach out to your local doctor for support and resources. If you do not have a doctor, there are some free online screening resources to help you understand what condition you may be experiencing.
The Essence of Health is in You!