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Our brain is a powerful thing. The brain has to maintain its power to assist in the second to second, minute to minute operations of the body. So what fuels the brain? Food! Just like anything else in our body the foods we consume fuels the brain. Even with all of the specialties ( Cardiologist, gastroenterologist and counselors) in the medical world; each limb, ligament, and organ continue to be treated as attachments separate from the brain. Alternatively, within the holistic world, the understanding is that the human body is a single system- nothing is separate- therefore, any dysfunction within the single system impacts other areas of our body’s ability to function efficiently.
Thus, impact of our mood due to food consumption has become clearer due to scientific research. In my practice, A Solution B, my clients and myself often explore ways to reduce their processed food intake and here’s why:
1) Serotonin Levels
According to Nutritional Psychiatry, the majority of our serotonin levels are produced within the gastrointestinal track. Low serotonin levels have been linked to depressive symptoms and other symptoms indicative of mood disorders. The ability to produce serotonin is also based on the body’s ability to grow and maintain healthy bacteria. With that said, processed foods lack the nutritional value our bodies are naturally made to use as fuel for the healthy bacteria. Thus, the gut does not provide a healthy environment for the bacteria to grow, maintain and communicate effectively to the brain, via the vagus nerve, as it should.
Your body may react to the preservatives and dyes in the food by causing cells, muscles and joints to become inflamed. Inflammation often leads to discomfort or pain within the body. Pain negatively impacts a person’s ability to complete daily activities which in turn leads to worry, fear of activating pain, anger due to the body’s changes in abilities and other negative moods.
3) Hormone Levels
Foods, additives, and other preservatives can impact our hormones. A disruption in our hormones can lead to mood dysregulation, which can present as irritability, crying spells and more.
The gastrointestinal track is lined with small cells that are used to absorb the good nutrition from our food and eliminate unneeded toxins and radicals, which we expel as fecal matter. Without our healthy bacteria and a healthy track lining, it is extremely difficult for our bodies to accumulate the nutrition required for it to function to its utmost ability. In addition, the more food is processed the least nutritional value it has. Because of this, many individuals are deficient in magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D, etc. Recent studies indicate a link between low magnesium and a vitamin D deficiency.
What Can I Eat?
Our “Western diet” is made of foods manufactured and created with a salt to sugar ratio to make it more visually appealing and more enticing to our taste buds. The concern for nutritional gain appears to be at a minimum in regards to fast food chains.
Studies indicate foods consumed in traditional diets such as the Mediterranean Diet and the traditional Japanese Diet reduces the risk of mood disorders, particularly depression, by 20% to 35%. These mentioned diets comprises of whole food items – which are foods as close to their natural state as possible.
Examples of whole foods- Fruits, vegetables, fermented foods, Grass fed and/or organic meets, legumes and grains etc.
So is Food the only thing I need to change?
Short answer, no! I stand by my Mind. Body. Home. stance-Nutrition is only one component of addressing your mental health. However, addressing nutrition is one of the most difficult changes for many individuals. Processed food is readily available, more affordable, and marketed in a seductive manner to easily fall into the trap. I encourage you to pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods. For instance, do you feel extremely sleepy or bloated afterwards? The next day, do you feel bloated or irritable?
How Can I Start?
I simply encourage you to try at least one whole food weekly. Now mind you, the foods may not taste as sweet as we like. That’s ok! Remember processed foods are made to be tastier to maintain consumers. However, the more whole foods you consume, the better the food will taste.
What do you think? So what has been your experience with the food you consume and your mood? Share it below in the comments.
Written By: Reynelda Jones, LMSW, CAADC, ADS
Owner and Therapist of A Solution B
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