When most people think of the benefits of nutrition, they think of its physical benefits. A healthy diet will help you lose weight or gain weight naturally. A healthy diet can help reduce acne in kids and adults. A healthy diet can make you poo.
But there’s not much talk on what a healthy diet can do for your mental health. While more research still needs to be done, there is still a good amount of science out there that supports how good nutrition and a healthy diet can aid in preventing many of the top mental illnesses many of us face. Mental health is becoming the talk of the town as more people learn that mental illnesses are affecting many of our loved ones. In America, General Anxiety Disorder affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population. Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. So what does nutrition have to do with a healthy mindset? Science says, a lot actually.
Depression and Anxiety in America
Depression is a common mental illness in America, especially for women. In fact, major depressive disorder, an illness that affects women of childbearing age and is a leading cause of disease-related disability for women throughout the world, according to the study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4288963/. We know that growing and raising children can cause great strain on mothers as they perform their other duties and tend to other jobs like working, co-parenting with their husband, and taking care of their own self.
Although women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression or other mental illnesses, men have the highest suicide rates in America. White males accounted for 69.67% of suicide deaths in 2018.
Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health illness in America, with over 40 million adults diagnosed but only 36.9 receiving proper treatment.
In short, mental illness is a pretty big deal.
Current treatment for mental illnesses and side effects
Depression can be linked to a low level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. To combat depression, there are anti-depressants, which are often called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). To spare you the long psychology lesson, they make sure the serotonin stays in our brain for as long as needed.
However, anti-depressants often carry many side effects like drowsiness, nausea, loss of sex drive, and for men, erectile dysfunction. For this reason, many decide to skip out on antidepressants, even though they can help with depression. This is where good nutrition and diet can come into the picture.
How good nutrition helps nurture good mental health
Like we’ve discussed, for many mental illnesses, a lack of a neurotransmitter, like serotonin or dopamine, can be associated with that illness. Neurotransmitters are created with:
- omega-3 fatty acids (GOOD fat)
- B vitamins (such as B12 and B6)
- and certain amino acids, which help make protein
according to Biological Psychology. Although we at Mind & Body Christian Health Group are advocates of therapy and offer family counseling services in Kennesaw, GA., we do understand the importance of good nutrition.
Dopamine is another neurotransmitter and is also known as the “feel-good” hormone. Dopamine is made from tyrosine, an amino acid. And serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for balancing mood, is made from tryptophan. Lower doses of this have been associated with low mood and aggression. But a study saw that excessively supplementing a few vitamins resulted in an improved mood for the rest of the year for both men and women in the study.
What foods can you eat to prevent mental illness?
There’s a reason people call fish brain food. Fish oil has been used to treat depression successfully. Fish is important because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, in other words, the good fat. Because omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect and help with transmitting dopamine and serotonin, scientists believe omega-3s play a big role in helping the brain fight mental health problems linked through deficiencies.
Now FYI, we aren’t saying to quit your search for the best counseling services in Kennesaw or Marietta, but we are saying that you aren’t totally helpless in your fight towards better mental health.
The Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology started a study where there were a few groups: one group of children with a mental illness received psychotherapy, one group received psychotherapy in addition to omega-3 supplements, and the last group received a fake pill with no medicinal properties, also known as a placebo.
The results? The group being treated with only psychotherapy alone had 61% of their members show less symptoms of mental illness. But the group with both psychotherapy and omega-3 supplements had 77 percent members with improved conditions.
Is there truth to the idea that cutting carbs makes you sad? Well, tryptophan, the amino acid we mentioned earlier that is needed for serotonin, is actually triggered by carbohydrates. It’s one reason those that are new to the keto diet might experience a bit of irritability or mood swings during their first few weeks.
Some other nutrients have been found to also be related to depression such as:
- Vitamin B12
Adding supplements to your diet might feel like a hit or miss at first. Which nutrients do you get enough of in your diet? Which nutrients do you severely lack and need supplements to help make up? That’s why we offer neurotransmitter testing in the office through our primary care department so that we can recommend exact supplemental needs to help with any imbalances in your mood.
Our therapists will schedule you to get bloodwork immediately after your first appointment if you are diagnosed with anxiety or depression because we know there’s THAT much of a connection to mental health. It makes counseling sessions more productive if your body is getting the nutrition it needs because you can process the stress, trauma, grief, or negative thoughts more clearly and actually USE the tools given by your counselor.
Our neurotransmitter testing $170 and has helped MANY people and is right for you if you feel like you’ve just hit a wall that you can’t get past with just counseling. Book your first appointment with us today here: Make an Appointment.
What foods should you stay away from?
A recent study found that in kids, consuming fast food, sugar, and soft drinks were associated with a higher prevalence of ADHD. In addition, people with mood disorders were found to have diets low in essentials like fruits and vegetables, but high in sugars and fats.
Since this topic hasn’t been heavily researched, there are of course gaps in info. But there is also great evidence that supports the importance of what we put inside our bodies. Treat your body like the temple that it is and you will truly reap the benefits of living healthy in all aspects of life. As it is written: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple–Corinthians 3:16-17. So practice mindful eating with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and supplements along the way.