Diet and Mental Health, what’s the connection?
Your gut microbiome produces around 80-90% of your neurotransmitters and poor gut health can affect their production. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin are produced in the gut and used in the brain and are a part of the gut-brain axis. Neurotransmitter depletion can affect your mood and lead to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Depletion of neurotransmitters can also affect the quality and length of your sleep.
Foods that harm mental health include ….
- Processed foods (full of artificial additives)
- Take-away food
- Sugary drinks
- Trans-fats and processed cooking oils
Foods that help mental health include….
- Fresh home-cooked meals
- Moderate amounts of fresh fatty fish
- Raw vegetables, salads
- Snacking on fresh fruit and raw nuts
- Drinking around 2 liters of freshwater per day
- Quality fats such as butter, avocado, coconut oil and olive oil
Wheat, milk, sugar and nightshades (potato, tomato, eggplant, capsicum) are common triggers for gut problems. They can lead to increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), malabsorption of nutrients, as well as mood and mental health problems like anxiety and depression. They also contribute to gastrointestinal conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Therefore it’s a good idea to keep a food diary. Just jot down everything you eat each day along with how you feel (mood, bloating, skin conditions, constipated, loose stools). You may notice that health issues occur a day or two after eating certain foods, then you can eliminate the offending foods from your diet.
Improving gut function is a major part of improving mental health. Every person I treat for anxiety has gut health issues and almost everyone I treat for gut issues has some degree of anxiety.
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