Thursday, 12 January 2012

Nutrition and Your Mental Health

How exactly does nutrition and mental health go together? What effect does the food we eat have on our mental well being? Can we make some changes that will positively influence our brains and the state we find ourselves in? Absolutely.
The foods we eat can greatly affect the body and its systems. The types of nutrients (or the lack of them) determines how our body and mind operates. If you find yourself dealing with anxiety, depression and other mental issues making some adjustments in your diet may help.
Mental nutrition and health related food is not something new, but has been somewhat overlooked by the public and to an extent health professionals. Diet and exercise are usually offered up as helpful tips to combat mental disorders, but the information is often general. Usually doctors go for therapy and drugs for more noticeable forms of depression and anxiety. They do so without more specifically looking at how natural substances can help without the need for drugs or other expensive options.
However, recent nutrition and mental health studies have begun to highlight specific natural substances that directly impact mood, anxiety and depression. Many of these we can get in our diet by adjusting the foods we eat. Unfortunately, most of us don't get enough of these even by eating right due to the fact that much of the food we get in stores is processed to the point of removing nutrients. Usually a person will need to both eat the right foods and use supplements to get the total amount needed to make a change in their mental state.
Mental nutrition and health experts have noticed that B complex vitamins have a role in mental function and mood. B complex vitamins have been understood to help provide energy to the body by working in the process of breaking down food into energy more efficiently, but research also shows that they work in the brain to protect and maintain nerve cells and brain function. Increasing levels of B complex vitamins brought noticeable improvement in mood, memory and mental energy for those studied over time.
The nutrition and mental health studies also noted that what was good for the heart was also good for the mind. Reducing bad fats and increasing Omega 3 fatty acids like those found in fish had a positive effect on the brain as well. Omega 3's contain DHA and EPA two fatty acids that help create healthy nerve cells and promote mood and function. There have been studies using Omega 3's to treat depression with positive results.
In addition to eating less fatty foods, increasing Omega 3's and B vitamins, mental nutrition and health experts also recommend adding some nutritional supplements to the mix. These supplements contain various natural extracts and compounds that the body needs to produce neurotransmitters and other brain chemicals necessary for proper communication between nerve cells as well as regulating things like mood.
For example, 5-HTP is a substance the body uses to create serotonin. Serotonin, is a brain chemical that is responsible for mood, appetite, sleep functions, etc. People fighting depression and insomnia often have issues with their serotonin levels. A supplement with 5-HTP can help the body to increase the level of serotonin in the brain and alleviate the symptoms of depression and sleeplessness.
Another substance recommended by nutrition and mental health research is SAM-e. SAM-e has been used in Europe and other countries for years to treat depression and other mental issues but has only recently begun to see use in the US. SAM-e is used by the brain to create a variety of brain chemicals and neurotransmitters. Studies done on SAM-e showed that some people started responding to it in literally hours, noticing positive effects. SAM-e may also be helpful to people who can't take prozac or who don't respond well to the drug.
There are other compounds too like L-Tyrosine, Acetyl L-Carnitine, choline, etc. that are helpful. However, we don't have time or space to go into all of them here. The important things is that there are natural substances out there that nutrition experts are now offering their patients in light of recent research. These substances can have a profound impact on lifting depression, anxiety and reducing stress. As with anything it is important to find a health provider who is familiar and comfortable with these things that can help you decide what might help you and what might interact with any medicines you are taking. Aside from that, making some simple adjustments in the food you eat and taking a daily supplement may be just what you need to get to a better place mentally.