Updated: Dec 13, 2019
By Ashley Williams
Many people will not admit the severity of their poor nutrition and how it affects their daily life. Poor nutrition has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses. When poor nutrition affects the body negatively, another question starts to linger: How does poor nutrition affect your mental health? Does the lack of nutrition affect the brain first before the body?
The brain is the powerhouse of the body, believe it or not. What the brain ultimately feels, the body will soon follow. Recent studies have shown that depression and anxiety has been linked to a bad diet or lack of proper nutrition. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses have also been linked to a lack of proper nutrition. The question is how?
"We are, quite literally, what we eat," says Roxanne Sukol, MD, preventive medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute. "When we eat real food that nourishes us, it becomes the protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue, and neurotransmitters that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body." Eating inflamed foods with refined carbs and sugar, processed sugar, and GMO products everyday causes a break-down of the brain. On the other hand, those processed foods do not have enough nutrients to help with energy levels, cognitive thinking, or memory. Those foods start to decline the brain function and thus, the door of poor mental health opens.
How Can Proper Nutrition Help Mental Health?
Having a healthy diet plays a key role in improving your moods and helping with depression. Study shows that consuming omega-3s have been linked to helping brain function with nutrients called EPA and DHA. By consuming EPA and DHA in high amounts, our bodies will release alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in highly nutritious foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds. EPA and DHA have been shown to help with preserving cell membrane health and helping brain cells to send signals smoothly.
Along with omega-3s, eating whole foods and drinking plenty of water could help improve better moods. Exercising three to five times a week helps along with a balanced diet of foods from the Earth. When a proper diet and exercise does not help improve mental health, what exactly does this mean?
When Nutrition Cannot Improve Mental Health
Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizpreniza, and other mental illnesses have been proven to be improved with proper nutrition. There some cases, however, when nutrition cannot always improve mental health. And this problem is okay. To improve mental health without nutrition, you can talk to a therapist. A therapist will be able to help you through the changes you may experience. A therapist can also recommend helpful treatment sessions depending on the issue you are having. For example, a therapist may recommend a session of cognitive behavioral therapy or psychodynamic therapy. Joining a support group is a helpful tool because it is a good way to relate to someone with the same issue as you. You will be able to meet many people who are looking to improve their mental health and talk openly about how their illness makes them feel.
Nutrition, support groups, therapists, going on vacations, giving to a charity, and other activities can help mental health. Making changes and doing positive things to improve mental health serves no harm. Do what makes you happy and serve your mind well.