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How Nutrition affects Anxiety & Mood

Ever heard the saying “you are what you eat”? Well it's true. If you eat crap, 9 times out of 10 you will feel like crap. If you eat natural whole foods then you most likely will feel good. This is common sense and easy to access knowledge. We have seen it time and time again; headlines about fast food leading to obesity and bad health. News articles and documentaries warning about the dangers of carbonated soft drinks, processed foods, and sugars. Another recent article reported an adolescent boy who lost his eye sight as a result of a diet of mostly potato chips and French fries.

So how does this fit into mental health? Whatever we eat breaks down in our stomach and the nutrients then enter into our bloodstreams; blood flows into all our vital organs including the brain. Foods that are processed, full of preservatives, man made sugars, and unhealthy fats are not only bad for your physical health but affect your mental health. Natural whole foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and oxygen. Oxygen is a vital part of our survival; when the brain is not receiving enough oxygen, it can result in brain damage. Oxygen-rich blood helps your immune system function properly in order to fight off viruses and infections, and provides you with the energy needed to function throughout the day. Its no secret that fatigue contributes to depression; and foods high in sugar can aggravate symptoms of anxiety. In the last twenty years, the relationship between diet, stress, and mood has been well documented… certain foods tend to create additional stress and anxiety. Certain natural substances have a direct calming effect, and others are known to have an antidepressant effect (Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D, 2015).

The Problem.

Stress and bad eating habits go hand in hand. Just to be fair, it’s extremely difficult to maintain a well-balanced, nutritious diet when your life feels like chaos. Stress commonly contributes to overeating and/or loss of appetite. Perhaps, your schedule doesn’t allow you to incorporate healthy eating habits into your routine. I have heard this many times from my clients, and the solution is simple… you make time for what you want. Instead of drinking that extra cup of coffee, pop a multivitamin in the morning, or have a nice natural fruit smoothie. Keep some healthy snacks in your car, in your bag, or your desk if you are constantly on the go. There are solutions... if providers are promoting mental health then it’s imperative that we promote nutrition and healthy eating habits.

As a society, we look for convenience which causes us to take short cuts in how we self-care. I understand the complexities of mental illness, and in many situations, people need more than just a good diet to resolve their symptoms. However, better eating habits and more natural remedies can make a world of difference. Stress is a powerful hormone that has a significant impact on your body; it is widely known that during times of stress your body tends to rapidly deplete stores of B vitamins and C vitamins (Edmund J. Bourne, PhD, 2015). Vitamin B and C are part of the essential nutrients needed to maintain your nervous system which directly impacts anxiety. There is a list of vitamins, herbs, minerals that help with depression and anxiety; Omega 3 fatty acids are commonly used as an antidepressant and many herbs such as Kava, Valerian, and Saint Johns wort have calming and relaxing effects.

What can wellness professionals do?

If we are to achieve Wellness, it should be looked at from a whole-body perspective. Wellness professionals can help by incorporating self-care into the client’s treatment plan. The first phase of treatment is when the client’s self-care habits can be assessed. Self-care surveys are becoming popular assessment tools used to evaluate eating habits, sleep hygiene, exercise, substance, and stimulant use. These assessment tools can give both the client and provider insight to unhealthy habits affecting the client’s mental health. Providers can promote the importance of a well-balanced nutritious diet throughout treatment, and encourage clients to seek tests from their PCPs that can measure vitamin deficiencies. A balanced diet and nutrition regime can improve the client’s ability to achieve balance in their personal lives, and in turn give them a sense of control and well-being.

For more information about natural supplements that are known to reduce and relieve anxiety click the link.

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