food for mood: eat your way to better mental health

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this article is brought to you by clare from nutrition with clare. for more information, you can catch her here:

instagram – @nutritionwithclare
email – nutritionwithclare@gmail.com 
facebook – nutrition with clare 


how many of you reading this have experienced some or a few of these symptoms:

  1. bloating, gas or flatulence
  2. difficulty digesting your food
  3. abdominal discomfort after eating
  4. constipation
  5. diarrhoea
  6. intolerance to some foods
  7. brain fog
  8. chronic fatigue
  9. poor memory
  10. poor concentration

these are just some of the symptoms that may be caused by what you eat

what if i told you that some of these symptoms, while yes, are gut symptoms and indicators that your digestive system is out of balance, they can also be viewed as indicators of the state of your brain health. when you think about it, we associate mood with how we are feeling and thinking, which happens in our brain, right?

now let’s talk about the link that exists between the gut and our brain. this highway of bi-directional messaging directly between the gut and the brain is called the vagus nerve. a weak messaging system means unclear messages delivered, leading to dysregulated outcomes

in our brain these unclear messages can manifest as poor memory, brain fog, poor concentration. in the gut, symptoms like bloating, gas abdominal cramps, constipation, diarrhoea, food intolerances may present. if you have gut symptoms, the chances are you may recognise some of your symptoms to be connected with your brain

have you been aware of the connection between the symptoms or just observed them as separate?

like all machines, the body needs the correct high quality raw materials to operate on an daily basis, and to ‘last a lifetime.’ the body is a complex web of different biological systems that work interdependently with each other;  dysregulation in one system impacts several of the other systems

so, what physical health changes can you make to support your mental health?

nutrition

  1. have 3 meals a day, eating within 3-4 hours of the last meal – this action step supports blood sugar balance, keeping a check on inflammation levels
  2. have protein with each meal – having protein with a meal helps to slow the rapid absorption of sugar to the bloodstream, preventing that ‘sugar rush’ and then ‘sugar drop’, creating highs and lows in insulin production, which activates inflammation. incorporating protein has the added benefit of the ‘2nd meal effect’ meaning blood sugar balance is more regulated throughout the day
  3. aim for 7-10 vegetables/fruit per day, incorporating a variety of colour variety of colour means a variety of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, keeping the destructive nature of inflammation to a minimum, thereby protecting the brain
  4. take 5-10 deep long slow breaths, ideally outside, before eating your mealswe digest our food most efficiently when our body is in ‘rest and digest’ mode, in other words, in a relaxed state

lifestyle

  1. movement – choose a form of movement that you enjoy.  it can be a walk, gentle or power walk, run, workout. aim to do it outside in nature for added impact. if working at a desk, take a movement break every hour. or why not try setting yourself a challenge to move for 30 minutes 3 times a week
  2. relaxationtake 5 deep breaths before eating your meal. do something mindful such as reading a book for 30 minutes each day, meeting a friend or listening to music
  3. sleep – reduce screen time 2 hours before bed time, spend 10 minutes deep breathing before getting into bed and make sure to have your last meal more then 3 hours before bed time 
  4.  

conclusion

as a nutritionist, I work on all these areas with my clients – each has a positive impact on both the body and the mind

try implementing  something from each of the areas above for a week and see how you feel. future blogs on nutrition will delve a little more deeply into the area of nutrition for mental health. let me know how you get on and if there is any particular area you would like to see discussed

instagram – @nutritionwithclare
email – nutritionwithclare@gmail.com 
facebook – nutrition with clare 

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