September is National Suicide Awareness Month, but every month should have focus on mental health. Mental Health is so important and is more prevalent than one thinks. According to recent studies,
These numbers are astronomical. The good news is - it is preventable, treatable, and curable with the right type of meal plan. You’re wondering – what does food have to do with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other mental health disorders?
Let’s dive into it to find out. Let’s start by evaluating our Gut Health -
The Gut: Starts at the mouth and involves the entire gastrointestinal tract down to the anus - Food comes in and Food should come out as byproducts. In the meantime, the intestinal tract involves an intestinal lining which should be tight, aid in digestion, and absorbing nutrients.
Villi: Intestinal Finger-Like Structures should absorb our nutrients and move particles through
Tight Junctions: the intestinal barrier which should keep particles, toxins, and bacteria IN the intestinal tract so we can expel the byproducts.
The intestinal lining gets damaged over time due to Stress, Medications, Trauma, and OUR FOOD. Certain foods are inflammatory and these are specific for each individual. Generally speaking, Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Corn, and Almond are of the top inflammatory foods. Some individuals have other sensitivities or allergies. Some individuals are affected by all of these food groups. Some individuals are only affected by one! It is specific to the individual. Food Sensitivities and Allergies can be assessed via blood testing which tells the antibody (inflammatory marker) reaction to the foods being tested. This is an objective way to see what your body is reacting to and what it is actually tolerating. We can utilize the test results from the blood test to be able to further evaluate the gut health, vitamin and nutrient absorption, mental health, and metabolic function.
Food sensitivities and Allergies can surely present as abdominal pain, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and joint pain… but they definitely can present as Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anger, Sleep Disturbance, and other mental health disorders!!
Tight Junctions are the barrier of the intestinal lining - remember? With damage to our gut lining, the tight junctions actually open up and GAPs are present. This means toxins, bacteria, and food particles can seep into our tissues and bloodstream, which is not normal. The immune system reacts to this by developing antibodies, or inflammatory markers, which attack our organs. The immune system also reacts by creating Cytokines which are a special type of inflammatory marker. Cytokines affect our organs, but can also cross the blood brain barrier - reaching the brain. Cytokines (inflammation) in the brain affects our chemical balance.
Think about a sprained ankle - inflammation around a sprained ankle causes it to be FAT, PAINFUL, and does not work efficiently. The ligaments of the ankle are weak after a sprain and with swelling!! The inflammation on the inside of your body and in the brain is similar to the inflammation in the ankle…. But worse.
When the gut lining is damaged, not only are these toxins getting into our tissues and bloodstream, but the development of cytokines allows the inflammation to reach our brain. In addition, we are also not absorbing nutrients properly. This leads to vitamin deficiencies and vitamins are VITAL for our brain function and chemical balance of the brain.
Let’s talk about a few specifically:
Speaking of vitamins - how do we obtain these vital vitamins and nutrients? Naturally is, of course, the best option – however it isn’t always realistic.
Obtaining nutrients and vitamins through our food is the BEST way. Though, sometimes we cannot consume enough of the right foods for the adequate amount of nutrients and sometimes we don’t actually absorb the nutrients due to our gut damage. Supplementation can also benefit many individuals.
Let’s talk about Food – Blood sugar is absolutely vital for our brain function, hormone balance, and cellular recovery. Protein in the diet can provide quality vitamins and minerals, but is also a key component to stabilizing blood sugar. Did you know that low blood sugar levels or high blood sugar levels can actually increase cortisol (stress hormone) and cytokines (inflammation) which can augment anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, and several other mental health disorders?! It can be controllable with adequate protein in our diet!!
Check out some of the foods which can help to promote blood sugar stability and stabilize mental health:
Improving and stabilizing mental health needs a full body approach. We cannot expect long term (positive) effects with treating just one area. We cannot expect long term (positive) effects without looking from the inside-out. Start with your food and your gut.
*This article is not to treat or to make treatment recommendations. You should always consult your provider prior to making and dietary or supplement changes*