Next to taking your meds, exercising, and attending your therapy sessions, making sure you are getting your fill of essential nutrients from your meals is also key in obtaining your optimal mental health. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t have that Philly Cheesecake or a triple truffle chocolate cake or that double-double cheese burger from In-n-Out, because let me tell you… I love eating my chocolate chip cookies! Just be sure to limit it to every blue moon, because what you eat does affect your mental health.
So where and how does of the establishment of your mental health begin in your body? Well…it begins in the enteric nervous system or ENS (“The Brain” n.d.). See, the ENS nicknamed the “second brain” or the gut, is made up of parts of the nervous system and groups of neurons that oversees the functioning gastrointestinal system (Carpenter, 2012). Let’s say you just consumed a double-double cheese burger, your ENS system senses it and begins to break the burger down into nutrients and waste (Carpenter, 2012). While at it, it uses neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin) to “talk” and work along with the central nervous system (“Stress”, 2010). For example, amino acid tryptophan found it meats like the meat in the burger, helps boosts mood and reduces irritability (“The Nutrition”, n.d.). Now just because I mention this doesn’t mean you consistently eat red meats in like burgers, ’cause those you want to eat every now and then. You want to eat more of leaner meats or other lean protein, like chicken, fish, eggs, and black eye peas. Serotonin can be produced with the help of whole grains/complex carbs like black eye peas, whole grain bread and brown rice (“The Nutrition”, n.d.).
There are 100 trillion microbes that lie within this system. The “good” microbes are responsible for digestion, metabolism, and immune system (Carpenter, 2012). So for example, they would protect your immune system from threats like “bad” microbes and pathogens. (Carpenter, 2012) The good microbes are also responsible for producing hundreds of “neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate basic physiological processes as well as mental processes such as learning, memory and mood.” For example, they make up 95% of the body’s of serotonin (Carpenter, 2012).
So think about it…. the SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) that we take to combat for example, depression, also help our ENS systems to produce more serotonin.
The infograph below provides more information on how your meals affect your mental health in regarding gut health, aging, memory, antioxidants and the nutrients needed to combat anxiety and depression.
If you would like more information on gut health, click on the links below:
The Brain-Gut Connection. (n.d.) John Hopkins Medicine: Health Aging. Retrieved June 29, 2016, from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection
Carpenter, S. (2012, September). That Gut Feeling . Retrieved June 29, 2016 from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling.aspx
The Nutrition of Mental Health [Online image]. (n.d.).Retrieved June 29 2016 from http://www.bestmastersincounseling.com/nutrition-mental-health/
Stress and the sensitive gut. (2010, August). Harvard Health Publications: Harvard Medical School. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/stress-and-the-sensitive-gut
Young, E. (2012, December 18). Two Brains in one body [Online image; Web log comment]. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from http://neurosciencestuff.tumblr.com/post/38271759345/gut-instincts-the-secrets-of-your-second-brain