It is clear for most people that their diets can have profound effect on their physical health and well-being but recent research has shown that food can also be strongly linked to mental health. In the modern world, there are complex and often confusing diet choices to make that go beyond simply satisfying hunger. What you eat can influence your risk of disease, weight management, athletic performance and as we now know can also impact your mental health. Eating healthy foods can give you more energy, increase productivity, and boost your mood while eating the wrong types of foods can leave you feeling stressed and depressed. For people suffering from mental health problems such as depression, their diet can play an important role in helping to combat their symptoms.
How Diet and Mental Health are Related
Research exploring the link between diet and mental health is a very new field but the results have been surprisingly consistent showing a definite link between diet quality and psychological well-being. Ongoing research has found that the typical American diet which includes a lot of processed foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar, actually contributes to increased rates of depression, anxiety and tension.
Several studies also found lower rates of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder among people who ate a more traditional diet with meat and vegetables rather than processed foods. While more research needs to be done to determine the exact effects of diet on mental health, it is clear that there is a definite correlation between the two. Specific diet issues have been linked to depression including zinc deficiencies and illnesses that cause deficiencies such as celiac disease. Studies have also shown that gut bacteria helps to make the most of serotonin in the body which regulates mood.
Experimenting with Diet for Mental Clarity
Although there has been a lot of progress and encouraging findings in this field of study, scientists are not yet at a point where they can use diet as therapy to treat specific symptoms. Anecdotal evidence however, points to definite changes in mental health fairly quickly after dramatic diet changes. One woman suffering from bipolar disorder was able to resolve her gastrointestinal issues and experienced significantly improved mental clarity by changing her diet.
Another woman who had been battling depression for decades was able to dramatically reduce her symptoms by eliminating wheat from her diet. More research needs to be completed to determine to what extent diet might reduce symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder but supplemental dietary changes could prove helpful for some. When it comes to disorders like depression or bipolar disorder, medication and psychotherapy are solid foundations on which to improve mental health.
Dietary changes are not the ultimate cure for any illness but they can provide relief in many cases and improve the moods of people who are run down from years of eating unhealthy foods.
Highly processed foods and sugary drinks and snacks can not only wreak havoc on your physical health, they can be detrimental to your mood. High glycemic index foods like pasta, white bread and sweets can cause spikes and crashes in your blood sugar leading to irritability, low energy and even feelings of depression.
While diet is not the only contributing factor in issues of depression, considering what types of foods you eat and how they might affect you can be an integral part in improving symptoms of mood disorders. Natural whole foods that are unprocessed including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables should be a dietary staple especially for those who are concerned about their mental health.