Eating for Better Mental and Physical Health

You’ve heard it. You are what you eat. Clever little phrase. But actually it’s true. The food we eat is the fuel our body uses to stay alive and functioning. How well we function is many ways determined by the quality of our food.

“Your body is constantly replacing old cells with new ones at the rate of millions per second By the time you finish reading this sentence 50 million of your cells will have died and been replaced by others. Some are lost through wear and tear, some just reach the end of their lives and others deliberately self-destruct.”
               Science Museum

Nutrition is the process of providing the food necessary for health and growth. It has been a central element in many traditional forms of medicine until its role in curative medicine started to decline during the last century. Recently however with the increased awareness of the importance of lifestyle for health and disease prevention and the negative effects of the poor quality of an overly-processed American diet, there is a renaissance of thinking about nutrition when we talk about health.

This is particularly true in stabilizing or even reversing the course of chronic diseases. Here, are some examples that have been directly associated with unhealthy lifestyles and poor eating habits that some practitioners are addressing with nutrition therapy:*

–  Obesity
–  Cardio-vascular disease,
–  Diabetes type 2
–  Depressions
–  Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis
– IBS and other bowel problems
– Fibromyalgia
– Multiple sclerosis
– Ulcers
– And other autoimmune diseases

 

Nutrition scientists and pharmacologists have become increasingly aware not only of the role of nutrition to physical health but also to mental and behavioral health. Nutritional psychotherapy is a relatively new, evidence-based approach that addresses how one’s diet impacts mood, behavior and emotions.

I became aware of this field through my study with the Amen Clinics. Based on his pioneering work with SPECT scans, Dr. Daniel Amen has identified how certain foods and supplements can help improve or heal mental illnesses. His findings enable us to tailor recommendations for particular foods and supplements needed by a client’s brain to improve or eliminate symptoms of depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD and other mental and behavioural health conditions.

Growing numbers of research studies find that foods and nutraceuticals can supplement or in some cases even be an alternative for pharmaceutical medications.

Nutraceuticals are nutritional substances that can be used as medication. They include food, herbs, vitamins, minerals and other supplements. They are not at odds with medication. Often they are most helpful as supplements to medications. At the very least adding them to the treatment of mental and behavioral health problems can’t hurt and will only improve one’s overall health.

I have been impressed with the improvement my clients see in their mental and emotional health when they change their eating habits. But making changes in diet and adding supplements is not always easy for them. Sadly buying healthy food is usually more expensive than “junk” food. Because of its reliance on fresh fruit and vegetables and unadulterated meats, dairy and grains, healthy food isn’t as easy to find and takes time to prepare. Supplements and herbs are not covered by insurance and at the right quality can be costly. Also, there is such a wide variety of choices knowing what to include can be mind-boggling and overwhelming.

And possibly most difficult of all, in our country we’ve come to prefer the taste of unhealthy, overly sugary, fatty and salty foods to the point that often we are addicted to them. So to eat for better mental health, we may have to retrain our taste buds to prefer to the clean, pure taste of healthy food and get over the hump to enjoy the empowering feeling of being healthier and happier.

For those interested in adding the benefits of food and nutraceuticals to their treatment, part of my job is not only to identify the foods and supplements best suited to their needs but also to provide ideas, support, motivation, and resources to overcome the hurdles to changing one’s eating habits.

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* Sources are available upon request.

If you are interested in any subject on this site, please contact me.