Diet plays a fundamental role in health and wellbeing. Everyone already knows that. However, as time passes, we learn that diet also affects our social, emotional, and mental health. Although we still have a lot to learn about this connection, compelling evidence already exists that they are, in fact, closely related.
Recently, nutritional psychiatry has started to emerge as the future of mental health treatment.
This emphasizes how diet and nutrition affect the way people feel mentally. Basically, the emerging study revolves around the truth behind the saying, you are what you eat. Often, we feel better when we eat better. And, science has shown that a healthy diet may have an impact on mental health.
Nutritional psychiatry is currently developing into a real opportunity for clinical intervention for patients who suffer from depression and anxiety.
Psychiatric patients experience increased morbidity and mortality associated with a range of medical illnesses. Additionally, their lifestyle, psychiatric medications, and inadequate health care contribute to the poor physical health of people with mental illness.
Although certain recommendations such as eating a healthy diet seem simple, doctors do not routinely discuss diet with their patients. Of course, this healthy diet includes fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
A gap in nutrition education in our medical schools exists. It leaves many practicing clinicians without a way of communication to discuss dietary interventions with patients. Thankfully, nutritional psychiatry helps to fill this void. Especially since this study provides useful action-oriented steps to patients. Potentially, it becomes a powerful tool for clinicians.
Through nutritional psychiatry, we can learn through research that the food we eat impacts how we feel emotionally.
Some individuals seek complementary treatments such as food-mood interventions in addition to allopathic medications to boost their chances of improving mood and anxiety. Our gastrointestinal system becomes one of the reasons our food choices affect our brains so strongly. It also remains more commonly referred to as the gut.
The gut is home to trillions of living microbes that have many functions in the body.
This includes synthesizing neurotransmitters and sending chemical messages to the brain to regulate sleep, pain, appetite, mood, and emotion. Its connection even shows an intricate network of interactions between the two that doctors have even nicknamed the gut the second brain.
According to Cecilia Snyder, MS, RD (with a medical review from Adrienne Seitz, RD, LDN, Nutrition), there are some shreds of evidence that certain dietary patterns help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and mood in general.
Depression | The Mediterranean Diet
According to one study, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, and low in red and processed meats can be associated with 10% lower odds of depressive symptoms. They had at least two landmark studies that measured the Mediterranean Diet’s ability to reduce measurements of depression in experimental study groups with promising results.
One study came revolved around investigating whether a Mediterranean Diet supplemented with fish oil can improve mental health in adults suffering from depression. Then, another research revolved around a randomized controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression which includes the SMILES trial.
With this Mediterranean Diet, you have to increase your intake:
- olive oil
- dairy products
Then, limit your intake of:
- fried foods
- processed meats
- baked goods
- sweetened beverages
Stress and Anxiety | Limiting alcohol, caffeine, and sugary foods
According to their article on Healthline, a few substances, in particular, might exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
Limit the intake of the following:
- and, added sugars
Research has also observed correlations between anxiety and a high intake of saturated fat, low intake of fruit, and poor diet quality overall.
You can also reduce inflammation and stress throughout the body with the following:
- fiber-rich fruits and veggies
- unsaturated fats
- bacteria-laden fermented foods
Have a nutrient-dense diet for mood and mental wellbeing.
To improve your mood, one of the best things you can do in terms of diet remains simply to eat a well-balanced diet that contains a variety of health-promoting nutrients. Although research still explores the relationships between food and mental health, multiple studies support eating a high-quality, nutrient-dense diet for an improved mood. Studies have also found that eating more fruits and vegetables has a link with less worry, lower tension, and greater life satisfaction. Meanwhile, a literature review linked higher diet quality with improved mood.
Nutritional psychiatry remains a fascinating field with the potential to reshape the way we think about our mental health. However, there’s still much to learn. It has become increasingly clear that gut health resides in plays a significant role in mental health management and emotional regulation. If you want to make changes to your diet to support your mental health, you can start with a few small food swaps and build from there.
Angela Grace P. Baltan has been writing professionally since 2017. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. Aside from that, she has an affinity for writing anything under the sun. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, the LGBTQIA+ community, and mental health among others.