In 2012, I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder, as well as having horrific bouts of anxiety and panic attacks.
I have been under the care of a Psychiatrist and a therapist since that time.
During this time on medication for a “chemical imbalance,” I have been researching other ways to improve mental health, as many medications are highly addictive and all have side effects.
I have always known exercise (especially outdoors) is effective in assisting with improved mood, but more recently I have been reading and studying gut health and the mind/body connection that can be impacted from eating a healthier diet.
As I researched, I found that our bodies are amazing, living organisms that renew regularly.
Did you know that every 35 days your skin renews itself? Or that your DNA renews itself every two months? Your liver takes approximately six weeks, your stomach lining about five days, your brain takes a year, your blood four months, and your bones literally build a whole new skeleton every three months.
Our bodies make these new cells from the food we consume.
What you eat literally becomes you.
This idea intrigued me and I wondered, “Why wouldn’t food and nutrition impact my mental health—is my brain not made of living cells?!”
According to Gisela Telis in an article for The Washington Post titled “Can What You Eat Affect Your Mental Health? New Research Links Diet and the Mind,” it would seem I stumbled into an area that scientists have recently begun to investigate: whether food can have as powerful an impact on the mind as it does on the body.
Research exploring the link between diet and mental health “is a very new field; the first papers only came out a few years ago,” said Michael Berk, a professor of psychiatry at the Deakin University School of Medicine in Australia. “But the results are unusually consistent, and they show a link between diet quality and mental health.”
“There’s lots of hype about the Mediterranean diet [fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, fish] but the traditional Norwegian diet [fish, shellfish, game, root vegetables, dairy products, whole-wheat bread] and the traditional Japanese diet [fish, tofu, rice] appear to be just as protective” of mental health, he said.
“We’re not at the point where we can use diet as therapy, especially when we’re dealing with someone whose mental health issues render them very disabled, because we just don’t know enough,” Lee said. “I think we’re just on the new frontier, and five or 10 years from now we’ll know more.”
For me, this has been a journey of discovery. I have changed my relationship with food and have educated myself as much as possible.
While this journey began due to my own mental health history, I also worry about my physical health, as my mother also had type II diabetes and was insulin dependent.
Many believe that you have to be obese in order for this disease to take over your life. This is a myth. It is really about diet and how your body processes sugar.
Here are some of the recent changes I have made:
- I try to eliminate processed foods, sugar, and simple carbohydrates.
- I try to stay within 30 grams of carbohydrates per meal.
- I read the labels.
- I have learned that by combining legumes (such as black beans) with a grain (such as quinoa) it creates a complete protein.
- “Wake up beauty—it’s time to beast”: I aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise three to five times per week.
I have also made cooking extremely fun. I am always scouring the internet, magazines, and cookbooks for healthy recipes and challenge myself to eat nutritional whole foods that are organic, free range, or grass fed.
I also love shopping local and make regular trips to the Farmer’s Market. I am learning to cook in season. As we are in winter, I am using primarily root vegetables in my recipes.
While I was unable to locate concrete evidence in regards to improved mental health through nutrition, it would seem that there are many ongoing studies to support this theory.
I am still experimenting with making nutritional adjustments in my own life, but I can attest to having a clearer mind, feeling more energetic, and overall having a happier approach to living.
I have also been able to successfully discontinue two medications. For me, this was life changing.
Meditation and breathing exercises have also helped me combat anxiety and panic attacks as I am able to relax and clear my mind as well as focus on my breathing patterns.
Have you noticed the connection of diet and exercise in relation to your state of mind? I would love to hear what changes have been helpful to you.
“A successful therapy requires harmony of the physical and psychological functions in order to achieve a restoration of the body in its entirety.” ~Dr. Max Gerson, MD
Author: Mary Rogers
Editor: Emily Bartran
Source: Elephant Journal – http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/01/you-are-what-you-eat-the-mindbody-connection/