In light of the Heads Together Campaign run by Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge there seems to have been a rise in the ability and the social acceptability to discuss mental health. Until more recent years mental health disorders were never discussed. You often couldn’t see them which happen to give off the impression that they didn’t exist. However, nowadays we seem to be swapping our judgemental attitudes to ones of sympathy and care. Whilst our attitudes are changing there is still work to be done. This article will help you to understand the roles of nutrition on mental health. These tips can be used to help yourself or those around you suffering.
Many of us now accept that nutrition plays a very key role in how we look, our skin conditions, our gut health and even how we feel. Consequently, it plays similar and equally important roles in our brain functioning and hormone release (which is associated with mental health disorders). Here I share my top tips on how to improve your mental well being through the use of nutrition and exercise. It is important to note that this should work in conjunction with medical support from doctors, psychologists and other health care professionals.
Antioxidants: I speak about these A LOT I know. This is because they really do play a powerful role in so many of the body’s functions. In this case antioxidants help to remove the free radicals which are build up in the brain as a result of pollution and chemical exposure. Free radicals can cause chemical imbalances which can begin to interrupt the regular functioning of our brain and promote mental health problems. Fruit and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants but ensure you’re getting a variety of colours as they all contain different antioxidants which have their own roles.
Omega 3: It is no secret that omega 3 boosts our brain power. Mental health patients often show signs of inflammation in the brain, the primary role of omega 3 is to reduce this inflammation and promote signal transduction in order to ensure chemical balances between neurotransmitters. Oily fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines) are the best source of omega 3 however, you can get some from plant based sources such as nuts and seeds. Be aware though that this source of omega 3 (ALA) is less effective as it needs to be converted into EPA and DHA (the more usable form which is present in animal sources) first.
B Vitamins: B vitamins help to prevent a build up of homocysteine which has been associated with mental health disorders. They also play a role in neurotransmitter methylation which also helps to ensure healthy neurotransmitter balances. Dietary sources include: leafy greens, eggs, meat and fish.
Water: staying hydrated is one of the most important factors in enabling the body to carry out its everyday physiological functions. A lack of water can promote internal stress and consequent hormone imbalances which may contribute to mental health problems.
Exercise: research has suggested that exercise can play just as much of a role in the recovery of mental health disorders as some drugs. However, I stress that I am not suggesting you swap one for the other, I am merely suggesting that the combination of the two may be the best option for seeing ideal results in recovery. Try and get 30-40 minutes of exercise 4/ 5 times a week and mix up the high intensity with the low intensity. Some times a casual walk does the trick.
These are my top 5 tips in helping to prevent and working with mental health problems. I recommend working on one area at a time rather than attempting to achieve them all in one go.