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Food and mental health

The Connection Between Food and Mental Health

Historically, our health system has separated diet and eating habits from mental health. However, what you eat actually has a large impact on how you feel. This is because nutrition, minerals, and healthy fats have a direct link to brain functioning. And our brains are where emotions and thoughts are produced. Is your diet impacting your mental well-being? Let’s take a look.

Take a minute and reflect on the following questions:

  1. Do you have a good understanding of nutrition and how to properly fuel your body?
  2. Do you regularly eat a diet of healthy fats, adequate protein, and necessary minerals?
  3. Do you engage in binging/purging/restricting food or have a history of doing so?
  4. Do you view foods as “good” or “bad”?
  5. Do you use substances (i.e. alcohol, marijuana, etc.) or have a history of substance abuse?
  6. Do you consume more than 1-2 drinks of caffeine per day?
  7. Do you consume high amounts of added sugar?
  8. Could you improve your nutrition in some way?

How you view nutrition and nourish your body has a direct link to your overall emotional wellness. If you have: engaged in eating disorder behavior, use substances, follow strict elimination diets, over use caffeine, do not consume adequate protein, skip meals, and/or have feelings of guilt/shame surrounding food, it’s likely these behaviors are contributing to poor eating habits and restricted nutrient consumption. This can lead to an impact on brain health and overall mental wellness, as we can quickly become nutrient depleted.

When we are nutrient depleted, our bodies and minds cannot work optimally and therefore, cause us to experience symptoms. For example, high levels of added sugar and caffeine consumption can increase anxiety symptoms and contribute to insomnia.

Common symptoms among individuals who struggle with nutrition can look like:

  • Feeling tired
  • Difficulty falling asleep/staying asleep/sleeping too much
  • Difficulty concentrating/focusing/remembering things
  • Body aches
  • Illnesses and unmanaged diseases
  • Feeling anxious/on edge
  • Feeling fidgety and restless
  • Nausea, upset stomach, and gastrointestinal issues
  • Negative thoughts of self, low self-esteem and confidence
  • Hormone imbalances and fertility issues

All of the above symptoms can also be present when struggling with mental health concerns, such as: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse/dependency, and eating disorders, to name a few. Therefore, what you eat and how you fuel your body plays a key role in how your body, mind, and emotions are all regulated. If you are struggling with mental health symptoms, I encourage you to reflect on your nutrition. Could it be contributing to your symptoms?