A Healthy Body Improves Our Emotional Health

Dietary changes have even been suggested for children with ADHD or autism, with positive results.
Many of us do not really appreciate that we actually are what we eat. Scientific research shows that eating healthy can not only improve the physical appearance of our body, but it can drastically change our mood and improve our way of life.

By fueling our bodies with the healthy foods choices that can produce a well-oiled working machine, we also allow our minds and emotions to benefit from the effects of a proper diet.

The importance of food choices when it comes to our mental health cannot be overstated. In a real sense, we have two brains – one in our head and one in our gut. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from the brain stem down to our abdomen. It is now well established that the vagus nerve is the primary route our gut bacteria use to transmit information to our brain. Maintaining optimal gut health is therefore paramount when trying to address our mental state.

When exploring mood-changing food items, we have learned that food allergies or intolerances can greatly affect our mood. For example, if we have a gluten allergy or intolerance, consumption of the gluten that is found largely in wheat products can leave us feeling sluggish or even depressed. Dietary changes have even been suggested for children with ADHD or autism, with positive results. Artificial food ingredients, the artificial sweetener aspartame, in particular, can wreak havoc with our brain function. Both depression and panic attacks are known potential side effects of aspartame consumption. Other additives, such as artificial colorings are also known to impact mood. 

Another culprit that can directly impact us by causing mood fluctuations is our blood sugar. High blood sugar can often lead to irritability; while low blood sugar can bring about feelings of anxiety, depression and lethargy. Sugar consumption also triggers a cascade of chemical reactions in our bodies that promote chronic inflammation. In the long term, inflammation disrupts the normal functioning of our immune system and wreaks havoc on our brains. Last, but no least, sugar (particularly fructose) and grains contribute to insulin and leptin resistance and impaired signaling, which also play a significant role in our mental health. 

Research also suggests that low levels of vitamins, mineral deficiencies, and low intake of fatty acids and omega-3s can contribute to altered moods and mimic various mental health issues. Some believe that these deficiencies actually cause mental health issues. Insufficient levels of vitamin D, in particular, can lead to mood swings, depression and fatigue. If we have any deficiencies, our mood may be improved simply by adding supplements.

If you are interested in exploring how food may be affecting your moods, keep a food diary for at least two weeks. Record everything you eat and drink and your moods before and after. It may sound tedious, but it is beneficial. If you notice a pattern, you may wish to seek a nutritionist or experienced health care provider to assist you in making the necessary changes. Since diets should be individualized, you will want to make sure the changes you are making are appropriate and healthy for you.


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