Support emotional wellbeing
The reasons for feeling disconnected and discontent are varied and to truly address we must look at all aspects of our lives – physical, emotional and circumstantial. Current treatment is often drug therapy and psychotherapy, whilst the profound effect of what we eat on how we feel and behave can be overlooked. A low mood for example can have less to do with external factors than with deficiency in nutrients such as the B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and essential fats.
Nutrition and mental health involved supplying a good, steady energy source to your brain so that it can be consistent in its reaction, ability and function. it also involves encouraging production of all the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that we rely on for appropriate responses in life and the ability to connect positively wit the world around us. The main mood modifying neurotransmitters include serotonin – which keeps us emotionally and socially stable – and dopamine and noradrenaline, which tend to make us more alert and responsive.
Whilst certain foods do have brain chemical changing properties, it is more important to see nutrition and mood in relation to overall diet. As in nutrition, as in life, we want to create balance, calm and avoid the “highs and lows” that leave us drained, emotionally confused, and unable to cope with what life has to throw us.
- Eat small, frequent meals preferable containing some protein, such as eggs, beans, lean white meat, fish, tofu, nuts and seeds. Protein should be combined with complex carbohydrates at each meal – even snacks. Protein both slows down release of the sugars in the carbohydrate foods for consistent energy supply to the brain and also provide the building blocks for neurotransmitters.
- Eat a tryptophan source at breakfast and/or lunch, this is the amino acid which gets converted to serotonin, our happy hormone, and is best eaten at the beginning of the day for effect throughout. High sources include fish, poultry, bananas, figs, dates, yoghurt, tuna, organic eggs, soybeans, tofu, almonds and avocado.
- Omega 3 fatty acids in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines allow the brain to pick up and use neurotransmitters and are shown to be a crucial factor in our brain development and mood regulation. If you are a vegetarian you can get some omega 3 oils from pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flax and hemp but if you suffer from depression or consistently bad moods, you may want to consider a vegan source of the direct omega 3 oil DHA which is available from algae sources.
- Ensure good magnesium levels by eating whole grains, buckwheat, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables, sunflower and sesame seeds, tofu and tahini – we need this calming mineral in large amounts and it is commonly low in our diets.
- Reduce caffeine – it is a stimulant which initially raises serotonin, and elevates mood. However, soon after drinking levels suddenly drop and it causes an increase in anxiety and in nervous and muscle tension.
- Respect alcohol, although we can believe that it releases tension it is actually a brain depressant. It also interferes with many brain cell processes, and disrupts normal sleep cycles which has a profound effect on mood. Drinking also causes sudden blood sugar drops and the resulting low mood or even depression.
- Identify and change Negative Coping Patterns – these are essentially extreme, numbing activities which deplete serotonin; excessive exercise, smoking, drinking, overeating, emotional outbursts, lack of exercise, chemical dependencies, even retail ‘therapy’.