Mood Food – How an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Can Support Mental Health
Mental illness is highly prevalent in the US. In fact, millions of people are affected each year by some form of mental illness, with 1 in every 5 adults developing some type of mental issue. That’s around 44 million individuals.
About 18% of adults in America have experienced various anxiety disorders, including OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), posttraumatic stress disorder, and other specific phobias.
Out of the 20.2 million people in America who have had a substance abuse problem, over half of them had a dual diagnosis of mental illness. If left untreated, persons living with severe mental health illnesses are more likely to die 25 years earlier on average than the rest of the population.
Poor Dietary Habits
Several studies have revealed that individuals with poor dietary habits are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and other types of mental illness as a result of inflammation. Foods that make up a poor diet include fried foods, dairy products with high-fat content, sweet desserts, refined cereals, chocolates, and processed meats.
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Some of the main factors that contribute to depression are added sugar. Overconsumption of refined starches and sugars poses a higher likelihood for a person developing depression. This reinforces the connection between depression and poor dietary choices.
The Connection Between Inflammation and Mental Health
Research suggests your immune system contributes to your brain health. Activation of various cells in your immune system in response to chronic inflammation contributes to different types of mental illnesses.
Researchers believe that understanding how inflammation is connected to mental illness will greatly help in improving the treatment.
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Anti-inflammatory diets like the paleo diet have significantly helped many people suffering from mental illnesses. In fact, there is evidence that shows how being on an anti-inflammatory Paleo diet helps to manage mental health issues. With that in mind, you can refine your implementation of a paleo diet for better mental health.
What Constitutes an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
B Vitamins. Deficiencies in vitamin B 12, folate and vitamin B6 can raise homocysteine levels associated with causing mental illness. A deficiency in folate accelerates depression by affecting a person’s monoamine metabolism. People with depression have shown to have 25% lower levels of folate compared to healthy people.
B vitamins are found in:
- Animal foods
- Green vegetables
Omega-3 Fats. Because of the role they play in gene expression, neuronal survival, dopamine, and serotonin transmission, neuron growth, membrane fluidity, neuron growth, and transcription, omega-3 fats are important for your brain health and other deficiencies that contribute to the development of mental health issues.
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Studies show that there is a correlation between deficiency in omega-3 in the human body and depression. Clinical trials have revealed taking adequate amounts of omega-3 improves symptoms of ADHD, bipolar disorders, depression, and schizophrenia.
In particular, a 1 g daily intake of omega-3 in the form of DHA and EPA supports a person’s cognitive function.
Some of the recommended sources of omega-3 are:
- Seafood, particularly mackerel and salmon
- Omega-3 supplements that contain EPA and DHA
Amino Acids. Specific types of amino acids reduce symptoms of mental illness while supporting your mental health. Depression is associated with low levels of dopamine, noradrenaline, GABA, and serotonin neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters require some amino acids such as tryptophan. Tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin and has been known to reduce depression and OCD.
The amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine are converted into the transmitters norepinephrine and dopamine to help improve your mental well-being.
Sources of amino acids include:
- Red meat
When ATP is combined with methionine, an amino acid, it produces SAM (S- adenosylmethionine), which helps to alleviate depression symptoms. Glycine, also an amino acid, has proven to reduce schizophrenia symptoms. The amino acid taurine plays an important role in reducing the manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder.
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Vitamin D. Vitamin D is also a strong supporter of mental health. And numerous studies have associated low levels of vitamin D with depression and schizophrenia.
Sources of vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish
- Egg yolks
- Full-fat dairy
For some people, incorporating vitamin D supplements may be needed in getting enough to impact their mental health. Although research is still ongoing, the link between vitamin D and mental health has a lot to do with vitamin D receptors being present in the hypothalamus, thus giving it a role in the regulation of the neuroendocrine function.
Zinc. Zinc plays a very important part in maintaining your brain’s function and structure. A deficiency in zinc is associated with ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) and clinical depression. Studies show that zinc supplements greatly reduces symptoms of depression, impaired socialization, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
Sources of zinc include:
- Pumpkin seeds
The Importance of Exercise
Exercising regularly boosts your mood. Studies reveal that exercising reduces depression and anxiety, while at the same time improving cognitive function.
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When it comes to mental health, excising outside in the natural light is highly beneficial compared to exercising in enclosed spaces. A 15-20-minute walk 5 times a week can improve mood, self-esteem, overall well-being, and happiness of moderately depressed people.
Mental Rehabs and Paleo Diet
Mental rehabs help individuals recover from the effects of mental health issues. The aim of these treatment facilities is to help a person deal with their mental problems; to get their confidence back and live as normal a life as possible. Mental rehab programs range from rehab for drug abuse to rehab for alcoholics.
Some mental rehab centers, especially a high-end rehab, incorporate an anti-inflammatory paleo type diet in their treatment programs.
Who Can Benefit from a Rehab Centre That Has A Paleo Diet Program?
According to the CDC, half of all Americans will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. While the severity of mental health issues vary, roughly 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental problem. Typical difficulties associated with serious mental health illnesses include:
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Behaving in a threatening manner
- Being abused or exploited by others
- Problems with planning and organizing your day to day life.
- Hearing distressing voices that make it difficult to concentrate or communicate with others.
These difficulties may come about because:
- The medication you are using isn’t working well for you
- You are struggling with day to day activities
The stigma associated with mental illness can become a burden. You may find it difficult to associate with others in a normal setting, find work, or generally live a normal and healthy life. If mental illness is left unchecked, it can spiral out of control. That is why it is very important to find a solution that works well for you. An anti-inflammatory approach like the Paleo diet could be the missing link to a successful treatment plan for mental health issues.
With the primary focus of the Paleo diet being on nutrient density and lifestyle practices to improve your mental health, it comes as no surprise that a lot of people suffering from mental health illnesses find tremendous improvements in their mood, focus, energy, and mental clarity once they incorporate an anti-inflammatory Paleo diet plan into their treatment program.
A poor diet can adversely affect your mental wellness and contribute to anxiety and depression. A paleo diet is healthy and has shown to decrease inflammation in your body, thus managing and checking mental illness.