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A Healthy Diet Can Help Boost Mental Health: Here's How

There are several factors which can affect your mental health. From die to physical exercise, several factors play a significant role. Read here to know the link between mental health and your gut health.

A Healthy Diet Can Help Boost Mental Health: Heres How

A healthy diet can enhance your mood

The human gut houses a variety of bacteria that have co-evolved with us in a mutually beneficial relationship. Almost every human being has a unique microbiome that is created within the first three years of their life. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to alter the environment of your gut and correct microbial imbalance at any certain age. Additives and processed foods alter the gut environment and increase our risk of diseases. Processed foods contain sugar, starch, hydrogenated fats, food colorings and flavor enhancers. They usually contain a lot of additives that meant to enhance taste and make it more cost-effective for the consumer. They are a common staple of the western diet that is fast making inroads everywhere. Examples include canned foods, salted meat, sugar-coated snacks, packaged breads, pastries, chicken nuggets, and instant noodles. It is important to fix your diet before going for gut-modifying foods like probiotics and prebiotics. Prakriti Poddar, a mental health expert explains the link between healthy diet and your mood.

Can your gut affect your mood?

The link between the brain and the gut is more complex than you think. Almost 95 percent of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps you regulate appetite and sleep, mediate your moods and inhibit pain, is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. Since, the GI tract is lined with millions of neurons, its inner workings don't just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions. In fact, the most common side effects of SSRIs are gut-related side, like diarrhea, nausea, and other GI problems. There exists a two-way communication between your gut and your brain, which is mediated via the vagus nerve. Understanding the gut-brain link allows you to gain more insight into the connection between diet and disease, including anxiety and depression.

When the balance between the good and the bad bacteria in the gut is disrupted, it can cause a number of diseases. Some examples include inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, asthma, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cognitive problems. For instance, intestinal bowel disease is caused due to dysfunctional interaction between bacteria, the lining of the gut, and the immune system. To maintain a healthy balance, include more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Increase the fiber intake and include more probiotic rich foods like plain yogurt. Cut down on red meat, and increase the intake of seafood and lean poultry.


Adding enough probiotics to your diet can help improve gut health
Photo Credit: iStock

The link between diet and depression

According to a study published in Molecular Psychiatry, eating healthy balanced diets, like the Mediterranean Diet, and avoiding inflammation producing foods, can help protect you against depression. Another study published in the World Journal of Psychiatry outlines a nutrient profiling system that focuses on the mental health yielded rankings of foods according to the nutrient density of nutrients supported by current evidence as being useful in developing a dietary intervention for depression. Some foods containing these nutrients include mussels, oysters, watercress, salmon, romaine lettuce, spinach, strawberries, and cauliflower. Consult with a nutritionist on the right portions and make room for them in your diet.

While a better diet can help, bear in mind that it can only be a part of a more comprehensive treatment plan. You cannot eat your way out of mental problems. Be wary of anyone who offers food as the only treatment for anxiety, depression, and other mood problems. If the depression is severe, then you need to seek out the help of an experienced mental health professional.

(Prakriti Poddar is an expert in Mental Health, Director Poddar Wellness Ltd, Managing Trustee Poddar Foundation)

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