by Crissy Luna: There are lots of different healing modalities for improving mental wellness…
Meditation, breathing exercises, dance & movement, and talk therapy all help to provide a sense of peace and joy for many people.
And the common theme in all these different modalities that are used to help alleviate chronic stress, anxiety, and depression is that they tend to be actions done outside of the body. But, what action could we be taking on the inside of our bodies to improve our mental well-being?
Heal your Body. Heal your Mind.
Can we heal our body by eating a whole-foods, plant-heavy diet in order to heal our mind? Science tells us Yes, we can — because diet does play a significant role in our mental well-being.
Yet, mental health is commonly treated as a separate entity from overall health & wellness, we can’t overlook the obvious fact that our brain is still a part of our body. Instead, we need to view the mind and body as one when it comes to healing.
This means that what we feed ourselves is just as important as our daily meditation or weekly therapy visits. Here’s why:
Good Mood Food
- Brain Inflammation plays a critical role in many psychiatric and neurological disorders such as major depression, PTSD, and many others. Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet can help to quell any systemic inflammation in your body, including in your brain.
- Your brain needs fat to function optimally. After all, it’s primarily made up of fat. Good quality fats are high in omega-3, which is an essential fatty acid (meaning our body doesn’t produce it so we must get it from our diets). Omega-3’s are important building blocks for a healthy brain and cells.
Where to Start:
Begin by removing inflammatory foods from your diet such as refined Sugar, Gluten, and Dairy. Eat a whole foods diet rich in colorful fruits & vegetables (antioxidants and fiber), and incorporate lots of good healthy fats such as olive oil, ghee, walnuts, chia, and flax.
Your Second Brain
The gut is implicated in every single body system, and that especially includes the nervous system.
- The beneficial bacteria in your gut manufactures 90ish percent of the body’s supply of serotonin, which influences both mood and GI activity.
- Your beneficial gut bacteria produces and responds to the same neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate your mood and cognition. A very good reason to keep your gut in good working order.
- The gut also produces benzodiazepine, a chemical compound that’s used as a psychoactive drug that enhances the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA – a sedative that is used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures and muscle spasms.
Where to Start:
Stick to the anti-inflammatory diet as outlined above, and remove any trigger foods that you may have (foods that cause any symptoms such as digestive disturbances, frequent throat clearing, headaches, skin rash, the list goes on). If any foods are causing you a reaction, it’s a safe assumption that you may have some impaired digestion going on. You’ve got to keep your gut in good working order so it can do its good work – like make serotonin!
Also, take a high-quality probiotic and eat probiotic rich foods every day like raw sauerkraut, kimchee, kefir, miso, yogurt, and kombucha. Certain probiotics have even been shown in pre-clinical research to have anti-depressant qualities.
So, kale for anxiety? Yes, please!