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One in every five adults in the U.S. — over 43 million Americans — experience a mental illness every single year; the most common types being anxiety and major depression disorder1.
With millions of Americans affected, it may be shocking to find out that 60% of people suffering from a mental illness do not get medical treatment for their condition.
There are a variety of reason people experience a mental illness, and a growing body of research shows that our diet plays an influential role. If we can better understand the impact dietary choices have on our mental health, then we can make better decisions to experience both physical and psychological wellness.
We are all aware that eating a healthy diet helps to fight obesity and promotes our physical health. However, it seems that the foods we choose to eat also regulate our mental health such as our thoughts, emotions and moods.
Let's learn more about mental illness, different types of these diseases and how we can help to control or prevent mental illness with our diet and nutrition.
Every single one of us may experience symptoms of a mental illness from time to time, which should not be a cause for alarm. We may all experience sadness, worries, a poor self image or problems with others, but that does not mean that we are suffering from an actual mental disorder. However, it's important to seek medical help if the problems you are experiencing do not go away and prevent you from living your daily life.
There are many phycological factors that influence mental health, but below we examine three of the most common physical issues that impact mental illness.
Some psychiatric disorders, such as major depression and schizophrenia, tend to run in families, and genes may be the cause. A 2013 study2 reported that two genes, CACNA1C andCACNB2, that regulate the rate at which calcium flows into neurons, along with two chromosomes (3 and 10) were linked to five mental disorders.
While genetics play a significant role in the development of mental conditions, they are not the only cause. This is proven by a look identical twins — if one is diagnosed with schizophrenia, the other twin has less than 50% of a chance of developing the same condition3. This means that the environment (which some scientists label as anything outside of genetics) may be the other big cause. This may include the use of drugs and alcohol, injuries, vaccinations, illnesses, sexual abuse, a bad breakup, child abuse and other trauma.
Many studies4 have found that diet doesn't only affect our physical health (weight, heart health and diabetes), but also our mental health. Eating a well-balanced diet may lead to feelings of wellbeing and lower stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. Thinking about your diet's relation to mood is important because it's a completely different perspective on mental health.
While some people believe that we are predisposed to mental problems because of our past, and others believe that expensive psycho-therapeutic approaches are the only way to find relief — diet gives people power over mental health through their own choices. Let's take a look at the research in to learn more.
It's shocking to find out how many medical professionals never mention the role diet plays in the prevention and control of mental health symptoms. The truth is that dietary choices may affect us even before we are born.
These studies suggest that what your parents ate before you were conceived could have led to the development of a mental health issues.
A study found that half of all mental illnesses are first observed in people younger that 14 years of age7. This led those researchers to assert that "most adult disorders should be reframed as extensions of juvenile disorders."
Recently, data5 has emerged to support the relationship between the mental health of children and their dietary patterns. Therefore, if most mental health conditions start developing in childhood, and they may be influenced by dietary choices, this means that feeding a healthy, well-balanced diet to children and adolescents is vital to protect their mental health. This way of thinking is confirmed by study after study:
Due to the fact that 1 of out every 8 Americans is over the age of 65, it's vital to determine methods for these populations to stay physically and mentally healthy16. High costs of medical care of an aging society can be passed down to everyone else, so learning ways to promote a healthy lifestyle is extremely advantageous. It's unfortunate that few studies have explored the interrelationships among dietary measures and quality-of-life indexes in older adults because there is a substantial decline in food intake with advancing age.
Older individuals simply tend to eat less and derive fewer vital nutrients the body needs, such as protein, vitamins, and minerals16. This raises the question of whether there need to be different dietary guidelines for the elderly that help them to consume the much needed nutrients. The studies below confirm the importance of a healthy diet for a healthy mental state:
"What you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood," according to Harvard Medical School19.
For example, serotonin is a neurotransmitter often called "the happy chemical" because it controls our mood, our appetite, our sense of pain and our sleep cycle. Needless to say, when we are happy, sated, not in pain and well-rested, we are happy.
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You may be surprised to find out that almost all (95% to be exact) of serotonin is not produced in our brain, but in our gastrointestinal track. Therefore, it requires the good bacteria from our intestinal microbiome to function properly. When we eat foods that are full of nutrients, we help our body fight inflammation (oxidative stress that ages and kills off our cells) and protect our minds. However, when we make poor dietary choices, we develop bad bacteria that damages our digestive track and prevents the regulation of serotonin between the gut and the brain.
This is further proven by studies19 that show that individuals who take probiotics (supplements that add healthy bacteria to our gut flora, see that "their anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook improve."
We hope that the science we presented in this article convinced you of the importance of healthy eating in each and every stage of life. Many studies show that people who enjoy Japanese, Mediterranean and Nordic diets have better mental health, and found that the risk of depression is 25% lower than in those who a eat Western diet16.
This is due to the fact that while Americans enjoy many processed, refined and sugar-laden foods, traditional diets worldwide rely on healthy oils, nuts and whole grains. Below are guidelines for foods that you should enjoy, and foods you should avoid, to promote your mental health.
Remember to also eat a wide variety of healthy foods to increase the nutrients and minerals your body needs. Since certain nutrients require others in order to be absorbed by the body, maximizing the variety of foods you eat is recommended.
The best investment you can make is to fuel your body with the right ingredients to promote your health. Talk to your doctor about foods you should be eating based on your age and genetic predisposition.
Remember, however, that many Western doctors may use the traditional way of thinking that only medication can treat mental illness. You can reinvigorate both your mental and physical health with UMZU's line of clinically-proven supplements that are designed to correct micronutrient deficiencies and balance your hormonal ecosystem.
Our highly rated mental-health product Cortigon reduces stress hormones and helps you to stabilize your mood effortlessly. While Dopa Mucuna promotes focus, attention and helps users become more present in their daily lives. Do your own research and learn how to promote good mental health and only consume foods that will keep your mind young, fresh and always happy.
the dissociation people have between their mental health and their diets will never cease to astound me— Alexander J.A Cortes (@AJA_Cortes) January 16, 2020