MENTAL HEALTH ?
While we may not naturally think of the brain as an organ which needs nourishing, the brain is actually the hungriest organ in the body, using 20-25% of our daily calories. It has some very specific needs for nutrients to function adequately - and optimally.
An inadequately nourished brain can contribute to low mood, brain fog, poor memory, disrupted sleep and fatigue, low resilience to stress – and ultimately, to burnout, depression and other mental health conditions.
Conversely, a well nourished brain can help to support our mood, memory, learning, restorative sleep, resilience to stress and stability. These are the characteristics of 'optimal brain health'.
The Lancet Psychiatry has recognised the compelling evidence base for "nutrition as a crucial factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders". The authors urge that nutrition should be as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology.
The drivers of mental health - and ill-health - are complex. My Master's programme works with a 'biopsychosocial approach' to mental health - that is, considering the biological, psychological and social influences.
A focus on nutrition is aimed at the biological drivers of mental health and should ideally be done in parallel to psycho-social support.
How nutrition can help towards optimal mental health
A Nutritional Therapist can help to unravel extensive information obtained through detailed functional lab testing and analysis of your health history, symptoms, diet and lifestyle.
Functional lab testing can help to detect issues relating to mental health, such as:
Neurotransmitter production and metabolism, including serotonin, melatonin and dopamine
Adrenal hormones, such as cortisol and DHEA
Intestinal microbiome balance, contributing to the gut-brain axis
Nutrient status, to identify deficiencies and sub-optimal levels for healthy brain function
Based on this information gathered, and on your needs and challenges, you will receive a comprehensive Health Strategy to support optimal brain health and resiliency.
Areas of focus to support mental health may include:
Providing plentiful nutrients to brain - in support of mood, cognition and sleep
Reducing chronic inflammation - linked with depression and other chronic illness
Optimising intestinal health - in support of the gut-brain axis and nutrient absorption
Balancing blood sugar - to regulate glucose to the brain, reduce cortisol and optimise sleep
Protecting the adrenal glands - from the harmful effects of the stress response
Reducing environmental toxins and providing antioxidants - to protect brain tissue
Exercise and stress management strategies - to support mood, sleep and resilience
NLP coaching can help make lasting behavioural changes towards improved health outcomes.
"To maintain your brain … your body requires a steady supply of many different raw materials—both macronutrients and micronutrients ...
While you only need a small number of micronutrients—vitamins and minerals—failing to get even those small quantities virtually guarantees disease."
Harvard Medical School, 2016
Building resilience - in the thinking mind AND in the physical brain
What do we mean by resilience?
RESILIENCE is the ability to bounce back from the challenges of life - like a tree with deep roots, which bends in strong winds but doesn't break. Resilience can help us to thrive in the face of mental and physical challenges.
To cope with, or even prevent mental un-wellness, in addition to effective psycho-social care, we need to give the brain and the body the opportunity to heal itself. That means creating an environment to enable the thinking mind and physiological brain to become more resilient to stress (both physical and mental) and life's challenges.
An effective approach towards mental health and wellness would therefore focus on two aspects:
1) For the thinking MIND:
Psycho-social care - A good psychologist or psychiatrist should have the training and experience to help you get to the root of what is happening in the mind – to treat the situation and prevent future relapses.
2) For the BRAIN, as a physical organ:
Reducing the strain on the body's adaptive physiological systems, and opening windows of opportunity for the brain to repair, adapt and improve resiliency. This is where Nutritional Therapy comes in.
Nutrition can be used to support mental health issues such as:
Burnout recovery and prevention
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity (ADHD)
Cognitive health for optimal performance
For more info
To learn more about how I use nutritional therapy towards optimal mental health and resiliency, click here.
And for more information on how depression and burnout are experienced in the brain (as a physical organ, beyond the thinking mind) and in the body, follow the links to the respective pages.