Depressed Girl

The Mental Health And Diet Connection

Believe it or not, your emotional state has a lot to do with how healthy your gut is.

Every part of your body works together as one system; if one element is out of balance, it will affect everything else. If your gut health is poor, your overall health will be negatively affected.

According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2014, 43% of adults with depression were obese, and adults with depression were more likely to be obese than adults without depression. In every age group, women with depression were more likely to be obese than women without depression. The proportion of adults with obesity rose as the severity of depressive symptoms increased.

When you suffer from anxiety, depression or chronic stress, the last thing you want to deal with is healthy food and confronting the fact that what you are eating might be contributing to your mental and emotional state. You want gut-bomb food. You have that emotionally driven desire to hit the drive-thru and grab some carbohydrate-heavy comfort food.

Our gut microbiome has a strong influence on mood and behavior. Gut bacteria manufacture 95% of our body’s serotonin, an important neurochemical that affects mood, digestion and sleep. An unhealthy gut can also increase the physiological symptoms of and exacerbate depression, stress and anxiety.

Current research suggests a strong relationship between improved nutrition and better mental health. We see repetitively that consuming higher-glycemic foods correlates with greater risk of depression and anxiety. These studies show the sugar consumption comes before the depression. The thought here is that higher blood glucose levels in the body result in higher levels of inflammation, which cause neural damage in the brain.

Expecting to make these changes on your own isn’t fair, and for a lot of us, just isn’t possible. It is OK to ask for help; it is OK to need a team on your side. Just like an athlete has a coach, more often than not, we need that, too, when making nutrition and behavior changes. Having a team to guide you toward your health goals is invaluable to long term and sustainable success.

If you are ready for change, follow these three steps:

Commit to a life change with 100% dedication, determination and conviction.Stop telling yourself, “I can’t,” “I’m not good enough” and “I’ll never be able to …”Embrace the truth that you are worthy.Ashley Lucas has a doctorate in sports nutrition and chronic disease. She is also a registered dietitian nutritionist. She is the founder and owner of PHD Weight Loss and Nutrition, offering weight management and wellness services in the Four Corners. She can be reached at 764-4133.


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