The Connection of Mental Health and Nutrition
By Chaz Jones
Nutrition is something that must be tailored and different for each individual's needs. We all come from different backgrounds, genetics, and cultures and thus have different nutritional values that our body longs for. Understanding how our diet is impacting our dopamine, serotonin and overall mental status is what I want to address.
Dopamine!!! What is it? A compound present in the body as a neurotransmitter and a precursor of other substances including epinephrine. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!? I have had that question before but it’s our feel-good hormone and neurotransmitter that gives us a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment. Lot’s of things we drink and eat can affect this daily. Caffeine, we all love it we all talk about it and in most cases, we consume way too much of it. Caffeine gives an “artificial” dopamine spike. I say artificial because it doesn’t last and in some cases, you may drop down lower than before and end up wanting more to “feed the craving”. Now I am not saying you need to fully cut caffeine out, lets just limit it. Now the diet component. In general, foods which are high in protein make good Dopamine Diet foods. These foods are sources of the amino acid L-tyrosine, which is necessary to manufacture dopamine in the brain. Some of the best foods to raise dopamine levels include lean cuts of red meat, turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese and avocados. Healthy protein and healthy fats.
Now gut health. Ever feel boated and sluggish? Ever feel like you have a rock in your stomach after eating. Ever want to fall asleep shortly after your thanksgiving meal? Now link this all together, whatever you ate, made you feel like that. Your daily diet (Lifestyle: which we will address later) not fad diets, means so much to the connection of our stomachs and brain. Serotonin is released from the gut and brain. Now what is this? Serotonin is a neurotransmitter with functions in various systems of the body. In the central nervous system serotonin works to regulate mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning. So, the less serotonin, our body goes out of whack mentally and physically.
Whole foods effect the way our whole body works. Whether we are talking about mood, memory, motivation, digestion, or immune system. Our diet can help control it all. It’s understanding the importance of why and listening to your body.
Lastly, lifestyle changes vs. fad diets. Keto diet, Atkins, Paleo… There are so many different diets out there that normally you may jump from to another or just do one for a little while and start to slip and think “it’s ok, I’ll adjust again next week”. This play a big role in how we can feel mentally and leads to inconsistency which will have us fall back into the same ways we are used to. It is extremely important to change these habits into a healthy and fun lifestyle change. Customizing the diet aspect to the lifestyle will help lead to a more positive outlook and happiness!
“You need to put what you learn into practice and do it repeatedly until it’s a habit. ‘seeing is not believing, doing is believing.’ There is a lot to learn about the fitness, nutrition and emotions, but once you do, you can master them instead of them mastering you” -Brett Hoebel-
Chaz Jones is a Powerlifter and Collegiate Athlete who Specializes in Health and Wellness and Dietary needs for the past 13 years. He is a friend of the practice and has spoken at our nutrition events.