I’ve often wondered about the mind body connection. It’s well documented that chronic stress can have a negative effect on your body. But can your body, or more specifically, what you put in your body, have the same effect on your mind and mental health?
For years scientists have been skeptical that the food we nourish our bodies with can also impact on our moods and overall mental health. I’ve learned quite a bit lately about how food influences us and the complicated chemical reactions that occur within our physical selves on a regular basis. I’m not sure why scientists are so slow in accepting the healthy body/healthy mind connection because it seems like common sense to me. Certain foods trigger the release or production of chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin… both known to affect mood. (Here is a scholarly paper by Simon Young on how to increase serotonin in the brain without drugs. These strategies include exercise, light therapy and diet) Here is another interesting overview of serotonin by the Babbleout.
But the scientific community is finally catching up. It’ll only take several more million dollars’ worth of studies to come to the conclusion that our grandmother’s already knew—you are what you eat.
Did you know that low energy mimics depression and sugar crashes look very much like mood swings? Consider how much sugar the average American consumes. That in itself can affect our moods. The symptoms of a sugar or glucose crash include irritability, fatigue, confusion, anxiety, lethargy, difficulty concentrating—all things that people associate with mood disorders. You can read more about sugar in this piece by the Seattle Times. Some people are sensitive to wheat and the symptoms they experience can look very much like mood disorders. Food affects us. It just does.
I recently read this fascinating article in the Washington Post that tells of a study linking zinc deficiency with depression. The same article mentions research being done on a ketogenic diet helping to stabilize bi-polar disorder in some people. I found another study that connects a high fat diet with impaired brain function.
We’re just beginning to understand what is going on in our bodies on a molecular level and how that connects with mental health, but again, I believe its common sense to equate healthy eating to feeling better.
I know in my own life that when I’m making an effort to eat healthy, less processed foods, I do feel better. I have more energy and feel sharper. Is there a connection? Perhaps. But since eating healthy foods has a laundry list of positive benefits, I think it’s something every writer, (including those on deadline), should try.
Photo credit: Mapichai and freedigitalphotos.net