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Food for thought - The link between nutrition and mental health
Remote working has put a spotlight on employee mental health, an often underrated aspect of workplace well-being. It is more prevalent in the UK than ever before with 1 in 6 workers experiencing mental health problems.
Common treatments include medical drugs, counselling sessions and therapy. We are aware of the neuroscience and psychology behind these issues, but is that enough?
A rapidly emerging field that is another piece of the mental health puzzle is nutritional psychiatry. There is increasingly more evidence arising that the food we eat plays a role in how we feel mentally.
The best way to think about it is as if our body was a car (even though humans are much more complex and intricate than cars!). Premium fuel for a car helps that car run smoother and it’s an overall better experience. Bad quality fuel will give you the opposite.
Food acts in the same way. Eating healthy and clean food helps our brains run smoother and have a happier and healthier experience. So, what nutrition is ideal for our mental health?
At MyHealhChecked, our team have deep expertise around vitamin D and its multitude of functions. It comes to no surprise that this vitamin plays a role in mental health as well. Vitamin D receptors are found throughout the brain such as the prefrontal cortex and are involved in the production of serotonin, making it an exciting nutrient for researchers to investigate.
A 2019 meta-analysis covered 25 trials of over 7500 participants and found that vitamin D supplementation can lower negative emotions. In particular, individuals with major depressive disorder and individuals with vitamin D deficiency are most likely to benefit from this type of supplementation.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There are two types of fats - the good kind (unsaturated fats) and the bad kind (saturated fats). An essential type of fatty acid in our physical health is omega-3. It plays fundamental roles in our brain development, functioning and aging. Currently, there is a growing interest in its function in mental health.
Deficiency in omega-3 has been linked to depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD among other mental health issues. It has also been associated with an increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders. Supplementation is being considered as a potential therapeutic, but this hypothesis needs to be well-researched in large-scale clinical trials.
We humans are biomes for a plethora of microorganisms, many of which reside in our gut. It has been theorised that behaviours, cognitive capacities and even the emotions of an individual could partially be determined by the micro-”flora and fauna” of the gut.
This gut microbiome is heavily influenced by our diet. Some foods are high in probiotics, which are live bacteria that play different functions in our gut. These have shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, highlighting it as a useful part of an overall therapeutic strategy. This could be due to the positive influence probiotics have on the gut microbiome, which, after a series of processes, may lead to a positive influence on mental health.
Although nutritional psychiatry is still in its early phases, it is taking significant strides that emphasise its oft-unrecognised importance. Eating ‘clean’ is known to be healthy for the body, but it is time to recognise it as healthy for the mind as well.
Get in touch with our team to learn more about MyHealhChecked’s tests and how we can help you discover what supplements you might need and in to investigate possible causes of digestive issues.