Mental health cannot be separated from physical health. When people neglect their diets, they may exacerbate existing mental health issues along with the physical. Dr. Jan McBarron, an award winning physician, public speaker, and author, offers 5 tips for enhancing your diet and helping you achieve better mental health.
1. Blood Sugar Stability
Keeping your blood sugar stable is a good way to reduce mood swings. When people eat poorly, their blood sugar can swing wildly, causing depressed and agitated moods. Having a balanced diet with the proper amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat can keep a person’s moods stable.
2. Taking Vitamins and Supplements
According to Dr. Jan McBarron, several vitamins and minerals have been linked to better mental health. Herbal supplements have also been noted as helpful by many physicians. Folic acid can help to increase the effectiveness of mental health medications such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). This B vitamin works to help the nervous system deal with hormonal changes in the body.
SAMe, another natural supplement, helps to boost the production of various neurotransmitters that are involved with mood regulation. Taken by itself, it can be as effective as older forms of tricyclic antidepressants. It can also help newer medications work more effectively.
Melatonin is a natural hormone which helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Since people with depression and anxiety often have trouble sleeping, this supplement can be a huge help in giving mentally ill people a better night’s rest. When people are well-rested, they are much more likely to feel able to cope with the stresses of daily life.
Herbal supplements that can help with depression and anxiety include St. John’s Wort. This supplement reduces symptoms of depression. It may be as effective as an antidepressant in some people, but caution is advised because it can reduce the effectiveness of other types of medication.
3. Move Away from a “Western” Diet
Studies show that the Mediterranean diet, which features a wealth of fruits, vegetables, fish, and olive oil, and the traditional Japanese diet, which also includes fish and preparations like tofu, reduce a person’s chance of depression by up to 25 to 35 percent. These diets do not include processed and refined foods. Eating too many processed and refined foods leads the brain to have lower quality nutrition, and nourishing the brain is one of the best ways to promote a better mood.
4. Dr. Jan McBarron Recommends Natural Probiotics
Natural probiotics such as those found in tofu, yogurt, and fermented foods like kimchi and miso, are all helpful for people with mental health disorders. Science is slowly coming around to the realization that many health conditions previously thought of as unrelated are connected through the gut. When the digestive system is taken care of with proper food, patients can see a reduction in depression symptoms.
5. Staying at a Healthy Weight
Dr. Jan McBarron explains that people with depression and anxiety are often self-conscious about their bodies. Many antidepressant medications carry a risk of weight gain, and people who take these medications feel there is nothing they can do to keep the pounds off. Changing to a Mediterranean or traditional Japanese diet will help people lose weight, taking some of the pressure off their mental health by doing so.
A 2010 study found that people with depression were 58 percent more likely to become obese, while obese people were 55 percent more likely to experience depression. These conditions are related in many ways, and scientists are just beginning to discover the depths of the connections between the two.
As an award-winning physician, public speaker, and author, Dr. Jan McBarron encourages everyone with a mental health condition take a close look at their diets and see whether they can be improved. Combining a healthy diet with close attention to their health care provider’s recommendations can help to reduce some of the symptoms of these conditions.