Synergy: How Nutrition and Lifestyle can Impact Mental Health?

When air disappears from his breath

and sunrises bring no light to his life

Poison ivy covers memories of happiness till

they mirror faint specks of dead fires

The abyss beckons…

The abyss …polar to the Zenith. 

The abyss… everything that is dark and dismal and that which is hidden in the recesses of every mind.

Faltering mental health and well-being is more common than we think.

Fathered by genetics and nurtured by the environment – the family, the experiences, and the nourishment provided, disturbances can take over patterns of thought and can drastically diminish the quality of life.

So, this World Mental Health Day – 10th of October, we at Nutritionwithvibha decided to address key questions with regard to the intersection of Nutrition with Mental Health.

His skin seems an alien cover for emptiness

The world is a market place and he a lost coin

No heart has the flame to melt

the ice that steadily creeps into his bones

The abyss beckons…

Life and consequently health is glorious in their multifacetedness and intertwinings. Health includes all components –  physical, mental, emotional, environmental ( social, hygiene, and nutritional), and spiritual aspects. Whilst we are extremely concerned about challenged physical wellness or physical disease, and take specific steps to alleviate the condition – be it medical treatment or diet. When it comes to diminished Mental well-being or mental disorders, we often brush it under the carpet, trivialize it and disregard it, in a callousness born out of ignorance. As if the person experiencing it, need just to get up, brush it off and regain mental and emotional balance. How wrong we are then! Mental well-being challenges and disorders are as real as physical diseases and need prevention and care and treatment.

With 792 Million people globally affected by Mental Health Challenges; 58 million in India suffering from depression and 38 million from anxiety – we no longer can disregard this as a mere statistic. It is high time we take multi-pronged preventive and therapeutic actions.

Two easy steps dual an arduous turn to chaos

He hovers over the cliff that invites the plunge

The ink below a comforting blanket

Over star-filled pools where pain sleeps

He jumps

We are the sum of everything that we have inherited and what we have been exposed to and are continually exposed to. Isn’t it logical that food, nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle patterns are part of both the internal and external environment?!.

How can we disregard this?

Did we hear the question mark in your minds – Really!! that true? Could Nutrition play a part too!!

Let’s look at possibilities…

1. Impact of maternal diet during pregnancy:

During pregnancy, the fetal brain is developing and so what the mother eats will make a huge impact on the brain development and of course, that has an impact on the offspring’s future thought processes and behavior. Research tells us that there is a very significant relationship between what the mother eats during pregnancy to the behavior spring in childhood and then later. Various vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the mother’s diet during pregnancy can cause a large spectrum of mental disorders in the offspring – right from behavioral issues which may come up strongly in adolescence to autism spectrum disorders to depression and mania and even schizophrenia.

Pre-conceptual nutrition and what the mother eats during pregnancy are paramount in not just the physical health but also the mental health and abilities of the offspring.

2. Neurotransmitters

How the brain functions are what is going to drive behaviors. Behaviour is also affected by what kind of neurotransmitters are available. Neurotransmitters are nothing but peptides and molecules which are affected by what we consume. For example, Serotonin provides calmness and relaxation, and peace while dopamine provides excitatory stimulus.

And we must remember both are required.

These Neurotransmitters can be enhanced naturally through foods.

Carbohydrates and the amino acid tryptophan (found in milk and poultry and egg) are required to make the calm giving serotonin

Adequate good quality protein and whole unprocessed foods which have B complex vitamins are required to make dopamine

3. Gut Health 

The gut hosts various microorganisms with varied effects.

There are those that produce molecules that support mental health (some bacteria produce serotonin) and there are those that produce molecules that hamper mental health. (Fermentation products created by bacteria that cross over the blood-brain barrier and cause brain fog, depression, and anxiety)

Isn’t this isn’t it imperative that we eat to nourish our gut bacteria, and eat the right kind of foods that have good bacteria present so that we can colonize our gut with good bacteria that are beneficial for all aspects of health including mental health? Isn’t it important to keep giving that good bacteria the fuel that it needs for its survival and for it to flourish?

This creates an impact on both physical and mental health so it is so important to choose the correct area that has the food ready to format and make products that are going to support both physical and mental health

What could be the products that facilitate the growth of bacteria that support mental health:

  • Plenty of various diverse kinds of cereals and millets – Ragi, Wheat, Bajra, Whole Rice,
  • Various kinds of pulses – whole moong chana chole, Black-eyed Beans, Whole urad to name a few
  • Multicolored fruits and vegetables
  • Flesh foods – whole eggs, fish, and poultry in moderation
  • Keeping the highly processed foods – those which have been stripped of fiber and nutrients (eg – Products with maida- refined flour) low in the diet
  • Reducing the amount of sugar intake because sugar is the substrate for Candida – a fungus that grows in the gut. Candida ferments sugar to produce substances that can drastically affect mental health, from brain fog to depression and psychotic behavior.

4. Role of nutrients

Nutrients have the power to direct behavior, and thought processes, preserve mental health as well as have preventive and therapeutic roles in mental disorders. Let’s see some examples:

  • Omega 3 fats (read our blog on the correct choice of fats) – from flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and fish like Salmon, Tuna and Mackerel can reduce aggression 
  • Nutrients that help as an adjunct in the treatment of depression and anxiety:
  • Adequate carbohydrates that are slow digesting 
  • Adequate iron consumption
  • Good and diverse good quality protein sources like dairy, eggs, poultry, and fish 
  • Omega 3 fats
  • Adequacy of zinc – available from whole grains, nuts, and flesh foods
  • Good amounts of B Complex vitamins from nourishing whole foods
  • Vitamin D adequacy – From milk, eggs, and the radiant sunlight
  • Phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables and spices like turmeric and cinnamon
  • Avoidance of artificial sweetness like aspartame 
  • Strategies for nutritional therapy in Schizophrenia and Psychosis:
  • Address nutritional deficiencies saw – usually most vitamins and minerals
  • Use of supplements if required under the guidance of your nutritionist – Vitamin C, B Complex, D, Iron, Zinc, and Omega 3
  • Use of spices that reduce neuroinflammation like turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, and pepper
  • Addressing the nutritional management of issues like Obesity, diabetes, and hypertension 

5. Role of Lifestyle

The lifestyle choices that we make drastically affect all aspects of our health in insidious ways. Our lifestyle can control our external and internal environments. Let’s see some examples:

  • Lack of adequate sleep can reduce mental function. It can cause stress and disrupt the gut microbiota present. 9 – 11 hours for children and adolescents and 8 hours for adults is what is required.
  • Stress: Chronic stress that is low grade and physiological or emotional and mental can raise cortisol levels.  Higher cortisol levels are associated with anxiety and mania. High Cortisol levels, if continued over a long period of time, can suppress thyroid function which can in turn lead to depression.

Stress reduction, and stress management as well as providing our populations with support and training with coping strategies is pivotal.

  • Exercise: Exercise better blood flow and consequently oxygen delivery to the brain bettering mood and cognitive abilities. It leads to the production of feel-good hormones endorphins that better mood and well being

Exercise can be used as an adjunct therapy across mental disorders therapy from low self-esteem to anxiety to pathological depression.

Let’s awaken to the fact that Mental issues are real and they can be a disorder and/ or disease it needs to be addressed and treated. 

As the human race and our individual thinking evolve, we come to realize that both humans and the universe are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. We cannot compartmentalize it into chambers like physical health or mental health. We cannot compartmentalize it as medical management or counseling.  

The route we need to take is Holistic management and an addressal of the whole problem.

Despair and defeat gloat from the depths

at another claimed to add to the heap

The abyss a tool to win the war waged

from eons between the light and the shadow

The darkness wins….

Is this the ending we can’t allow?

Can we let darkness win?

We can hear the resounding NO from your minds, dear Readers…

No. We need to let the light shine.

We need to save the souls lost in the labyrinths of their minds

We need to support them and let them rise again.

Each individual and communities and the Health worker fraternities need to come together to create sustainable solutions.

So, dear Readers, let’s explore three strategies that we could immediately initiate from the Nutrition and Lifestyle perspective to protect, preserve, and better mental health for each one of us:

1. Understand the role of Nutrition and Lifestyle

We at Nutritionwithvibha have written this piece for the creation of an understanding. That is always the first step. 

Once we know, it is then that we change.

2. Eat Healthy and live healthily

The principles of sound mental function and health cannot be far different from that of what is advised for physical function and health.

Do read the previous blogs on the myriad ways of eating right and the recipes for nourishment that are featured in Nutritionwithvibha

The affirmation mantra:

I care for my body temple and choose nourishment in every aspect – mind, body, and soul.

I understand that everything is interconnected and it is holistic management that will grant my body wellness.

I will be kind and loving to my Soul temple and my body temple and my mind temple and I pledge to treat it with the regard, love, and respect that it deserves – no more polluting thoughts and polluting food.

I choose to hold my Soul, body, and mind temple in the light.

I choose love, peace, health, and nourishment.

I choose ME.

3. Reach out to nutritionists for a diet and lifestyle plan for mental health:

This is imperative for you as an individual and your family.

We need to be literate on mental health and how we can make a positive change.

If you are an educator or counselor reading this, do reach out to Nutritionists for more information and look for initiating collaborative therapies.

If you are a doctor or a nutritionist reading this piece, do reach out to each other. It is time that we form teams of educators, consellors, psychiatrists, and nutritionists to better Mental Health.

Let us commit to it this World Mental Health Day! We at Nutritionwithvibha are looking to collaborate with all stakeholders and contribute to bettering Mental Health.

Let’s Remember

Our body is a sum of everything that we put in

A mix of genetics, physiology, and environment.

Nutrition and Lifestyle support all of it.

From this World Mental Health Day let’s place equal importance on the role of Nutrition in Mental Health.

We at believe that it is Nutrition that creates a sustainable change in health – all aspects of health. Write to us with your questions, comments, and suggestions, and let us together create a tribe of Healthy Living Ambassadors that look at Holistic Health.

We have curated 5 deliciously nourishing recipes designed to better mental functioning and nourish the brain and support positive behavior.

Bring it to your tables from this blog and upload a picture of it on your Instagram page and don’t forget to tag us.

5 recipes with nutrients that play a role in mental health :

When air disappears from his breath

and sunrises bring no light to his life

Poison ivy covers memories of happiness till

they mirror faint specks of dead fires

The abyss beckons…

Until the next post…

Keep nourishing your mind


Stay blessed!

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