Foods to keep your mind and gut happy

Henrietta Norton BSc, Dip NT, MBANT, AFMCP Co-founder of Wild Nutrition and Nutritional Therapist.

Nutritional Medicine has made substantial developments to explore the link between mental and physical health. Research shows us that depression occurs more frequently in those experiencing compromised immune function.

 

Researchers have identified that consistently raised levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body can cause a lack of energy, sleep disturbances, changes in mood and loss of interest. If we cannot produce appropriate anti-inflammatory cytokines to restore the balance in response to a psychological factor like stress, or a physical threat in form of a virus or bacteria, some people may develop depressive episodes.

 

Support your nervous system

 

B vitamins are essential for energy production, for the normal functioning of the nervous system, and vitamin B5 in particular for production of the glucocorticoid hormones in the adrenals, such as cortisol. Good sources include whole grains, eggs, beans and lentils, a wide range of vegetables, fish and meats (choose good quality or organic meat). Taking a B Vitamin Complex can be very supportive. The Wild Nutrition B Complex Plus also includes vitamin C, magnesium (see below) and the herb Ashwagandha shown to support healthy cortisol regulation.

 

Magnesium is essential for energy production and the production of neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin. It is quickly used up when we are stressed. The best examples are nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds; and hemp protein powder), buckwheat groats or flour (buckwheat is actually a seed and not related to wheat), greens such as spinach and kale, and fish and seafood. If sleep is an issue then taking an additional 80mg of Food-Grown Magnesium at night can be a great support.

 

Following a Nutritional programme tailored to you, that includes an anti-inflammatory & gut supporting dietary protocol has shown significant clinical benefit. Improving gut immunity with specific bacteria, should be followed to promote anti-inflammatory cytokines both locally and systemically.  Essential Fatty Acid are also required to help these “friendly” bacteria stick to the gut wall, reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines and improve brain function. More recently a large body of research has highlighted the link between ‘gluten sensitivity’, gut health, inflammation and depression. Gluten sensitivity can not only reduce absorption of nutrients from the diet but increase the inflammatory process.

 

 

Good mood food

 

1. Eggs

 

Rich in zinc and tryptophan to boost serotonin levels. Use steamed asparagus to dip into boiled eggs as a morning mood booster.

 

 

2. Avocado

 

Avocados are rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids which have an array of health benefits for our bodies. The acids DHA and EPA may help to improve brain function, regulate vision and contribute to normal heart function. Not only this, but they are also used as ‘taxis’ to ferry hormones around the body, including the libido-charging testosterone in men and women.  For an extra boost of healthy fats, slice chunks of avocado into your salad or onto your morning toast, drizzle over virgin olive oil and add flakes of wild salmon.

 

3. Wild Salmon 

 

Full of healthy fatty acids to support hormones and libido. Mix with horseradish and plain yoghurt to make a salmon pate for a quick mood supporting snack.

 

4. Quinoa

 

Full of protein, minerals such as magnesium and B Vitamins needed to produce anti-anxiety brain chemicals including GABA. Use an alternative to rice or wheat pasta for managing anxiety and stress. 

 

5. Lean proteins 

 

Lean proteins like fish and chicken – provide a complete mix of amino acids required for the building blocks of neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine. Poultry in particular provides. 

 

For more on the links between nutrition, the gut and mood, see 'Is depression a gut reaction?', '5 Ways to keep our hormones balanced' and '5 Health benefits of Ashwagandha'

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