Naturopathic medicine is a system of primary healthcare that can be a valuable source of support for anyone dealing with mental health concerns.Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) address your health as a whole – physical, mental, emotional – with a focus on using diet, nutrition and supplementation, lifestyle changes, acupuncture and other treatments to get you feeling better.Care is always individualized to suit your specific needs.
If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or any other mental health condition, it’s always important to seek medical care for a proper diagnosis, ensuring the best treatment for you.However, if you have already been diagnosed, are in the process of seeking care, are taking medications or not, there are many ways diet and nutrition can be used to address anxiety and mood concerns. Below are a few considerations on how our diets can influence our mental health.
The Gut-Brain Connection
A huge amount of research is emerging on the intimate connection between our gut health and mental health. Did you know our bodies contain more bacterial cells than human cells? These guys flourish in our digestive tract, where most of our serotonin (an important neurotransmitter believed to be implicated in many mental health conditions) is made. By supporting a healthy digestive tract and gut flora, we are in turn supporting our mental health and brains. Try including fermented foods as a source of probiotics (good bacteria) – kimchi, kombucha, pickles, etc. Prebiotics are a type of fibre that feeds our good bacteria, so these are also great to incorporate – raw cabbage, garlic, asparagus, chicory root, and dandelion greens are just a few examples.
Swap the Coffee
Caffeine can also exacerbate anxiety. Although many of us rely on a morning cup or two of java, some will also notice an improvement in anxiety symptoms when they eliminate coffee from their diet. Try switching to green tea instead! It still contains a small amount of caffeine but also has a compound called L-theanine, which has been shown to help reduce anxiety while promoting relaxation and focus.
Balancing Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar can contribute to symptoms of anxiety such as heart palpitations, feeling uneasy and jittery. Ensuring you are eating meals at regular intervals with a good source of protein, fibre and healthy fat will help promote stable blood sugar levels throughout your day.
Choose Foods for your Mood
Following an anti-inflammatory diet has been shown to help with some mental health concerns. Inflammation is believed to contribute, at least in part, to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on lots of anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, fruits and healthy fats – raw olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, salmon and other fish. At the same time, avoiding or minimizing consumption of simple sugars, dairy products, gluten, red and processed meats, which can promote inflammation. Following this type of diet also helps provide your body with all the necessary nutrients to produce proper levels of neurotransmitters, and supports a healthy brain.
Ultimately, the foods we choose to eat influence how we feel each day. Small changes to your diet can add up, and play a part in helping you feel better. There are many tools Naturopathic doctors may use to help you address your mental health concerns. Whether the focus is diet, specific supplements, herbs, or lifestyle recommendations, addressing your health as a whole can have a big impact. These interventions are not necessarily an alternative option to medications, but can absolutely compliment other treatments that you are already receiving. It’s always important to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new diet or supplement to make sure that what you’re doing is safe and effective. Everyone is incredibly unique, and your healthcare plan should reflect that.