Next Tuesday, October 10, is World Mental Health Day.
What will you be doing to improve the mental wellness of yourself and those around you?
Earlier this morning, I did an interview with a journalist who needed some “tips” for her article on “Mental Health Advice” – here is what I suggested:
As a nutrition scientist (PhD nutritional biochemistry Rutgers) who studies the impact of dietary compounds on mood/behavior/performance (nutritional psychology), I can give you a few comments on mental wellness?
First thing – if you’re aware of World Mental Health Day (Oct 10) – then you’re aware that mental wellness challenges face hundreds of millions of people around the world – people (especially teens and young adults) need to understand that they are NOT ALONE – virtually everyone struggles with some aspect of mental wellness (depression, anxiety, stress, fatigue, insomnia, tension, sadness, brain fog, and so many others).
Second – when we’re depressed or not feeling our best, we tend to withdraw from interacting with other people – we shut off and disconnect – we don’t want to go out or be around other people – but this is exactly what we need to do (get out and be around other people and talk about feeling “off” of feeling “down” – because other people often feel this way too. FYI – there is a strong biochemical reason that we feel like shutting off when we’re depressed – because changes in the balance between inflammatory compounds (cytokines) and neurotransmitters (serotonin/dopamine) and stress hormones (cortisol) sent signals that the brain interprets as “injury/damage” – so we become depressed/fatigued.
Third – our mental wellness is wonderfully responsive to improvement with nutrition – we can DO something about how we feel by using diet to modulate our “second brain” in the gut (100 trillion bacteria that make up our microbiome). The new science of mental wellness really focuses on rebalancing the microbiome (which creates 90% of our serotonin and 50% of our dopamine) and optimization of communication within the gut-brain-axis (including the immune system, endocrine system, and cardiovascular system – which are each involved in different aspects of signaling between the 2nd brain in the gut and the 1st brain in the head).
From a nutrition perspective, there are many approaches that we can take to improve mental wellness. For example, aspects of the Mediterranean Diet can significantly reduce depression. Specific probiotic supplements (good bacteria) and prebiotic fibers (“food” for the good bacteria) have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve stress resilience. Herbal supplements such as rafuma/Venetron and sceletium/Zembrin have been shown to reduce depression by 30% within 4 weeks (as effective and safer than prescription drugs).
To sum up:
- You’re not alone – millions of people struggle with mental wellness challenges
- Share your feelings – they’re not just “in your head”
- The 2nd brain in your gut may be responsible for how you’re feeling – and modifying your diet can dramatically improve how you feel
Hope some of that helps – and happy to answer any questions?