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The role of nutrition in your mental health

10850159_xxlIn its recent report, the World Health Organization states that by 2020, mental illness will be one of the top two contributors to disability in the world. Every year, at least 20% of the world’s population suffers from a mental illness, and this statistic is on the rise.

The fact that foods have a direct effect on mood is not new. It was first recognised during the early 1900s. The past 60 years have demonstrated an irrefutable link between poor psychonutrition and mental illness.

Depressive Disorders and Nutritional Deficiences

Research shows that chronic anxiety and depressive disorders have a basis in nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies have a number of causes, but are most often triggered by an individual’s inability to absorb sufficient vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to support your nervous system, the most sensitive part of the human body. Damage to our nutritional pathways also contributes to malnutrition.

Wheat, barley and rye contain gluten which causes severe inflammation and allergic reactions in the intestines in virtually all of us. At worst, it triggers coeliac disease which destroys the lining of the small intestine, making it almost impossible to absorb the nutrients in food. These, together with dairy and sugar, are now our staple diet.

Over 50 years, our average consumption of sugar has gone from 2kg to 50kg. Our love affair with soft drinks, sweet and processed foods that is ensuring massive sugar loads are exhausting our biochemistry, acidifying the body, and causing hypoglycaemia and diabetes. Hypoglycaemia was linked to psychosis and other schizophrenic-like symptoms as early as 1915, yet we have ignored the dangers and continue to accept high sugar intake as a norm.

Add to this the increasing levels of toxins in the food chain, including insecticides, herbicides, heavy metals and drugs, and we have a nutritional disaster that has already started to affect the fabric of society in many ways.

How Malnutrition Affects Thoughts and Depression

Let’s look at how the resultant malnutrition affects moods, thoughts, depression and anxiety. Where do you feel emotions in your body? In reality we all have a different perception of what an emotion is. For instance some people feel anger in the chest, others in the head. Some feel love in the area of the heart, others in the stomach or head. How you perceive an emotion depends on how your nervous system works and what your perception was when you first put a label on an emotion.

There are many factors in this perceptual determination of emotion, including your experience of life during the first critical five years. But a big part of the perception is based on how well your nervous system is functioning. If you break down how you perceive emotions, you will be able to define it in terms of muscle tightness in certain parts of the body, pressure, or temperature. Most people even say a particular emotion has a certain colour, shape, or weight. Your nervous system is quite complex and sensitive to tiny variations in biochemistry. It comprises literally billions of nerve cells, interconnected through a complex set of intercellular connections. The signals transmitted within these cells are essentially bioelectrical. But to move from one cell to the next requires a reaction through the release of a set of biochemicals known as neurotransmitters. If something disturbs the availability of these neurotransmitters, or the way they work, the way you perceive the world changes. Antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs work by modifying the use of these neurotransmitters.

At the extreme end of these changes, your perceptions change. Senses no longer work properly. The signals transmitted to muscles, gastrointestinal tract and other organs are not delivered correctly. Even mild disturbances in the biochemical pathways will cause low energy levels, mood swings, anxiety and depression. Once your average anxiety levels reach a level of 5 on a scale of 10 you are already in trouble.

The Role of Food in the Nervous System

Now, here is the important part. The biochemical reactions that ensure the correct transmission of signals through the complex nervous system depend on supply of chemicals that can only be derived from the foods we eat. They need to be supplied in the correct amount at the right time when they are needed. Cut the supply of precursor chemicals required to manufacture neurotransmitters and your nervous system malfunctions.

In today’s fast food and pre-packaged food environment, you can eat five times the amount of foods normally required, but still be malnourished. The incidence of anxiety disorders and depression is increasing at an alarming rate. Everything from minor anxiety and panic disorders, all the way through to ADHD, ADD, bipolar disorder and the schizophrenias, are on the rise. We are all susceptible unless we take measures to reverse the effects of global toxicity and find sources of high nutrient value foods.

We are not saying that malnutrition is the only basic cause of these disorders – it is not. There is always an emotional memory component to the problem. But 30 years of experience has shown that the biochemical contribution to anxiety disorders is between 50% and 90%, depending on the severity of the problem. The malnutrition we are facing will have devastating consequences on our future as a species.

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Gary Johnston is an experienced psychotherapist and specialist in anxiety disorders and psychonutrition. For more information visit www.gmfint.com.
Posted by ezyhealth on May 22 2013. Filed under Mental Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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