#WhatWeEatWednesday : Wait…. I thought we were talking about Mental Health Here?
So many times I’ve had a new client sit across from me, telling me about what their struggles are. What’s stressing them out. Relaying information such as their lack of sleep, poor moods, anxiety, low energy, weight gain (or loss), low sex drive, conflict with family or friends, and so on. Within those first few sessions, its my intention get to know them and dig a little deeper. So while some people are expecting your standard “And how does that make you feel?” question, they often times find themselves surprised when I start asking more about how much water they drink, how much exercise or activity they get, and a key question: What type of foods do you eat? I swear, you’d have thought that I just grew five more heads from my shoulders with the look on some of their faces.
Why is my therapist asking about what the hell I eat?
Well, I’ll tell you.
Research from University College London (2017) confirms an adverse effect of sugar intake from sweet food/beverage on long-term psychological health and suggests that lower intake of sugar may be associated with better psychological health. Do you know how much sugar you ACTUALLY consume on a regular basis? You might be surprise to find out what all sugar is hidden in. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2015) identified that our diet quality is associated with mental health in adolescents. Why would this not also hold true with adults? And seriously, I could go on. You are not a culmination of just the list of your struggles or symptoms. You are a whole human being. One that breathes and drinks and eats to survive. The problem is that most of us aren’t truly eating to survive, we’re eating what we enjoy. And now don’t let me lose you here. I LOOOOVE to eat. (Seriously, just ask my husband. Its been a problem at times.) The issue is surrounding what the quality is of what we eat more often than not. In my time getting to know you, I’d continue to ask about your morning and evening routines and yes, that includes how often you eat and what sort of nutrition you’re getting.
There is an increasing body of literature that links diet and the composition of the gut microbiome to mental health disorders (2016). Say what? Gut microbiome? What’s that? Your gut microbiome is the complex community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of humans and other animals, including insects. Wanna know how your micro biome is built? Well for starters.. what’s the first thing you think of if I ask you “how do you get anything into your digestive tract”? You eat!
So Terri, where the eff am I supposed to start with all of this?
My go to: Start Paying Attention!
How do you feel physically AND emotionally before you eat, 20 minutes after, or an hour after?
Are you even hungry when you eat is a WHOLE other issue that we’ll come back to later. But I’d encourage you to ask yourself that question before eating your meal, afternoon snack, or the candy bar you just grabbed at the gas station.
Do you feel bloated? Sluggish? Tired? Are you popping antacids like they’re going out of style? Does your face look puffy in the morning? Should you own stock in a company that produces aspirin or ibuprofen? What’s your digestion like? Like, really… Are you just in a really shitty mood?
The issue is that most of us don’t attribute these things to our diet because they just become the norm for us. But why would you want to keep doing the same thing that makes you feel that way day in and day out?
You could be feeling satisfied, have steady energy, be clear headed, and just overall happier. Because remember that saying: You are what you eat? Yep! And we’re going to dive into more on that too! Resources
Knuppel, A. Shipley, M.J., Llewellyn, C.H., & Brunner, E.J. (2017) Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from he Whitehall II study. Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 6287.Retrieved August 16, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5532289/
Kulkarni, AA, Swinburn, BC, UtterJ. (2015) Associations between diet quality and mental health in socially disadvantaged New Zealand adolescents. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jan;69(1):79-83. Retrieved August 16, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25028085
Bibbò S1, Ianiro G, Giorgio V, Scaldaferri F, Masucci L, Gasbarrini A, Cammarota G. (2016). The Role of Diet on Gut Microbiota Composition. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2016 Nov;20(22):4742-4749. Retrieved on August 16, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27906427
Gut Flora. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 16, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gut_flora
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