How Does Diet & Nutrition Impact Mental Health?

By Dr. Soffia Palsdottir PsyD, Chief Clinical Psychologist at Mental Health Center of America

Most people are aware of how the food we eat impacts our physical health and waistline, however fewer realize the impact nutrition has on our brain function and mental health. Your brain requires fuel to function. The brain gets its fuel from the foods we consume. The types of nutrition we supply our brain with has a direct impact on how well the brain functions and impacts our mood and mental health. When our diet is not optimal (e.g. rich in processed food, refined sugar, simple carbohydrates) it can promote inflammation and oxidative stress and worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD, insomnia, fatigue and even dementia, and brain fog can be positively impacted by lifestyle and dietary changes. Individuals who have not been able to obtain adequate or full symptom relief through more traditional therapies such as psychotropic medication and therapy, may be able to significantly boost their function and improve their mood with healthier food options and exercise

Small changes in our lifestyle can lead to big changes in our mood and overall wellbeing. Start by making small, manageable changes and pay attention to how what you eat makes you feel. A good place to start is decreasing consumption of foods that are known to cause inflammation such as processed foods (e.g. processed meat, fast food, chips) and refined sugar and increase consumption of vegetables, clean protein and berries, nuts and seeds. Gradually increasing daily physical activity is an evidenced based approach to decrease anxiety and depression and increase overall well-being. Try to aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day. 

Heat and cold exposure such as infrared light and cold plunge or cryotherapy can boost your chance further of improving mood and anxiety. Heat and cold therapy can produce a feeling of invigoration and calm and increase production of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine and support the mitigation of mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety. 

Most people, at one point or another, struggle with mental health concerns. Too many people unfortunately endure needless suffering for a long time rather than seek professional help. When you feel you have thoughts, emotions, or behaviors that are overwhelming and you struggle to manage, or are facing a life challenge that is painful, seeking mental health services can help you gain back a sense of control and significantly improve your overall well-being and functionality. 

About Mental Health Center of America, MHCA

MHCA is a comprehensive mental health and wellness primary care clinic, specifically designed to be the first and last step for anyone in need of mental health care. MHCA’s multidisciplinary team comprised of Psychiatrist, Clinical Psychologist, Physician Assistants, Licensed Professional Counselors, and Wellness Associates leverage their unique training and experience to create an integrated system that is proficient at assessing, diagnosing, and treating a wide variety of mental health care concerns. 

Mental Health Center of America 
7600 N. 15th St. #100, Phoenix, AZ 85020
(602) 704-2345

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