How The Body Impacts The Mind
When you experience stress or anxiousness, your body’s sympathetic nervous system prepares for intense physical activity and responds through the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. This is called the ‘fight-or-flight response’. In order to get the body ready to react/defend (fight) or flee (flight) the body increases blood to the big muscles for strength and digestion of food slows to conserve energy. That’s the body mind connection – what goes on up top impacts what goes on down below.
Many emotions can trigger the sympathetic nervous system. For example, anger, anxiety, sadness, or elation. As described above, the brain has a direct effect on the stomach. Therefore, a person’s intestinal distress (eg diarrhea) can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.
The body impacts the mind just as the mind impacts the body; it is all centered around the gut and the inflammatory response to certain foods, which, via the inflammatory pathway, influence brain health.
What foods cause inflammation? What foods that have a positive impact on brain health?
According to Opie R, Itsiopoulos C, Jacka F, et al. (2017) there are 5 key dietary recommendations which may combat the development of depression. These are listed below, however “It is imperative to remain mindful of any protective effects that are likely to come from the cumulative and synergic effect of nutrients that comprise the whole-diet, rather than from the effects of individual nutrients or single foods”
1. follow ‘traditional’ dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean, Norwegian, or Japanese diet;
2. increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts, and seeds;
3. include a high consumption of foods rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids;
4. replace unhealthy foods with wholesome nutritious foods;
5. limit your intake of processed-foods, ‘fast’ foods, commercial bakery goods, and sweets. (inflammation foods)
Research suggests zinc, magnesium, omega 3, and vitamins B and D3 can help improve mood, relieve anxiety and depression, and improve the mental capacity of people suffering from Alzheimer’s.
The question thus remains; should dieticians be added to the multi-disciplinary approach to management of these conditions?
References and Further Reading
– Opie R, Itsiopoulos C, Jacka F, et al. Dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression. Nutritional Neuroscience. 2017;20(3):161-171
– Wolfgang M, Moseley G, Berk M, Jacka F. Nutritional psychiatry: the present state of the evidence. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. (2017); 75(4): 427-436
– Hanaway P. Form Follows Function: A Functional Medicine Overview. The Permanente Journal. 2016;20(4):125-126. doi:10.7812/TPP/16-109. Web Link https://p.widencdn.net/xazlwe/Intro_Functional_Medicine
– Huang X, Fan Y, Xia Y, et al. Association between Serum Vitamin Levels and Depression in U.S. Adults 20 Years or Older Based on National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005⁻2006. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health. 2018;15(6)
– Qato D, Ozenberger K, Olfson M. Prevalence of Prescription Medications With Depression as a Potential Adverse Effect Among Adults in the United States. Jama 2018;319(22):2289-2298.
Dipnall J, Pasco J, Meyer D, et al. Into the Bowels of Depression: Unravelling Medical Symptoms Associated with Depression by Applying Machine-Learning Techniques to a Community Based Population Sample. Plos One 2016;11(12):e0167055.