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Using Food To Ward Off Anxiety

It’s normal to feel anxious or worried from time to time. Work deadlines, writing an exam or giving a presentation, for example, can trigger short-lived anxiety.

People with an anxiety disorder, however, experience persistent and intense anxiety, worry or fear that’s out of proportion to everyday occurrences. Symptoms interfere with daily life, impacting thoughts, emotions, behaviour and physical health. Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (excessive worry about ordinary, everyday situations). Anxiety often goes hand in hand with depression.

Growing scientific evidence suggests that the foods we eat – and the ones that we don’t – play a role in developing and treating anxiety.

The diet-anxiety connection

Components in whole foods can influence mood in a number of ways. Some nutrients are used to synthesize brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that regulate emotions, while others impact how the brain responds to stress.

An imbalance of omega-3 fats, which are essential for the integrity of brain cell membranes, may alter how brain cells communicate with one another. Certain nutrients may also dampen inflammation in the brain.

While diet can’t cure anxiety – nor can it take the place of medication – research suggests that the following strategies may help reduce symptoms.

Follow a healthy dietary pattern. Studies conducted in many different countries have found that healthy traditional diet patterns, including the Mediterranean diet and vegetarian diets, are associated with a lower risk of anxiety disorders.

In general, eating a diet that’s low in added sugars and emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts and beans and lentils guards against anxiety. In contrast, a “Western-style” diet consisting of refined grains, highly processed foods and sugary foods increases the risk.

Include omega-3′s, fatty fish. Observational studies have linked a higher intake of oily fish and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, to a lower risk of anxiety disorders in children, adults and pregnant women.

A randomized controlled trial published in 2013 found that medical students who received omega-3 supplements (2.5 grams a day) experienced a 20-per-cent reduction in anxiety compared with the placebo group. They also had lower blood levels of stress-induced inflammatory proteins.

Salmon, trout, sardines, herring, mackerel and anchovies are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids; these fish are also low in mercury. Include them in your diet at least twice a week. DHA supplements made from algae are available for people who eat a vegetarian diet.

Try fermented foods. Preliminary evidence suggests that a regular intake of fermented foods, a source of probiotic bacteria, may reduce the risk of social anxiety in women. Fermented foods include kefir, kombucha, kimchi, unpasteurized sauerkraut and yogurt.

Probiotics may also help ease anxiety symptoms. A review of 10 randomized controlled trials, published in 2017, concluded that probiotic supplements significantly improved anxiety. However, the strain of probiotic, the dose and the duration of treatment varied widely across studies.

Once consumed, probiotic bacteria take up residence in the gut, where they help to maintain a strong intestinal barrier. When the lining of the gut becomes more permeable than normal, toxins can escape into the bloodstream, triggering an inflammatory response that may interfere with neurotransmitters.

It’s also thought that probiotics in the gut increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates stress and emotions.

Increase magnesium, zinc. Findings from a number of studies have shown that a deficiency of these two minerals, needed for healthy brain cells, can lead to anxiety.

Excellent sources of magnesium include oat bran, brown rice, quinoa, spinach, Swiss chard, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, black beans, lentils, tofu and edamame.

You’ll find zinc in oysters, beef, crab, pork, chicken, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, yogurt, milk and fortified breakfast cereals.

Avoid triggers. Eat at regular intervals during the day to prevent low blood sugar, which could precipitate feelings of anxiety. Limit or avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can also make you feel jittery and nervous.

Drink water throughout the day to prevent becoming dehydrated; even mild dehydration can worsen your mood.

LESLIE BECK         THE GLOBE AND MAIL         August 23, 2020

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is Director of Food and Nutrition at Medcan.

source: www.theglobeandmail.com

salmon

 

9 Foods That Calm Anxiety
(and 3 That Make It Worse)

Scientists are just beginning to recognize the connection between food and our brain. Eat these nutrients for a wave of calming feelings that keep worry away.

Omega-3 fatty acids make your brain happy

Doctors often know how to calm anxiety, or treat it, with therapy and medications, but the answer to calming the condition could be hiding in plain sight: the foods we eat. Doctors and nutritionists are starting to understand more about how certain nutrients, or lack of them, affect the brain. “Our brain has very high energy and nutrient requirements,” says clinical nutritionist and health coach Melissa Reagan Brunetti, CNC. “Nutritional deficiencies and dietary patterns can affect its function, and alter brain chemistry and the formulation of neurotransmitters—chemicals in the brain that can stimulate and calm.” These neurotransmitters influence our mood as well as our appetite, she says. A study from Ohio State University showed one nutrient that’s especially good for reducing anxious symptoms is omega 3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like wild salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds. “Our brains need fat from dietary sources to function properly,” Brunetti says. “If you are not eating a sufficient amount of beneficial fats, your brain will suffer.”

Probiotics are good for the gut

Surprisingly, another calming food source is probiotics. “Your gut bacteria is needed for production of neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid], which all play a role in mood,” Brunetti says. “The microbiome [gut bacteria] has a direct link to the brain and the immune system, so restoring balance in the gut of good and bad bacteria through use of probiotics can benefit the brain.” Recent research has found that probiotics may actually work to treat, or even prevent, anxious feelings. You can either take a probiotic supplement or eat foods that have been fermented, a process which encourages good bacteria to grow, and has been shown in studies as a way how to calm anxiety. “I like to see patients eat more fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir, as the kinds of bacteria in your gut influence anxiety,” says Drew Ramsey, MD, a psychiatrist who specializes in using dietary changes to help balance moods, and author of Eat Complete. Another fermented food you probably already have in your fridge? Pickles!

Caffeine makes you anxious

Although some of us feel like we’re miserable until we’ve had our morning cup of java, coffee and other caffeinated foods and drinks actually worsen anxious feelings. Because it’s a stimulant for the nervous system, it increases heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. According to the University of Michigan, coffee can lead to symptoms of worrying like nervousness, sweating, and shaking. A study from Brazil found that caffeine actually induced panic attacks in people with an anxious disorder. Another study, from Wake Forest University, found that caffeine reduced blood flow to the brain by 27 percent. Not to mention that it can mess with sleep, which is essential for brain health. “Limiting caffeine intake can help quell inflammation and contribute to improved brain function,” Brunetti says. Likewise, Dr. Ramsey suggests avoiding energy drinks with caffeine, as well as indulging in too much dark chocolate (stick to one or two squares a day).

Water keeps everything flowing smoothly

How to calm anxiety in one step? Drink good old fashioned water. “Staying hydrated with clean water is very important,” Brunetti says. A study from the University of Connecticut showed that even mild dehydration can cause mood problems. According to the study’s author, Lawrence E. Armstrong, PhD, by the time you feel thirsty it’s too late. “Our thirst sensation doesn’t really appear until we are one or two percent dehydrated,” he says. “By then dehydration is already setting in and starting to impact how our mind and body perform.” The connection behind dehydration and anxious symptoms is not totally known; but the UConn study authors think it may be part of an ancient warning system alerting us to find water for survival. So, you should be sure to consume water throughout the day.

Stay away from refined sugar and processed foods

Sweets and processed foods all are, not surprisingly, bad for your mental health. Sugar and refined carbs cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a sudden drop. A study from Columbia University found that the more refined carbs and sugar women ate, the higher their risk for mood changes and depression. Another study, from the United Kingdom, found that eating processed meat and fried foods had similar responses, possibly because of the link with heart disease and inflammation, which are also associated with mental health problems. “Skip highly processed foods, as these are mainly simple sugars and vegetable oils,” Dr. Ramsey suggests. Instead, try eating more complex carbs like whole grains, which were linked to fewer mental health issues in the Columbia study.

Alcohol brings you down

Alcohol is a depressant but it can also worsen anxiety symptoms. And unfortunately, the two often go hand-in-hand—in a study that took place over 14 years, researchers found that people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) were 4.5 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that 20 percent of people with SAD also suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence. Drinking can seem like a good way to calm your nerves, but in reality, it causes spikes and dips in blood sugar, dehydrates you, and causes impaired brain function—all of which can lead to anxious feelings, which then make you want to drink more, creating a vicious cycle. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking a lot can cause changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters that may induce these symptoms. For this reason, Brunetti says it’s best to reduce or eliminate alcohol.

Load up on antioxidants

Here’s another reason antioxidants are superfoods: They can help quell anxious moods. “Antioxidants protect the brain against oxidative stress [free radicals],” Brunetti says. “Oxidative stress leads to inflammation, which can impair neurotransmitter production.” Research by the State University of New York found that anxious symptoms are linked with a lower antioxidant state, and that antioxidants could actually help treat mood issues as well. So which nutrients are antioxidants, and which foods contain them? “Diets rich in beta-carotene like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, and kale; vitamin C like citrus fruits, red peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and strawberries; and vitamin E like almonds, avocado, spinach, sunflower seeds, spinach, and sweet potatoes, are essential for supporting optimal brain function,” Brunetti says. Another powerful antioxidant Brunetti says is shown to combat anxious feelings is the trace mineral selenium, found in Brazil nuts, halibut, grass-fed beef, turkey, chicken, and eggs. Also, studies have shown that upping your zinc, which has antioxidant properties, leads to fewer anxious feelings. Cashews are a great source of zinc.

Magnesium is calming

Another nutrient that might stave off anxious symptoms is magnesium. “Magnesium is a calming mineral that has been found to induce relaxation,” Brunetti says. In an Austrian study with mice, diets low in magnesium increased anxious behaviors. Research has shown that magnesium may also help treat mental health issues in humans. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, inadequate magnesium reduces levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and antidepressants have been shown to increase magnesium in the brain—evidence of a positive link. “Magnesium can act at the blood brain barrier to prevent the entrance of stress hormones into the brain,” psychiatrist Emily Deans, MD, writes on Psychology Today. “All these reasons are why I call magnesium ‘the original chill pill.’” Dr. Ramsey suggests eating eggs and greens, like spinach and Swiss chard, for magnesium. Other sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, and avocado.

Try tryptophan

We usually think of tryptophan as the nutrient in turkey that puts us to sleep after Thanksgiving—and in fact, tryptophan is an amino acid that the body needs to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps regulate sleep and moods. According to the University of Michigan, tryptophan may help reduce anxious feelings. In one small study, participants who ate a food bar rich in tryptophan reported fewer symptoms than those who ate a bar without tryptophan. More research is needed, but it seems likely that there is a connection. Tryptophan is in most protein-rich foods like turkey and other meats, nuts, seeds, beans, and eggs. (Incidentally, protein is also important for the production on the neurotransmitter dopamine, which can benefit mood as well.)

B vitamins bump up good feelings

Harvard Medical School advises eating foods rich in B vitamins, like beef, avocado, and almonds, to help ward off anxious feelings. “B vitamins have positive effects on the nervous system, and deficiencies have been linked to anxious disorders,” Brunetti says. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, vitamin B6 helps the body make several neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which influence mood. A study from Australia found that stressed-out workers who were given a high dose of B vitamins felt less strained and in a better mood after 12 weeks. Another study, from the University of Miami, found that depressed adults who took a vitamin B complex had fewer depressive and anxious symptoms after two months. “Another nutrient that seems to matter is choline, found in eggs, which is a cousin of B vitamins,” Dr. Ramsey says. More research is needed, but these results are promising.

Cozy up with herbal teas

So you might not want to indulge in too much coffee, but you can relax with a mug of herbal tea in order to feel less anxious. “Great options for herbal teas are chamomile, skullcap, and kava kava to start,” Dr. Ramsey says. A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that participants who took chamomile for eight weeks experienced fewer anxious symptoms than those that didn’t. However, be aware that kava can interact with anti-anxiety and antidepressant meds, so talk to your doctor first if you’re on them. Plus, it’s so relaxing that high doses of it could impair your ability to drive, according to one study. If you’re using herbs for anxiety, steer clear of ones that are stimulating, such as ginseng, cautions Dr. Ramsey, because they might actually make anxious feelings worse.

It’s not just what you eat, but how

How to calm anxiety? Pay attention to how and when you eat. Bad habits can have a negative effect on anxious moods, which “get worse when people have low blood sugar,” Dr. Ramsey says. “A simple step people often forget is to eat regularly.” Brunetti says if low blood sugar is an issue for you (in other words, if you get “hangry”), eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day can help. According to Harvard Medical School, there is evidence that our Western diet, with its focus on refined carbs and processed foods, might not be great for anxious moods; instead, Mediterranean or Japanese diets, which include a lot of veggies and fish, may be the way to go. But, be careful of fad diets that eliminate entire food groups. “Diets that are too low in [complex] carbohydrates can also be detrimental” for anxious feelings, Brunetti says. “Include a variety of foods in your diet to ensure you are getting a wide range of nutrients needed to calm the mind.”

Tina Donvito      November 21, 2018

source: www.rd.com


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The Microbiome: The Key to Optimal Health

Here’s how the microbiome—the colony go micro-organisms that lives on and in our bodies—might hold the key to a healthy immune system, mood and weight, and our overall well-being.

micro-organisms that lives on and in our bodies—
might hold the key to a healthy immune system, mood and weight, and our overall well-being.

Imagine that from the time you’re born, your body is hosting a daily house party. Who’s on the guest list? Roughly 40 trillion of your tiniest, closest friends. And like any lively party, there’s a mix of good and bad guests. This community of micro-organisms, which includes bac­teria, viruses, fungi and yeast, is collectively known as microbiota, or our microbiome. It’s often called the ‘forgotten organ’ and could be considered one of our largest in terms of cells. In fact, recent research suggests that we have around the same number of bacterial cells as human cells. During a natural birth, you’re first exposed to bacteria from your mother, and it’s estimated that your ecosystem is largely established by age three. We’re used to thinking of bugs as unwanted party crashers, but researchers are discovering that they play an important role in our overall well-being and may hold the key to a host of health-related issues.

MEET YOUR MICROBIOME
If it seems like the word micro­biome just recently appeared on your radar, you’re not alone. It was only in 2008 that the National Institutes of Health Common Fund’s Human Microbiome Project was established to under­stand the microbiome and how it impacts the way our bodies function.

‘We knew that the microbiome was there, but we thought of it only as external and not really in our body. As research expands in this area, we’re discovering how much influence it has on well-being,’ says Kathy McCoy, the director of the Western Canadian Microbiome Centre and a professor at the Cumming School of Medicine in Calgary. ‘One thing we know for sure is that good bacteria benefit our health.’

HAPPY GUT = HEALTHY LIFE
Our gut houses the bulk of our bugs and can carry more than 1,000 different species. The hot spot is the large intestine, which is the most highly colonized by bacteria. ‘Bacteria help us digest foods we otherwise couldn’t, such as complex carbohydrates,’ says McCoy. ‘They increase our meta­bolic capacity, produce vitamins we can’t make ourselves and break down food so our bodies get needed nutrients.’

A healthy gut can determine which nutrients are absorbed and which toxins are blocked. ‘The state of our gut microbiota has drastically changed as we’ve transformed our diets, specifically due to a loss of fibre intake,’ says McCoy. ‘The consumption of more processed foods has negatively influenced the makeup of our microbiota.’

The key to a well-functioning microbiome is a diversity of good bacteria. The latest research shows how our micro­biome can affect our immunity, weight and mood, and reveals how you can nurture and strengthen your gut to improve your health.

BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY
‘Unlike genes or genetic disorders that are hardwired, we can manipulate our microbiome to some degree,’ says McCoy. By nurturing our gut to create a healthy microbiota, we equip it with better ammunition to fight potential invaders, such as bad bacteria (salmonella, for example), making it a strong ally for our immune system.

‘Over the past 50 years, in developing countries, the prevalence of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, has skyrocketed—and some, like Type 1 diabetes, are occurring at a younger age. At the same time, there’s a strong belief that the diversity in our microbiota has decreased,’ she says. By not supporting and nurturing our microbiome, we leave it less able to protect itself and more vulner­able to invaders. ‘The immune system in your gut needs to be equip­ped like an army, alert to recog­nize potential danger and armed to fight disease-causing microbes and pathogens,’ says McCoy.

MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Trying to shed a few pounds? Take a closer look at the health of your gut flora. ‘A study found that the micro­biota from obese people thrives on low-fibre, high-fat and high-sugar diets,’ says McCoy. Also, research suggests that certain bugs may make you desire specific foods, yet others can keep cravings in check. And multiple studies have demonstrated that if your microbiome is unbalanced, it can affect how efficiently food is metabolized.

IMPROVE YOUR MOOD
There might be more to that ‘gut feeling’ we get. ‘There’s evidence that some bacteria residing in the gut can affect the brain and your emotional state,’ says McCoy. Researchers are working to unlock the gut-brain connection and believe that the micro­biome could hold the answer to a number of mental health conditions. ‘Researchers are finding that changes in the microbiota might be linked to gastrointestinal abnormalities, including anxiety, depr­es­sion, autism and hyperactivity. And there are also studies focusing on the pathway between the gut and several neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,’ says McCoy.

4 WAYS TO SUPPORT YOUR MICROBIOME

1. Feed your microbiome 
One of the best—and easiest—ways to positively impact the gut is through diet. Start by increasing your fibre intake, found in grains, fruit and vegetables. Aim for 25 grams of fibre a day. Avoid high-fat and high-sugar diets, as they promote an unhealthy environment. Instead, eat foods that are full of variety, and include an abundance of fresh produce.

2. Fuel it with fermented foods
Populate the gut with good bacteria by filling up on foods with live and active cultures, such as kefir and some yogurts, and raw, unpasteurized fermented foods, such as kimchi, pickled vegetables and sauerkraut. Support digestive health and nourish the gut lining to more efficiently absorb nutrients by adding a scoop of a fermented yogurt protein powder to your morning smoothie.

3. Pop a probiotic 
‘Although our bodies have bacteria, environmental chemicals, poor nutrition, stress and medication easily affect their diversity. Choose a probiotic with 50 to 100 billion active bact­e­ria,’ says Toronto-based naturopathic doctor Sara Celik. We like a probiotic that’s jam-packed with 50 billion active cultures from 10 strains of bacteria, which is ideal for strengthening the immune system.

4. Monitor antibiotic use
Avoid the overuse of antibiotics, which can reduce the number of bacteria in your gut and break down its ability to resist infection from bad bacteria. ‘They’re drugs that don’t discriminate and kill all forms of bacteria—both good and bad—and can adversely alter the composition of your entire gut flora, which, we believe, is contributing to a host of chronic diseases,’ warns McCoy.

BY: GRACE TOBY         OCT 19, 2017 


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9 Reasons to Love Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut—fermented cabbage—isn’t just for hot dogs anymore. In addition to its deliciously tart taste, exciting research showcases the many health benefits of eating sauerkraut (with live cultures) on a regular basis. Here are some of the best reasons to love sauerkraut:

1. Anti-Fungal Properties: What if I told you that sauerkraut contains beneficial bacteria that are miniature anti-fungal manufacturing facilities? It sounds more like science fiction than science fact but it is true. Some of the probiotics in sauerkraut produce compounds to kill some species of Candida fungi, which are frequently involved in vaginal or intestinal infections. Published in the Journal de Mycologie Medicale, scientists found that the probiotics actually produced anti-fungal compounds to kill Candida—a common cause of vaginal or intestinal infections.

2. Boosts Athletic Performance: According to research published in Current Sports Medicine Reports, scientists found numerous sports-performance benefits of eating probiotic-rich foods, including reducing allergic conditions and enhancing recovery from fatigue, as well as improving immune function.

3. Helps Heal the Heart: Naturally-fermented foods like sauerkraut have been shown to boost levels of superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase, which are powerful antioxidants that protect the heart against cellular damage from free radicals.

4. Anti-Cancer Benefits: Scientists at the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, found that regularly eating fermented cabbage can help to regulate estrogen levels. Excess levels of estrogen have been linked with the development of estrogen-dependent breast cancers.

sauerkraut

5. Regulates Hormones: Because sauerkraut can help reduce excessive levels of estrogen, it may be helpful with the treatment of many other hormonally-linked health concerns, including: menstrual difficulties and mood imbalances.

6. Prevents of Food Poisoning: Research shows that probiotics found in sauerkraut demonstrate antibacterial activity against harmful bacteria, including Salmonella and Shigella. Salmonella can cause food poisoning. Shigella are similar bacteria that also cause diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps.

7. Anti-Viral Properties: Sauerkraut frequently contains the beneficial bacteria L. plantarum which has been found to have anti-viral effects. This makes sauerkraut a potential functional food in the treatment of colds, flu and chronic fatigue syndrome.

8. Gives Your Gut a Boost: With so many beneficial bacteria found in sauerkraut, enjoying it on a regular basis is a great way to boost the health of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

9. Great Taste and Versatility: Sauerkraut is delicious on its own, on top of your favorite vegan or turkey hot dog, on a black bean burger, or as a side dish to accompany just about any type of meal.

Unfortunately, most commercially-sold sauerkraut doesn’t contain any beneficial probiotics. Many commercial sauerkraut manufacturers have taken shortcuts in the making of sauerkraut to increase their profits. Instead of waiting for natural fermentation to occur, many instead employ an artificial pickling-type process using white vinegar which doesn’t contain any probiotics.

Those companies that stay true to natural processes still frequently pasteurize their sauerkraut so it can remain on grocery store shelves for longer periods. This pasteurization or heating process during bottling kills any live cultures that are needed for the health benefits of sauerkraut. Choose only sauerkraut with live cultures found in the refrigerator section of your health food or grocery store. Better yet, it is easy to make your own at home.

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook     February 24, 2016     Follow Michelle at @mschoffrocook

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is a registered nutritionist and international best-selling and 19-time published book author whose works include: The Probiotic Promise: Simple Steps to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out.


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Can What You Eat Affect Your Mental Health?

What’s for dinner? The question is popping up in an unexpected place – the psychiatrist’s office.

More research is finding that a nutritious diet isn’t just good for the body; it’s great for the brain, too. The knowledge is giving rise to a concept called “nutritional (or food) psychiatry.”

“Traditionally, we haven’t been trained to ask about food and nutrition,” says psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, MD, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University. “But diet is potentially the most powerful intervention we have. By helping people shape their diets, we can improve their mental health and decrease their risk of psychiatric disorders.”

Nearly 1 in 4 Americans have some type of mental illness each year. The CDC says that by 2020, depression will rank as the second leading cause of disability, after heart disease.

It’s not just a problem for adults. Half of all long-term mental disorders start by age 14. Today, childhood mental illness affects more than 17 million kids in the U.S.

Recent studies have shown “the risk of depression increases about 80% when you compare teens with the lowest-quality diet, or what we call the Western diet, to those who eat a higher-quality, whole-foods diet. The risk of attention-deficit disorder (ADD) doubles,” Ramsey says.

A Growing Idea

Just 5 years ago, the idea of nutritional psychiatry barely registered a blip on the health care radar. There had been a few studies examining how certain supplements (like omega-3 fatty acids) might balance mood. Solid, consistent data appeared to be lacking, though.

But experts say many well-conducted studies have since been published worldwide regarding a link between diet quality and common mental disorders – depression and anxiety – in both kids and adults.

“A very large body of evidence now exists that suggests diet is as important to mental health as it is to physical health,” says Felice Jacka, president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research. “A healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety.”

There is also interest in the possible role food allergies may play in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, she says.

But nearly all research involving eating habits and mental health has focused more on depression and anxiety. And there’s no direct evidence yet that diet can improve depression or any other mental disorder, although a trial to determine this is now underway.

Experts caution that while diet can be part of a treatment plan, it shouldn’t be considered a substitute for medication and other treatments.

Here’s what they do know about how diet may play a role in mental health. What you eat affects how your immune system works, how your genes work, and how your body responds to stress.

3 Ways Diet Impacts Your Mental Health

Here are some more details on how good nutrition impacts brain health:

1. It’s crucial for brain development.

“We are, quite literally, what we eat,” says Roxanne Sukol, MD, preventive medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. “When we eat real food that nourishes us, it becomes the protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue, and neurotransmitters that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body.”

2. It puts the brain into grow mode.

Certain nutrients and dietary patterns are linked to changes in a brain protein that helps increase connections between brain cells. A diet rich in nutrients like omega-3s and zinc boosts levels of this substance.

On the other hand, “a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars has a very potent negative impact on brain proteins,” Jacka says.

3. It fills the gut with healthy bacteria.

And that’s good for the brain. Trillions of good bacteria live in the gut. They fend off bad germs and keep your immune system in check, which means they help tame inflammation in the body. Some gut germs even help make brain-powering B vitamins.

Foods with beneficial bacteria (probiotics) help maintain a healthy gut environment, or “biome.” “A healthier microbiome is going to decrease inflammation, which affects mood and cognition,” Ramsey says.

A high-fat or high-sugar diet is bad for gut health and, therefore, your brain. Some research hints that a high-sugar diet worsens schizophrenia symptoms, too.

fruit_vs_junkfood

This Is Your Brain On … Kefir?

Certain foods may play a role in the cause of mental disorders, or they may make symptoms worse. A nutritious brain diet follows the same logic as a heart healthy regimen or weight control plan. You want to limit sugary and high-fat processed foods, and opt for plant foods like fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Swap butter for healthy fats like olive oil, too. In other words, try a Mediterranean diet.

It’s “an ideal diet for physical and mental health,” Jacka says. Recent results from a large trial in Europe show that such an eating plan may also help prevent, and not just treat, depression.

The key is to choose foods that pack as many nutrients in as few calories as possible. Nutrients might be particularly helpful for treating or preventing mental illness are:

  • B vitamins. People with low B12 levels have more brain inflammation and higher rates of depression and dementia. Falling short on folate has long been linked to low moods.
  • Iron. Too little iron in the blood (iron-deficiency anemia) has been linked to depression.
  • Omega-3s. These healthy fatty acids improve thinking and memory and, possibly, mood.
  • Zinc. This nutrient helps control the body’s response to stress. Low levels can cause depression. A great source is oysters, which pack 500% of your daily need of zinc but have just 10 calories apiece, Ramsey says. Mussels, which are rich in brain-healthy selenium, are also a good choice.

Also, fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt with live active cultures, which provide good gut bacteria, may help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel provide omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium and other brain boosters. And dark chocolate has antioxidants, which increase blood flow to the brain, aiding mood and memory.

Unfortunately, the Western diet is “extremely low” in these nutrients, Ramsey says. He’s working on a new tool called the Brain Food Scale, to be published later this year. It will provide a quick look at the nutrient-to-calorie relationship.

Does Diet Replace Medicine?

You should always talk to your doctor before stopping or taking less of any medication you’re on.

“No matter where you are on the spectrum of mental health, food is an essential part of your treatment plan,” Ramsey says. “If you are on medications, they are going to work better if you are eating a brain-healthy diet of nutrient-dense foods.”

Ramsey recommends that you talk to your doctor about what you should eat — not just what you shouldn’t. He hopes that one day a simple 5-minute food assessment will become part of every psychiatric evaluation.

Nutritionists like the idea.

“More psychiatrists need to recognize the nutrition-mental health connection,” says Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, who is registered by the International Organization of Nutritional Consultants. “We can have so much power over our mental health using food and nutrients.”

Article Sources:
Felice Jacka, president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry (ISNPR) and Associate Professor at Deakin University, Australia.
Drew Ramsey, MD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, inventor of the Brain Food Scale, and co-founder of National Kale Day.
Roxanne Sukol, MD, preventive medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute.
Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, ROHP, registered nutritionist and author of The Probiotic Promise.
Sarris J. The Lancet Psychiatry, May 2015.
Logan AC. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, July 24, 2014.
CDC website: “Mental Health Basics.”
National Alliance on Mental Illness: “Mental Illness Facts and Numbers.”
Gomez-Pinilla F. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, November 2013.
University of Utah Health Sciences website: “The Human Biome.”
Sánchez-Villegas A. BMC Medicine, 2013. 
Sánchez-Villegas A. Nutritional Neuroscience, 2011. 
Genetics Home Reference website: “BDNF.”
Nehlig A. British Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Feb. 5, 2013.
News release, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
Jacka F. PLOS One, Sept. 21, 2011.
Lakhan S. Nutrition Journal, 2008.
Young S. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience. March 2007. 
Peet M. British Journal of Psychiatry, 2004.
Ramsey D, Muskin P. Current Psychiatry, January 2013.
Bourre J. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, Nov. 5, 2006. 
Selhub E. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, Jan. 15, 2014.

By Kelli Miller    WebMD Health News Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD   Aug. 20, 2015

source: WebMD


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Can What You Eat Affect Your Mental Health?

By Kelli Miller    WebMD Health News     Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

Aug. 20, 2015 – What’s for dinner? The question is popping up in an unexpected place – the psychiatrist’s office.

More research is finding that a nutritious diet isn’t just good for the body; it’s great for the brain, too. The knowledge is giving rise to a concept called “nutritional (or food) psychiatry.”

“Traditionally, we haven’t been trained to ask about food and nutrition,” says psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, MD, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University. “But diet is potentially the most powerful intervention we have. By helping people shape their diets, we can improve their mental health and decrease their risk of psychiatric disorders.”

Nearly 1 in 4 Americans have some type of mental illness each year. The CDC says that by 2020, depression will rank as the second leading cause of disability, after heart disease.

It’s not just a problem for adults. Half of all long-term mental disorders start by age 14. Today, childhood mental illness affects more than 17 million kids in the U.S.

Recent studies have shown “the risk of depression increases about 80% when you compare teens with the lowest-quality diet, or what we call the Western diet, to those who eat a higher-quality, whole-foods diet. The risk of attention-deficit disorder (ADD) doubles,” Ramsey says.

A Growing Idea

Just 5 years ago, the idea of nutritional psychiatry barely registered a blip on the health care radar. There had been a few studies examining how certain supplements (like omega-3 fatty acids) might balance mood. Solid, consistent data appeared to be lacking, though.

But experts say many well-conducted studies have since been published worldwide regarding a link between diet quality and common mental disorders – depression and anxiety – in both kids and adults.

“A very large body of evidence now exists that suggests diet is as important to mental health as it is to physical health,” says Felice Jacka, president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research. “A healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety.”

There is also interest in the possible role food allergies may play in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, she says.

But nearly all research involving eating habits and mental health has focused more on depression and anxiety. And there’s no direct evidence yet that diet can improve depression or any other mental disorder, although a trial to determine this is now underway.

Experts caution that while diet can be part of a treatment plan, it shouldn’t be considered a substitute for medication and other treatments.

Here’s what they do know about how diet may play a role in mental health. What you eat affects how your immune system works, how your genes work, and how your body responds to stress.

3 Ways Diet Impacts Your Mental Health

Here are some more details on how good nutrition impacts brain health:

1. It’s crucial for brain development.

“We are, quite literally, what we eat,” says Roxanne Sukol, MD, preventive medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. “When we eat real food that nourishes us, it becomes the protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue, and neurotransmitters that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body.”

2. It puts the brain into grow mode.

Certain nutrients and dietary patterns are linked to changes in a brain protein that helps increase connections between brain cells. A diet rich in nutrients like omega-3s and zinc boosts levels of this substance.

On the other hand, “a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars has a very potent negative impact on brain proteins,” Jacka says.

Brain-Food

3. It fills the gut with healthy bacteria.

And that’s good for the brain. Trillions of good bacteria live in the gut. They fend off bad germs and keep your immune system in check, which means they help tame inflammation in the body. Some gut germs even help make brain-powering B vitamins.

Foods with beneficial bacteria (probiotics) help maintain a healthy gut environment, or “biome.” “A healthier microbiome is going to decrease inflammation, which affects mood and cognition,” Ramsey says.

A high-fat or high-sugar diet is bad for gut health and, therefore, your brain. Some research hints that a high-sugar diet worsens schizophrenia symptoms, too.

This Is Your Brain On … Kefir?

Certain foods may play a role in the cause of mental disorders, or they may make symptoms worse. A nutritious brain diet follows the same logic as a heart healthy regimen or weight control plan. You want to limit sugary and high-fat processed foods, and opt for plant foods like fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Swap butter for healthy fats like olive oil, too. In other words, try a Mediterranean diet.

It’s “an ideal diet for physical and mental health,” Jacka says. Recent results from a large trial in Europe show that such an eating plan may also help prevent, and not just treat, depression.

The key is to choose foods that pack as many nutrients in as few calories as possible. Nutrients might be particularly helpful for treating or preventing mental illness are:

  • B vitamins. People with low B12 levels have more brain inflammation and higher rates of depression and dementia. Falling short on folate has long been linked to low moods.
  • Iron. Too little iron in the blood (iron-deficiency anemia) has been linked to depression.
  • Omega-3s. These healthy fatty acids improve thinking and memory and, possibly, mood.
  • Zinc. This nutrient helps control the body’s response to stress. Low levels can cause depression. A great source is oysters, which pack 500% of your daily need of zinc but have just 10 calories apiece, Ramsey says. Mussels, which are rich in brain-healthy selenium, are also a good choice.

Also, fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt with live active cultures, which provide good gut bacteria, may help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel provide omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium and other brain boosters. And dark chocolate has antioxidants, which increase blood flow to the brain, aiding mood and memory.

Unfortunately, the Western diet is “extremely low” in these nutrients, Ramsey says. He’s working on a new tool called the Brain Food Scale, to be published later this year. It will provide a quick look at the nutrient-to-calorie relationship.

Does Diet Replace Medicine?

You should always talk to your doctor before stopping or taking less of any medication you’re on.

“No matter where you are on the spectrum of mental health, food is an essential part of your treatment plan,” Ramsey says. “If you are on medications, they are going to work better if you are eating a brain-healthy diet of nutrient-dense foods.”

Ramsey recommends that you talk to your doctor about what you should eat — not just what you shouldn’t. He hopes that one day a simple 5-minute food assessment will become part of every psychiatric evaluation.

Nutritionists like the idea.

“More psychiatrists need to recognize the nutrition-mental health connection,” says Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, who is registered by the International Organization of Nutritional Consultants. “We can have so much power over our mental health using food and nutrients.”

SOURCES:
Felice Jacka, president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry (ISNPR) and Associate Professor at Deakin University, Australia.
Drew Ramsey, MD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, inventor of the Brain Food Scale, and co-founder of National Kale Day.
Roxanne Sukol, MD, preventive medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute.
Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, ROHP, registered nutritionist and author of The Probiotic Promise.
Sarris J. The Lancet Psychiatry, May 2015.
Logan AC. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, July 24, 2014.
CDC website: “Mental Health Basics.”
National Alliance on Mental Illness: “Mental Illness Facts and Numbers.”
Gomez-Pinilla F. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, November 2013.
University of Utah Health Sciences website: “The Human Biome.”
Sánchez-Villegas A. BMC Medicine, 2013. 
Sánchez-Villegas A. Nutritional Neuroscience, 2011. 
Genetics Home Reference website: “BDNF.”
Nehlig A. British Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Feb. 5, 2013.
News release, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
Jacka F. PLOS One, Sept. 21, 2011.
Lakhan S. Nutrition Journal, 2008.
Young S. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience. March 2007. 
Peet M. British Journal of Psychiatry, 2004.
Ramsey D, Muskin P. Current Psychiatry, January 2013.
Bourre J. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, Nov. 5, 2006. 
Selhub E. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, Jan. 15, 2014.

source: WebMD


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Foods That Double as Medicine

By Ben Smart, Special to CNN    Thu July 23, 2015

(CNN)A typical visit to the doctor might leave you with a bottle of pills and instructions to take them twice daily.

But a small, growing number of physicians are “prescribing” foods not only for weight management, but also to prevent and treat chronic diseases.

CNN spoke with medical nutrition experts to unearth the specific foods they recommend. And you don’t have to be a chef or nutritionist to take advantage of these healthy choices.

While one food might be recommended as treatment for a specific ailment, it’s important to remember that a single food item doesn’t work in isolation, said Dr. Melina Jampolis, a board-certified physician nutrition specialist.

“True nutrition experts prefer to speak about dietary patterns or groups of foods, as nutrients in foods work in combination to improve certain conditions,” Jampolis said.

However, there are notable exceptions to this rule, said Dr. John La Puma, a practicing physician and professionally trained chef. Here are 10 you may want to stock your kitchen with before reaching in the medicine cabinet.

Buckwheat honey for a cough

Derived from the bee nectar of flowers of the buckwheat grain, buckwheat honey might eventually make its way into every parent’s medicine cabinet.

“Buckwheat honey is better than cough syrup for nocturnal cough in kids,” according to La Puma. This is an especially useful food-as-medicine for children under 6, who are ill-advised to take over-the-counter cough medicines.

“Foods can work like medicine in the body — and they do,” said La Puma.

Pickled foods for diarrhea

Fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, pickled vegetables, miso, kimchi and poi. These foods contain living bacteria that help maintain the health of the digestive tract, said Dr. Gerard Mullin, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and author of “The Gut Balance Revolution.”

These bacteria-filled foods can be used to prevent and treat antibiotic-associated diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, infantile diarrhea, eczema and allergies, according to Mullin. “But the hottest use of fermented foods is to burn stubborn fat,” Mullin said.

A study from 2012 that reviewed data from 82 clinical trials found probiotic foods were indeed effective at treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea. However, the data for using probiotics as a treatment for eczema are mixed. Some research found supporting evidence while other studies did not.

Ginger for menstrual cramps

Ginger is a pungent spice originating from Southeast Asia. “As a digestive disease specialist I frequently recommend the spice ginger in the form of tea for nausea and abdominal discomfort,” said Mullin.

Ginger could also be a helpful food-as-medicine for women. “Ginger probably works as well as ibuprofen for menstrual cramps. It works taken as a ginger capsule or chewed,” said La Puma.

One scientific review of seven clinical trials found that 750 to 2000 milligrams of ginger powder taken during the first four days of menstrual cycle was an effective treatment for cramps.

Peppermint

Peppermint for IBS

Think beyond candy canes and chewing gum. Peppermint is also found in supplement, essential oil and tea forms. When used medicinally, peppermint is prescribed to help treat abdominal cramping and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

“What I find interesting about peppermint is that when compared to the various medical therapies for IBS, peppermint is the most effective and the least toxic,” Mullin told CNN.

Peppermint oil is effective — and could be the first line of treatment — against irritable bowel syndrome, according to a 2005 scientific review of 16 clinical trials.

Hibiscus tea for high blood pressure

“Hibiscus tea has a greater anti-hypertensive effect than blueberries,” said La Puma. Infused as an herbal tea, hibiscus flowers contain anthocyanins, which could help to lower blood pressure.

The steeples of the flower are dried and made into a tea drink, which has a tart cranberry taste, La Puma said.

Multiple studies back up the blood-pressure-lowering abilities of hibiscus, including one published in the Nigerian Journal of Physiological Sciences.

Turmeric for arthritis

Native to southwest India, turmeric has a warm, bitter flavor. Used medicinally, Jampolis recommends turmeric to help treat inflammatory conditions.

“Turmeric is used especially for brain-related conditions and to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It can be also be used for arthritis,” said Jampolis.

Add black pepper to turmeric to maximize the disease-fighting benefits. “This helps your body absorb more of the curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric that delivers the positive health effects,” said La Puma.

Indeed, an article published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology explains the various disease-fighting benefits of turmeric.

Chia seeds for high cholesterol

Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are nutrient-dense and often labeled as a “superfood.”

Dr. Jampolis said she recommends them to patients with high LDL cholesterol as a bonus to other healthy food choices. “I can actually say that I’ve seen great results just adding chia seeds to an already healthy diet for lowering cholesterol,” said Jampolis.

Steel-cut oatmeal for high LDL cholesterol

“This is a no-brainer for lowering LDL if you haven’t tried anything else,” said La Puma. “There are lots of studies showing that foods high in soluble fiber lower LDL cholesterol.”

One such study found that eating at least 3 grams of oats daily is associated with lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Try mixing in a spoonful of chia seeds to maximize the cholesterol-lowering impact.

Beans for high blood sugar levels

Beans are useful in lowering blood sugar levels and managing high cholesterol, according to Jampolis. And because they’re loaded with fiber, beans can help induce that “full” feeling to help with weight loss.

“I have certainly seen improvements in blood sugar with encouraging more fiber-rich foods like beans that are also rich in magnesium, but it is harder to isolate that effect alone,” said Jampolis.

Salmon for inflamation

With its pink-orange hue and distinct smell, salmon is one of the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats are an important part of treating any inflammatory or autoimmune condition, according to Dr. Jampolis.

Jampolis also recommends salmon to those dealing with high triglyceride levels, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or MS.

“I think most people think food can’t possibly be as potent as drugs, but I see the powerful direct benefits all the time,” said Jampolis.

source: www.cnn.com