Therapeutic lifestyle changes to better mental health #1: Nutrition

Updated: Jul 17

What we consume has a huge impact on our energy, mood, self image, libido and of course our mental health. The costs of low energy levels alone are often:

(1) feelings of dissatisfaction,

(2) unmet relationship needs,

(3) and less desire to get out and socialise, exercise, etc, etc.


Here are some of the costs of consistently consuming inflammatory foods:

(1) increased chance of ill mental health,

(2) and chronic low-grade inflammation in the body, which can contribute to serious diagnosable conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and allergies.


Quick and easy ways to enhance mental health through what we put in our body


Consume More Water:

Why increase water intake?

We are around 65% water, so a level of hydration just one percent below optimal can affect our mood, make it more difficult to concentrate, produce a headache and reduce energy levels. Increasing our water intake does so much to our health and mental health.


How much water?

  • Divide your body weight (in pounds) by two and that's how many ounces of water you need to drink per day to support thriving. Then add another 8 ounces for every 30 minutes of exercise.

  • Ex - 100 pound female. Needs to drink 50 ounces of (quality, not tap) water every day without exercise. On a day when she works out work 60 minutes she'll add 16 ounces for a total of 66 ounces daily.


AVOID UNFILTERED TAP WATER.

  • Tap water has been cleaned with chlorine + added fluoride (see here, here & here for more info). I'd rather keep that stuff out of my body.

  • The ideal is spring water or properly filtered water (such as from a Berkey).

  • Check out this podcast for details on additional water filtration systems, all of the pollutants in tap water today (pharmaceutical drugs, heavy metals, fluoride, chlorine, other manmade chemicals, etc) and how this can add to the toxic load in the human body over time.

  • After a few weeks of only consuming quality filtered water when you go back to regular tap water you can taste the difference. You won't want to go back.

PS: Avoid guzzling liquid around meals as it dilutes stomach acid and makes it more likely for us to experience symptoms such as bloating, gas and acid reflux from indigested, fermenting food.


Avoid Inflammatory Oils:

Avoid oxidised, highly inflammatory oils such as canola, safflower oil, palm oil, cotton seed, sunflower, soy oils and other vegetable oils at all costs. Not only do these oils diminish brain function and cause weight gain but they are highly inflammatory causing oxidative stress, speeding up ageing and increasing chronic low-grade inflammation which can lead to disease.


Unfortunately these oils are found everywhere but are most commonly found in potato chips, fried foods, fatty sauces such as mayonnaise, restaurant foods and home cooking oils.


Read labels and ingredients to watch out for these is a must as they sneak them into so many unsuspecting foods.


Here is a great article by Dr Mark Hyman discussing fats and oils further.


Avoid or Reduce Sugar Intake:

Too much sugar creates large ups and downs in our energy levels, spikes in our moods, an increase in hunger, inflammation and oxidative stress. Too much sugar can also contribute to obesity, breast cancer, arthritic, insulin resistance, increased gut permeability and low-grade inflammation.


Tip: If you know you're going to have some sugar then get some exercise in before hand. Exercise primes the body to soak up the sugar, burning it up and shuttling it into the muscles (instead of the liver and fat cells). It also helps avoid a sugar crash later in the day.


Optimize Caffeine Intake:

Many studies have demonstrated that caffeine leads to enhanced cognitive performance. It is often cited for its positive effects on mental alertness, reduces response times, improves athletic performance and in the form of coffee having many positive health benefits.


But, caffeine affects everyone differently. Some people may handle a coffee or two each day and feel great but if a person is suffering from anxiety it's a good idea to take the added stress of caffeine off the adrenal glands and central nervous system.


A common cause of major anxiety in people is a mix of stress and negative thought loops. Adding any extra sympathetic nervous system stimulation (coffee and other stimulants) to this is only likely to exacerbate the issue.


I have found it a good idea to cut down my coffee to a small cup or ideally to zero and instead adding in calming foods full of magnesium and potassium, omega 3's, selenium, l-tryptophan and l-theanine. You can get these from foods like banana's, quality chocolate, wild salmon, green tea, brazil nuts and quality protein sources.


If suffering from frequent bouts of depression you may also find a positive difference when you reduce your intake to a single cup or less per day, along with balancing your blood sugar levels to help stabilise moods. While continuing to work with your mental health practitioner.


If you find you are sensitive to caffeine but still want it then I suggest having it with a meal consisting of fats (this slows the release of the caffeine) and supplementing with l-theanine an amino acid naturally found in green tea that helps us extract the energy and focus benefits from caffeine without the jitters.


If you do opt for caffeine I would suggest sticking to the coffee kind if you want all the anti-ageing, heart health and other benefits that come from consuming polyphenols.


What's the best way to fuel your body?

There are many great ways to eat to live a healthy, energetic life: the Mediterranean diet seems to be one of the best out there (see studies here and here).


But the truth is there isn't a "perfect diet" for everyone, all the time because we are all very different people, in different stages of life, with different needs, activity levels and goals, etc.


For the average person who has no food sensitivities wanting to improve their mental health and health overall the following will likely be beneficial: make up 80-90% of your meals from a balanced mix of high quality eggs, poultry, meats, wild salmon, sweet potatoes, avocados, other rich coloured and green leafy vegetables, berries, organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, organic cold pressed coconut oil, and grass fed butter or ghee.


Go for organic fruits & veg, organic grass fed, grass finished meats, organic pasture raised poultry & eggs as often as you can to avoid putting any unnecessary added stress to the body via pesticides and other toxic chemicals.


Ultimately, if you feel vibrant, energetic, joyful, clear minded, at a healthy weight and have good digestion then you are likely on point with whatever you are eating for your unique body.


I encourage you to continue to educate yourself a little each week and play around with different ways of fuelling your body and brain until you feel consistently great.


Doing all of this and still having trouble with your health?

Get tested (specifically your gut)


If you intuitively feel there is still something off and you can't figure it out, I'd consider looking into functional medicine lab testing (particularly to investigate the status of your gut health)


To get to the true root cause of your imbalances. So many people (unknowingly) have parasites, h-pylori and Candida (among other things) living off of their insides. These bugs can contribute to a host of symptoms, imbalances and diagnosable conditions down the road. But without pursuing testing many people suffer for years without answers.


My wife Jen is a functional medicine practitioner and she runs these tests with her clients on a weekly basis. I was painfully reluctant to run these tests on myself, but finally I agreed to go ahead with it...


To my surprise I ended up having a parasite and an overgrowth of H pylori in my gut.


Getting rid of these has been life changing for my physical and mental health - no more bloating, I've had a huge decrease in cravings, I stopped chewing my nails (this was the weirdest one for me),


I have since had a massive increase in my energy levels, mental clarity and my emotions are much more stable (less ups and downs).


I wish I had done it earlier!


Important things to remember:


Make the process enjoyable: Loving your food and day to day life is what makes it sustainable.


To make true transformations you must truly transform the way you live. Your lifestyle.


Remember that changing your lifestyle requires consistency.


Sustainability is the key too consistency, and consistency is the key to a permanent lifestyle change.


Remember that this is a long game.


Be patient with yourself and aim to improve 1% each day.


Choose long term mastery over a short term "quick fix" juice fast, etc.


Think about where you want to be in 5 years and slowly work towards that lifestyle change.


In a few years you'll be healthier, sexier and most importantly happier than ever.


Enjoy the journey.

Luke


#bettermentalhealth #lifestylechanges #nutrition

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