Nutrition and Your Mental Health
We are what we eat! It’s just NOT all in your head!
“Those who think they have no time for healthy eating,
will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”
(modified from: Edward Stanley (1826-1893) from The Conduct of Life)
Many times when we speak of wellness and nutrition we only think of physical wellness. Physical wellness certainly is affected by what we eat and how we maintain our nutritional status but how does this then impact our mental health and wellbeing?
Wellness is a balance of physical, mental, spiritual, social and emotional elements in life and making positive choices in these areas. What we eat can, and will, affect our weight, increase or reduce the risk of chronic medical conditions present or future, determine our energy level - all of which may effect our self confidence, self esteem, and thus our mental health.
Our great American busy life styles have really added to the challenge of healthy nutrition. Many foods that are processed for quick eating are not always the healthiest due to high sugar or artificial sweeteners, salts, and fat. We also lack the fiber intake needed and many times will even totally eliminate the fruits and vegetables needed for fiber. I have also noted many restaurants in our area only offer one vegetable (other than french fries), if at all, and if that is not a challenge ….just try ordering fresh fruit with your meal!
Some health problems that may be connected to poor eating habits include, but are not limited to: obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hyperactivity in children, migraine headaches, constipation and skin conditions. There are some sources that actually report that if you increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you may also reduce the chance of getting cancer and make your immune system stronger.
Thus, one would surely anticipate mental health issues from the complications of these acute and chronic medical problems. Our mind is connected to our body so we cannot address the physical impact of nutrition choices without addressing the mental health affects. Like physical problems, mental health problems associated with poor nutrition may present quickly or over a long period of poor choices. If we become obese, for example, due to poor eating habits, this alone could effect our self confidence, self esteem and how, and if, we interact with others. Many obese people will admit isolating themselves and living with depression which they attribute to the weight problem. Of course, when anyone is diagnosed with a medical condition such as a stroke, high blood pressure, cardiac disease or other, this may then lead them into a world of depression, anxiety and other social issues related to mental health problems.
There are many resources available to address nutritional needs in order to maintain or improve your physical and mental health. Some individuals may be able to review nutritional literature and then begin preparing healthier meals. Some may just need to reduce their intake of junk and fast foods in between meals. Others may require more professional assistance such as utilizing services from a nutritionist or physician. In any event, all of us can improve our mental health by addressing our nutritional needs and taking care of our bodies.
More information on this topic can be found on the links below or by going to the internet and typing in “nutrition and health” or “nutrition and mental health”. You can also contact Kathleen Dunkelberger, the Wellness Nurse Educator for more information.
WHO.com (go to nutrition health page)
Kathleen Dunkelberger RNC,CLNC
CMSU Wellness Nurse Educator
Providing Services in Bloomsburg and Lewisburg
ICANTOO: Marylou Norton- 523-8018
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”