In addition to exercise, healthy eating habits can also play a key role in our mental health. The term “you are what you eat” comes into play here. What we put into our body can either positively serve us or it can negatively impact us. Utilizing food as fuel can be one of the easiest ways for us to “bio-hack.” For those not familiar with the term bio-hacking, it can also be referred to as “do it yourself biology.” The idea behind bio-hacking is making small changes to your lifestyle in order to positively benefit your health and well-being. This can be something as simple as shifting around the timing of your meals or when you drink water, or taking a cold shower or hot bath. In this case, the. Bio-hack is making the most out of your diet in order to benefit the health of your mind.
In the last few years there has been substantial evidence in the connection of our gut health to the health of our mind. This has been termed the “gut-brain connection.” The healthier our guts, the healthier our brains. This connection can be explained by the fact that the gut is responsible for helping to produce serotonin. As we talked about above, serotonin is one of the “feel good” chemicals. An increase in serotonin leads to an increase in mood and a decrease in stress in the body. It is for this same reason that extensive findings have come out on the benefits of anti-inflammatory diets. The less inflammation that gets into the body, the less bad-bacteria gets into the gut, and the more nutrients we are able to absorb. As you might guess, the more nutrients we are able to absorb, the more efficient and “fueled” all our systems can be. The better our brains function, the better we feel overall.
Choosing a diet style can be rather overwhelming these days. The important thing to remember is that it is very personalized based on your individualized needs. Every body processes foods differently. The best way to go about finding your optimal diet is through your own experimentation. I encourage you to do some research on foods that are considered to be “anti-inflammatory” and “gut-friendly.”
When experimenting, the key thing to recognize is how certain foods make you feel. Do you feel more energized, or do you feel more on edge? Does your brain feel sharper, or does it feel foggy? For example, take sugar. We know sugar has addictive properties. This is why one piece of Halloween candy can quickly become half a bag of Halloween candy. Obviously we know too much sugar can lead to stomach aches. But what about the anxiety that comes along with a sugar overload? Sugar can very quickly have a “drug-like” impact on us. Racing heart, racing thoughts, trouble settling back down, etc. Those same side effects can be seen when we eat other high-inflammatory foods.
Whether we realize it or not, many of us actually have a number of foods we are intolerant to. Even if you are not full blown lactose intolerant, and even if you don’t actually have a diagnosis of Celiac’s disease- your body still very well may have difficulty processing dairy and gluten. When we intake foods that don’t agree with us, this automatically adds stress onto our bodies. This stress puts us into “fight or flight mode” which can, at times, manifest as a mood disturbance or mental health concern. This might look like feelings of panic, a foggy mind or lethargy and an overall depressed mood. While experimenting , it is helpful to eliminate foods or type’s of foods one at a time to take a better look at the impact each one has on your mood and well-being.
Following a clean diet consistently has been shown to improve individual’s overall mood, mental clarity, as well as helped with sleeping habits. The nice thing with a clean diet is that it isn’t restrictive, instead it encourages less processed foods and more fresh, whole foods. It encourages the individual to see what works for them and what their body can process well when making decisions about inclusivity in their diet plan.
Taking control over your diet and eating for fuel can also benefit mental health by providing you with a sense of accountability. Being accountable for what you put into your body can lead to positive self-esteem. Knowing that you made healthy choices and choices that are best for your body provides you with a feeling of satisfaction at the end of every day.
It is human nature to want to control. We know, however, that it is not always possible to control everything. There are some things that will always be out of our control no matter how hard we try. That’s the beauty of exercise and diet. Maintaining healthy exercise habits and eating a balanced diet are two things we will always have full control over. You choose how much movement you get daily and you choose what you put into your body to keep yourself fueled. The sooner you recognize this and utilize this to your advantage, the healthier you’ll be. You have one body, taking care of it is the ultimate form of self-care and self-respect. A healthy body also brings along with it freedom. A body that is able to participate in all life has to offer is an empowering thing.