Welcome to our new series! Over the next few weeks we will be looking into the relationship between mental wellness and physical wellness.
Today’s post comes to us from Andrea Langston, a certified nutrition specialist from Thrive Nutrition and Wellness. She is here to talk about the relationship between what we eat and how we feel, both mentally and physically.
The Power of Food
The foods we eat every day have a profound effect on our health, impacting us physically, emotionally and mentally. Physically, food gives us the energy to carry out the tasks of our daily lives. Some foods provide us with a stable and long-lasting energy source and the ability to tackle all the day brings. Other foods give us quick bursts of energy that make us feel good for a short period of time and then cause us to crash soon after. This is based on a food’s effect on our blood sugar, which also impacts our moods and emotions. Keeping our blood sugar from spiking and crashing by lowering our sugar intake and balancing our meals with protein and fats can have a huge impact on our overall well-being, energy and emotional stability.
Foods can also impact us physically if we have intolerances to them. Food intolerances are not as extreme as allergies and do not cause acute immune responses, however they can still impact the way we feel – often in terms of digestive complaints, low energy, aches and pains, headaches, and skin manifestations. The physical effects of these intolerances can greatly influence our emotions and mental health, especially over time.
What we eat also contributes to the health of our microbiome – the population of bacteria that lives inside of our digestive tract. These bacteria influence our immune system, inflammation throughout our bodies, and general health. When we eat whole, natural foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and healthy protein sources, we are encouraging the beneficial bacteria in our body to thrive, preventing any “unfriendly” bacteria from reproducing to an unhealthy level and causing problems. A balanced, healthy microbiome is a key factor in overall health and its impact is only beginning to be uncovered and understood.
Additionally, foods provide nutrients that play vital and precise roles in our bodies and deficiencies in specific nutrients are not uncommon. Though most of us are getting plenty in terms of quantity of food, the quality of our diets is low. We are not regularly checked for vitamin or mineral deficiencies, but they are usually relatively easy to reverse and can have significant short and long-term impacts on our physical and mental health. Certain nutrients promote optimal brain function in general, including healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, walnuts and chia seeds. Deficiencies in B vitamins are often linked to mental health disorders, and even dehydration, a deficiency in the most basic human need, is increasingly common and can cause low energy, poor mood and more!
Lastly, there is a direct correlation between the foods we eat and our development of disease, both acute and chronic. Eating lots of colorful vegetables and fruits and focusing on whole foods can strengthen our immune system and enhance our ability to fend off short-term illnesses like the cold or flu. Even more significantly, diet can directly impact the development of some of the most common diseases in our country, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and cancer. Foods high in sugar, trans fats, and additives we cannot pronounce can cause inflammation in our bodies, which promotes disease and can also manifest as aches and pains, headaches, digestive issues, and more.
Some of the most basic, but impactful ways you can improve your nutrition right now are:
- Minimize the amount of food you eat that comes from a box, bag or restaurant. In general, these foods are high in sugar, preservatives, trans fat, and other additives that can negatively impact our health and take the place of more nutrient-dense foods.
- Eat more leafy greens! Speaking of nutrient-dense foods, the vast majority of us do not eat enough leafy green vegetables such as spinach, arugula, and yes, the ever-popular kale. These foods contain so many amazing nutrients and are very low in calories and high in fiber.
- Drink water. Focus on water as your beverage of choice to reset your taste buds and eliminate empty, sugar-based calories. The average person needs about half of their body weight in ounces of water per day. Are you getting enough?
- Listen to your body and learn. Are your food choices behind your lack of energy, aches and pains, digestive woes, mood swings, weight gain, and lack of quality sleep? The foods we eat can impact us in so many ways. Meeting with a qualified nutrition professional to assess your diet, symptoms and lifestyle habits can help you learn how to support yourself so you can feel your best and thrive!
More about Me
I work with people to develop personalized nutrition and wellness plans based on their unique individual and family health history, habits, lifestyle, symptoms, and food preferences. We work together to assess where you are, how your food and lifestyle choices are impacting the way you feel, and implement a “bite-by-bite” approach based on your needs.
As a health professional with celiac disease, I specialize in helping other with digestive disorders, autoimmune disease and food intolerances, but I also love helping people who are simply ready to make changes to feel their very best.
For more information, please don’t hesitate to call or email me. I provide free 15-minute consultations in-person or over the phone to see if nutrition consulting is right for you!
Andrea Langston, MS, CNS
Thrive Nutrition & Wellness
4575 Main Street, Suite 3
Amherst, NY 14226