Disclaimer: none of the information provided on this website is intended to diagnose, treat or cure any mental or physical health conditions. Resources are provided for information only. Be sure to speak to your health provider before making any significant changes to your diet, particularly if you have any pre-diagnosed health conditions.
I know that the advice on how and what to eat is endless - and when you are feeling low, stressed or burnt out it can be incredibly difficult to put any of that into practice. So below are three simple principles that you can put into practice to support your blood sugar, regulate inflammation and nourish your gut (read my article on 'Why food matters when it comes to mental health' to learn more about why these things are important).
Fibre helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome, slows down glucose absorption (helping with your blood sugar) and has been associated with a number of health benefits.
You can increase your fibre intake by eating more whole vegetables and fruits (with their skin!), whole-grains and other foods such as beans and legumes.
Here are some tips to do this:
make my easy grated carrot salad and keep a big jar of it stocked in your fridge to add to your meals
snack on apple slices with cinnamon and nut butter
choose brown rice, brown pasta, brown bread over the more processed ‘white’ versions
eat oats with chia seeds for breakfast (soak the oats and seeds in water over night to help with digestion)
buy frozen vegetable mixes (preferably organic) and simply heat by boiling or braising with a little salt and olive oil or ghee and serve as a side to your normal meals
try and add at least one fruit or vegetable to each meal
Note: I would recommend that you increase your fibre intake slowly. If you don’t yet have enough helpful gut bacteria your digestive system might be overwhelmed while it adjusts. This can cause uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation of diarrhoea.
You will also need to make sure you are drinking plenty of water to avoid constipation.
Probiotic foods and supplements:
Supporting a healthy gut microbiome can help regulate inflammation, blood sugar and neurotransmitter balance. Particular strains of probiotics that have been identified as helpful in scientific research are:
Bifidobacterium Longum 35624  – increased plasma Tryptophan, one of the building blocks of Serotonin, a neurotransmitter which has been associated with depression
Bifidobacterium Longum 1714  – reduced cortisol levels and subjective stress after 4 weeks in a small sample
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus HN001  – reduced likelihood of depression and anxiety symptoms in postpartum women
Probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented live yoghurt (make sure this is natural, not flavoured), kombucha, kefir and any ‘live’ pickled foods. You will need to make sure these foods are not pasteurised, as this would have ‘killed’ all the bacteria normally present.
Note: Start incorporating such foods into your diet slowly, to allow your digestive system to adjust. Perhaps try adding a tsp or a tbsp of fermented foods a day to start with and then slowly increase the amount.
Increasing your intake of food sources of omega-3 (such as oily fish, certain seafood and free-range, pasture raised eggs*) may be beneficial in terms of helping your body regulate inflammation. If you are vegan or vegetarian you can consider an algal supplement, which provides the form of omega-3 your body is most able to use. It is worth speaking to a nutritional therapist or qualified professional about which supplements are likely to be best for your body.
I would be cautious about using fish oil supplements, simply because there is some lack of clarity about their effectiveness . I also always think ‘food first’, which means if you are able to eat oily fish and free-range eggs I would recommend you do so.
*In this case it is more important that the chicken are fed a free-range diet rather than them being organically fed as organic food may mean a corn diet. This is likely to increase the level of omega-6 in the eggs . If the chicken are organic and free-range then all the better!
Some tips for eating more oily fish:
try wholegrain (sourdough) toast with some smoked mackerel and avocado
try wholegrain (sourdough) toast with tinned mackerel
buy tinned sardines in olive oil and blend them with a big handful of olives and parsley to make an olive and sardine tapenade that you can use as a dip, baked potato filling or spread
make my buckwheat gallettes and serve with smoked salmon, baby spinach or watercress and a poached egg
Here is a helpful 'food pyramid' developed in a study on diet and mental health (Dinan et al. (2018)), which shows which foods you should ideally be eating the most often:
If you are struggling with depression, burn out or low mood I would always recommend that you see a trained health professional to support you. If you live in the UK then the NHS provides free therapy. Speak to your GP or google ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ in your area. If you would like support in making changes to your diet and lifestyle for optimum wellbeing then why not have a look at the therapy packages that I offer by clicking here. Please note these are only available from early 2020. You can find other nutritional therapists here.
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