Nutrition and your mental health

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May is Mental Health Awareness month and at no time has this been more significant with Canadians being profoundly affected by the restraints of COVID-19 over the past two years.

Lockdown restrictions combined with fear have had a detrimental effect for many, with statistics proving increased substance abuse and suicides. Unfortunately, many Canadians suffer with some form of mental illness, with mood and anxiety disorders being the most common, encompassing depression, bipolar disorders and substance abuse.

Does nutrition play a role in mental health? The short answer is yes.

Research links show that poor nutritional choices can increase risk factors for anxiety and depression disorders. Overeating, comfort eating and under-eating not only affect mental health but also physical and overall medical health as well.

Some research studies have found a positive benefit to consuming the Mediterranean diet to reduce depression. This diet focuses primarily on fruits, vegetables, omega 3 fatty acids (such as fish oils, flaxseed), whole grains, legumes and nuts. Additionally, some studies have shown a relationship between the brain and gastrointestinal system. Anxiety can be correlated with gastrointestinal health, and consuming high probiotic foods such as yogurt can help.

People who suffer from anxiety often experience complications with food intakes and their gastrointestinal health. Making healthier food choices not only improves your general wellness but can impact your mental health, too.

It is also important to have regular check-ins with your health-care provider to rule out any type of deficiencies or medical illnesses that could be present (nutritional deficiencies such as low vitamin B12 and ferritin, or low albumin along with thyroid and blood sugars, for example). It is also important to try to be physically active and take time out to do things that you enjoy.

For many, listening to or playing music can often be a great distraction. Many studies show the correlation between music and happiness. Music moves people and can instantly change your mindset. While I love all kinds of music, my go-to for stress relief is Elvis Presley, anything by The Mavericks and the piano. What is yours?

While mental health is becoming a more important aspect of health care, it still demands more of our attention. Check out these resources for organizations and events that you may want to check out or participate in, including:

• The Canadian Mental Health Association, www.cmha.ca;

• The United Way, https://unitedwaywinnipeg.ca/

• Ride Don’t Hide, https://cmha.donordrive.com/

• Winnipeg Run for Women, https://www.runforwomen.ca/Cities/Winnipeg.aspx

• Wounded Warrior Canada, https://woundedwarriors.ca/

Lisa Lagasse

Lisa Lagasse
Charleswood community correspondent

Lisa Lagasse is a registered dietitian and community correspondent for Charleswood. Email her at Charleswoodres@gmail.com or find her on Twitter: @LisaRD42324393

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