Whether it is around the holidays or any other time of the year, mental health and its effects are always a topic for serious consideration.
An estimated 26.2% of Americans ages 18 and older — that is about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for ages 15-44. (Source: NIMH)
Although that accounts for just over 1/4 of the population, the medical field estimates that the percentage is much higher of those who are suffering but either do not consciously know it or do not get formally diagnosed.
Around supposed joyful occasions like Christmas Holidays, many may be thinking that mental health problems may decrease, but it is actually around these times, that people report more than ever, things like depression, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety or mood disorders.
Those in the population who do seek medical help usually get put on some kind of pharmaceutical drug and that is where the discussion ends. What many of us do not realize, is that there is a better way, by using the holistic approach. We need to first look at where the problems originated and how they can be treated naturally.
The Origin of The Cause
Perhaps you feel depressed from time to time or perhaps even on a regular basis. Perhaps you have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar or borderline personality. Or perhaps none of those apply to you, but you find yourself having uncontrollable bouts of anger or sadness at times. Perhaps you cannot concentrate well on tasks in your daily life, or feel anxiety and perhaps you find you have frequent disturbances in your sleep.
If you found yourself identifying with at least one of the above possibilities then you need to consider what they all have in common – they all affect one’s mental health.
Now before you shy away from those words in any way let me explain. Mental health is not some bad set of words. It is not some kind of embarrassment or death sentence. It simply means that you are not in balance as a being, which is necessary for optimal health.
In order for us to have optimal health we need to look beyond just our body. Physical health is just one piece of the puzzle. There is also spiritual health and mental health, which also encompasses emotional health. In fact one of the biggest reasons why some of us have physical ailments is directly related to our emotional/mental health.
If we look at the picture from that angle then one can even conclude that in some way every physical ailment came directly or indirectly out of our state of mental health. This may be a radical conclusion for some to accept, but we must realize that our minds are powerful enough to make us sick, just as they are powerful enough to make us well – no matter what the disease.
So where does the imbalance in mental health come from?
Many think it is genetic, while others attribute environmental factors as the causes of our mental imbalances. While both of those have their own much longer needed explanation, what many people do not consider is one’s nutrition as the primary reason for mental imbalance.
What? Mental health imbalances resulting from the food I eat? Yup, you heard me correct, now allow me to explain.
The Link Between Stress and Nutrition
Okay so aside from the above two named possible causes for mental imbalances, what many people will agree on is that stress both directly and indirectly leads to ill health in one way or another. This includes physical, spiritual and mental health.
While most of us accept this as normal or a fact of life, many of us do not quite understand why. What is it about stress that leads to any kind of illness or imbalance?
The primary factor of stress that leads to these problems is that stress in our body activates many coping reactions and survival strategies for the body. Most of us know that many hormones get secreted in higher than normal amounts like our stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline during these times. Cortisol then stimulates our hunger hormone and sets off a whole other chain of reactions. Many of us thus have experienced binge eating or an increased appetite during times of stress, so we understand very well. Also, our organs start to function differently, such as increased heartbeat, an imbalance in blood pressure and the list goes on.
While most of us accept these facts, we fail to follow up with what the real problem behind all this is.
The main problem behind all of the above named reactions is that during these times, our body is using the nutrients within it at higher than normal speeds. Your body is literally using up all of its precious vitamins and minerals faster than you can imagine. It is also using up glucose as fuel for all these reactions as well as the other macronutrients, hence one can now understand why increased appetite is so normal during times of stress. Your body knows it needs to maintain and more importantly replenish its macro and micronutrient levels.
The Link Between Stress, Nutrition and Mental Health
Okay so now that we know the basic link between stress and nutrition, let us bring in the key player into this arena – mental health.
Holistic doctors, mainly naturopathic and orthomolecular practitioners, see mental health through a whole other lens. Basically put, various mental health problems arise from insufficient nutrients in the brain. By nutrients here the focus is on the micronutrients – vitamins and minerals, but it may also include some macronutrients, like amino acids.
So let us go full circle with this:
Mental health patients have shown to have deficiencies of nutrients in the brain to maintain its proper functioning.
These nutritional deficiencies can be largely attributed to experiencing high or abnormally high levels of stress. (The term “high” is used in a relative sense here, as each of us has a different threshold for stress, just as we do for pain.)
Hence the cure for any mental health imbalance should be staring us straight in the face!
The Solution To Mental Health May Be In What We Eat
So did you see it? Instead of going on any number of pills that always have alternate and often harmful side-effects on us, like anti-depressants, anti-anxiety or any similar drugs, the solution for many people to correcting their mental health imbalance needs to start with the food they eat – the nutrition any one of us gives our body.
It is no surprise that proper nutrition is a must for a healthy body and most of us are coming around today, faster than ever, at realizing just how much most common foods hurt us.
So whether it is sleep disturbance, fatigue, anxiety, depression or even more serious imbalances in our mental health, we seriously need to consider what we put in our body and at what rate we are using up those valuable nutrients.
If your life generally has a high amount of stress or if you go through an isolated case in your life of abnormally high stress, you have to realize that your body is probably very deficient in many vitamins and minerals. For optimal mental health naturally, you thus have to consider 3 things:
1. How nutrient dense is the food you eat on a regular basis?
2. How many substances you put in your body that deplete beneficial nutrients?
3. How much stress you have in your life?
Starting with these three questions will start to make you evaluate why you may be suffering from any of the above mentioned mental imbalances and hopefully motivate you to make some serious changes in your life.
Many of us are living with bodies that are heavily deficient in various nutrients. We have unfortunately become a society of high stress and high nutrient-deficient foods.
Thus, here are 5 tips to start restoring your mental health and balance naturally:
- Increase your consumption of vegetables and fruits heavily.
- Avoid substances such as coffee, alcohol and smoking, which all heavily deplete the body nutrients.
- Engage in efficient stress-coping techniques, such as daily exercise and meditation.
- Take time out for yourself to do fun things.
- Take vitamin and mineral supplements in higher than normal doses to quickly boost your nutrient stores.
*Note consult a medical professional before taking anything, to see if these will not interfere with any other medication or conditions.
Coping Through Special Occasions
Finally whether it is the Christmas holidays, a wedding or some other special occasion, many of us find ourselves more stressed and much less well nourished during these times.
With the increased stress, alcohol, sugar, coffee, fats and decreased sleep, and time for ourselves, it is no surprise that our overall health is at its lowest at these points. Hence again, we should not be surprised that more of us experience greater mood swings, sleep problems, anxiety and depression during these peak periods in our lives.
Hence this Holiday season, or any other occasion, be kind to your body, mind and spirit and do not forget to give the best gift to yourself by properly nourishing them. Your happiness and sanity literally depend on it.
Conclusion and Resources
If you or any one else you know is suffering from any kind of mental imbalance, consider the natural alternative, rather then the often harsh, disconnected and long-term pharmaceutical approach. Remember, holistic health is not about masking the symptoms, but about getting to the root cause of the problem and correcting that naturally.
Hence for additional reading check out some of the following resources, which also include articles that involve orthomolecular medicine, which treats the body nutritionally not artificially!