The connection between mental health and physical health is oftentimes misunderstood because the mind and body are considered to be two separate entities, it’s important to know that these two entities need to work together for your overall wellbeing. Recent events have shown that having a fit body doesn’t necessarily mean you are healthy.
Our mental health can have a major impact on our physical health or vice versa. To be healthy, you need to be physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and socially well. While physical health plays a larger role in keeping your body in shape and functioning properly, mental health plays a great role in your overall wellness, Mental health includes your psychological, emotional and social well-being and has a great influence on how you feel, think and act. It is also a good indicator of how you can handle stress.
Effects of mental health on physical health
Research has found that positive psychological well-being can reduce the risk of strokes and heart attack. Whereas, poor mental health can lead to harmful behaviors and poor physical health. “Poor mental health can lead to chronic diseases like depression which also can result in cancer, asthma, diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Another medical illness like schizophrenia has been linked to respiratory diseases and risk of heart issues. It can also cause sleeping disorders which leads to degeneration in your mental ability and cognitive health,” says Rohini Patil, a dietitian and nutritionist, she is also the founder and CEO of NutracyLifestyle.
How to reverse the damage with food
What you eat has a great effect on both your physical health as well as your mental health. “This is because your mood is made in your gut, there is a constant bidirectional communication between the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the brain,” explains Rohini.
The microbes present in the gut communicate with the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain. 70% of the neurotransmitters such as serotonin are made in the gut and are transmitted to the brain via the vagus nerve. So you need to monitor your diet and eat gut healthy foods for positive mental health.
Foods that are good for mental health
Rohini lists a few foods that you can eat to beat stress and anxiety
Berries- Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are rich in antioxidants, which help in releasing all the harmful free radicals from the body, prevents inflammation, helps in repairing of the cells, they also assist in improving the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Berries contain a compound called polyphenolics, which improve concentration, memory and attention span.
Yoghurt - Yoghurt is a great natural probiotic for your gut, research has found that consumption of yoghurt can have a strong impact on your mental state. Yoghurt also helps in lowering stress, depression and anxiety.
Dark Chocolate- Dark chocolate contains some amount of sugar that can uplift your mood as it is a fast source of energy for your brain. It may release various feel good compounds like N-acylethanolamine theobromine and caffeine. It is also considered as a good antioxidant, it contains flavonoids that increase the flow of blood through your brain, lower inflammation and boost brain health.
Nuts and Seeds- Nuts and seeds are rich in plant based proteins, fiber and healthy fats. They also have tryptophan, which is an amino acid responsible for synthesizing mood boosting serotonin. Cashews, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds are excellent sources.
Bananas- Bananas are rich in vitamin B6, they aid in synthesizing feel good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. They have fiber too along with sugar. Due to fiber, sugar secretes slowly into the bloodstream, makes blood sugar stable and promotes better mood control.
Along with healthy eating you can also try other methods to boost positive mental health like doing exercise regularly, yoga, deep breathing, meditation, staying positive, gratitude journaling, listening and writing positive affirmations.