As we recognize National Nutrition Month, we are focusing on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Nutrition and physical activity play a key role in our physical, emotional, and mental health, which is why at Lifeskills South Florida we use a holistic approach that offers individuals the opportunity for complete recovery.
One of the most unrecognized contributing factors surrounding the development and management of some mental illness is proper nutrition. In fact, some studies show that foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy, and antioxidants have been associate with decreased levels of depression. Conversely, high consumption of red and processed meat, sweets, high-fat dairy, and butter can increase symptoms of depression. To engage in recovery effectively, those with a mental health disorder need to have the energy and the ability to focus on their treatment, which comes from being adequately nourished.
Is there a brain-gut connection?
Depression can cause someone to desire less healthy food options and research shows that certain foods can contribute to depression. This is called the brain-gut connection. The hippocampus is a key area of the brain involved in learning, memory, and mental health and those with better nutrition have a higher hippocampal volume than those with poor nutrition. Additionally, our diets affect serotonin; this neurotransmitter is linked to our sleep, appetite, mood, and pain. Close to 95% of serotonin produced is in our gastrointestinal tract, which is filled with nerve cells, making the inner workings of our digestive system and integral guiding force of our emotions. Lastly, our gut is full of trillions of good bacteria that fend off germs and keep our immune systems in check. Healthy bacteria also decrease inflammation in the body, which affects mood and cognition. A diet high in fat in sugar is bad for your gut health, and therefore, your brain.
What food should I eat to improve my mood?
Because we know the important role nutrition plays in our mental health, there are certain foods that can decrease some mental health disorder symptoms and increase our mood.
Processed, fried, and sugary foods have little nutritional value and can increase the risk of developing depression by as much as 60%, so try incorporating some of these into your diet for a mood boost.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are a key contributor to brain development. Studies show that consuming Omega-3 from fish oil lowers depression levels and can improve thinking and memory. Fish such as salmon and albacore tuna are good sources of Omega-3.
- Vitamin D is a perfect source for optimal brain functioning including mood and critical thinking. Low levels of Vitamin D are linked to depression, including seasonal depression which typically occurs with reduced sunlight during the fall and winter months.
- Leafy greens such as spinach contain magnesium which increases serotonin levels. About 50% of Americans have low magnesium levels and this deficiency has been linked to increased symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Antioxidants help to lower inflammation which is often associated with depression and other mood disorders. Studies show a 39% decrease in depression symptoms in a diet that is high in purple foods and blueberries.
Nutrition and Physical Activity at Lifeskills
At Lifeskills South Florida, we educate our clients on the importance of nutrition. Our team works with clients for budgeting and developing healthy meal options for each week. Additionally, we talk to clients about techniques and approaches for planning, preparing, and cooking healthy meals in both a group and individual setting. Nutrition groups teach healthy ways of thinking about food and living the healthiest lifestyle possible and increasing feelings of self-pride. Clients learn that proper nutrition aids in the recovery process and can help to prevent relapse. Also, our nutrition groups are led by a master’s level nutritionist, who focuses on food choice, menu development, caloric intake, preparing healthy choices, eating habits and much more.
We encourage health and wellness through our Metabolic Fitness pathway, designed to reduce the risk of cardiometabolic syndrome. Research has shown that those with brain disorders are at a greater risk for developing High Body Mass Index (BMI), hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, hypertension, and hyperglycemia. More specifically, individuals utilizing psychotropic medications face increased issues with medication side effects (fatigue and increased appetite). Metabolic Fitness helps us to focus on treating the body and the mind.
Designed to work in conjunction with the other clinical pathways, this helps to provide our clients with a comprehensive treatment experience by offering:
- Medical staff monitoring and measuring weekly weight and vitals
- Daily gym options for physical wellness
- On-site personal trainer led fitness groups
- Individually prescribed exercise programming
- Daily yoga groups for meditation
- Weekly Nursing led groups addressing varied physical health curriculum from sleep hygiene to smoking cessation
- Genetic testing to determine the best psychotropic medication matches for the individual’s metabolism
- Individual nutritional assessment and consultations
- On-site heated pool
Whether someone is trying to improve balance, flexibility, or lose weight, we design the Metabolic Fitness pathway specifically to meet the client’s individual needs to improve their overall well-being. To learn more about our specifically designed programming, that helps clients progress into a healthy and active lifestyle, call us today or complete our contact form for more information.