Contact Dr. Summer at Art & Science Healing. (512) 710-9939

Nutrition, the Brain, and Mental/Emotional Health

You literally are what you eat.  The nutrients that you consume and digest are used to make up your tissues, organs, and all the signaling molecules running throughout your body.  Most people are aware that foods and supplements can improve their heart health or reduce their risk of cancer, but only a few know that because nutrients make up the brain and neurotransmitters, nutrition has a strong impact on mental health as well.

Constant exposure to insulin damages peripheral nerves and leads to the peripheral neuropathy and blindness seen in diabetics, but long before that, small imbalances in blood sugar can cause fatigue, irritability dizziness, insomnia, excessive sweating, poor concentration and forgetfulness, excessive thirst, depression and crying spells, digestive disturbances and blurred vision.  Aggressive behavior, anxiety, hyperactivity, attention deficit, depression, eating disorders, fatigue and learning difficulties have all been shown to be related to sugar consumption and sugar balance in the blood.

One of the reasons that sugar is so damaging to the body and to the brain is that the body must use B vitamins to process it.  Depleting B vitamins slows other processes in the body including detoxification, energy production, and the production of neurotransmitters necessary for brain function and mood stability.  Proper supplementation of B vitamins has significantly improved symptoms of depression and schizophrenia in trials.

Substances besides B vitamins are involved in these processes.  Enzymes, minerals, and amino acids are all crucial for optimal mental and emotional functioning.  Depression is often treated with medications which increase the binding of neurotransmitters to their receptors because the depressed patient has low levels of the neurotransmitter.  These medications have serious side effects and show less long-term effectiveness than exercise alone.  Despite the drawbacks, 10% of adult Americans are now taking antidepressants.  The natural alternative is to deliver the building blocks used to make the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, adrenalin, and noradrenalin and support their conversion with the other nutrients already mentioned. Studies on the amino acids 5-HTP, phenylalanine, and tyrosine have shown them to be just as effective as common antidepressants with almost no side effects.  Low levels of these amino acids can be linked to low moods, irritability, fatigue, comfort eating, sleep disturbance, low libido, and apathy.

There is a lot of science packed into these short paragraphs, but the message is actually simple:  to feel better, you must feed yourself better.  Your individual genes and lifestyle will impact how much of these nutrients you need to feel your best, but almost everyone needs far more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) published on food labels, so educate yourself and ask for help from a healthcare practitioner trained in clinical nutrition or functional medicine.

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