Nutritional Therapist Ciara Beauge gives us her insight on the role nutrition plays with our mental health.
Many factors are involved when delving into brain health. Commonly in mainstream psychiatry the biochemical imbalance is reduced due to low serotonin. As a result SSRI’s are often prescribed, which do not always work. We need to start looking at the other factors and biochemical imbalances that can contribute or indeed be the root cause of mood disorders.
Individuals are beginning to look into alternative areas to support their mental health. This may include complementary therapies alongside medication or instead of. Either way it allows people a sense of control over their condition and empowerment to realize they can help themselves.
Many people are beginning to understand the importance of Nutritional Therapy for conditions that relate to digestion, but understanding that nutrition can have an impact on the brain is essential.
For a start, where do the raw ingredients for neurotransmitters come from? Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers in the brain that make us feel happy, focused, alert, certain ones can help us sleep, where others, in excess, can make us wired and anxious. Amino acids, from proteins, are the key ingredients from which we manufacture these neurotransmitters. An essential amino acid means we cannot make it our self, we must consume it in a food. For example the amino acid tryptophan comes from sources such as poultry, oats and cottage cheese. Tryptophan, once consumed, gets manufactured in the body into serotonin, this is the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter. When evening time comes, serotonin gets converted into melatonin, which helps us sleep. Therefore ensuring adequate amounts of good quality protein is vital for mental health.
Did you know that the brain is the fattiest organ in the body? The primary structural component of the brain is DHA - DHA comes from Omega 3, which is an essential fatty acid (EFA). Remember, ‘essential’ means the body cannot make it itself. If the brain is lacking in its primary structural component there is risk of decline in mental function, particularly memory. DHA can be obtained from: oily fish such as mackerel, herring, trout, sardines, salmon, anchovies and from cod liver oil. We can manufacture smaller amounts from plant sources such as chia seed and flax seed, but do not rely on these alone. Revive Active Mastermind contains DHA, and is designed to help maintain the normal function of the brain.
Above you can see examples of how the raw ingredients important for our brain health comes from the food we eat. However how our brain interacts with other systems in the body is also very important to understand.
Integrated or Functional Medicine is key to the holistic approach that Nutritional Therapy takes when supporting an individual. If we were to look at the brain in isolation we would be doing it a grave injustice. The link between the gut and the brain is becoming more recognized. We can understand how the brain can send messages to the gut. We only have to think of a stressful situation to get butterflies in our tummy. However what we are now learning is that the gut can also send signals to the brain. This begs the question, is good digestive health important for brain health? and the answer is a resounding yes. If you have digestive issues it is important to see a practitioner to address them.
More and more research is now pointing towards systemic inflammation in the body as being a risk marker for mental health conditions. Psychoimmunoneurology is a study that looks at the interaction between the nervous system and the immune system. It has found that an overactive immune system, which causes increased levels of inflammation in the body, can alter mood and lead to depression. Many foods have wonderful anti-inflammatory effects in the body, such as: Turmeric, ginger, olive oil and oily fish.
Lastly, an emerging area of research looks at the role of epigenetics in mental health conditions. As early as in utero, ‘bookmarks’ can be laid down on the genes of a foetus, which will effect how their genes are expressed throughout their life. The exciting research indicates how genes can be ‘switched off’ through particular nutrients, this has huge implications on mental health.
By Ciara Beauge - Nutritional Therapist
Thanks to Ciara for contributing to the our blog this week as part of the Nutritional Therapy Awareness Week 2016.
Ciara provides her clients with a complete mind-body approach to health and wellness. Her unique blend of nutrition and psychology helps identify the source of health problems, providing you with the right tools to get your health on track.
- She is a registered Nutritional Therapist,
- She is Membership Secretary of Nutritional Therapists of Ireland
- Ciara holds a diploma in Nutritional Therapy (IINH), degree in Psychology (UCD) and a diploma in Biocognition (Institute of Biocognitive Psychology).
- She lives what she teaches and is passionate about helping others enjoy a life of lasting health.
- Ciara has received a Certificate from training with the Walsh Research Institute, focused on nutrient therapy for mental health. She also trained with Lucille Leader in the nutritional management of Parkinson’s Disease and is now also specialising in this area.
- She also specialises in digestive issues. The gut or ‘second brain’ is vital for proper absorption of nutrients and for optimum health.
For more information contact Ciara on firstname.lastname@example.org