Updated: Oct 25, 2021
What are the telltale signs of stress and anxiety?
If you are experiencing any of the following it is definitely worth stopping for a moment and having a look at what you can do in your lifestyle to look after your mental health:
nausea or dizziness
increased heart rate or palpitations, especially when inactive
There are certain foods which can negatively impact your mental health. Eating inflammatory foods such as refined sugars, processed foods, takeaways, caffeine and alcohol can not only deplete vitamins and minerals needed to help make the happy hormones (serotonin, dopamine and GABA) they can also impact and weaken your immune system due to lack of nutrients. A poor diet can make you feel flat or fatigued, which can lead to poor mental health, identified in many studies.
How to promote happy hormones
Serotonin is the feel good hormone which is needed for sleep, mood and motivation. By eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and seeds you can work to increase this hormone. Sleep also aids in production, so make sure to get those 8 hours.
Since 90% of serotonin is made in the gut (not the brain as was previously thought) it's important that you fix any stomach issues such as IBS or IBD to help boost your mood and maximise nutrient absorption.
GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is a calming neurotransmitter that promotes the rest state by inhibiting neural excitation - essentially promotes calm and sleep. If you're deficient in GABA it can lead to cravings, feelings or anxiety or even panic attacks.
Thankfully promoting GABA production is easy.
Taking the time to pause: breathing exercises, meditation or other stress reduction techniques such as journalling or colouring in.
Reducing stimulants: caffeine, alcohol, energy drinks, blue light from screens
Eating GABA stimulating foods, especially ones high in B Vitamins, Zinc and Vitamin C. This includes salmon, mackerel, sardines, beef liver and other organ meats, potatoes, squash and other starchy vegetables, leafy greens, most fruit including banana and avocados, nuts and seeds including pistachios, walnuts and sunflower and wholegrains including quinoa. (These foods will also assist serotonin production!)
Lastly, one final trick that has been proven to improve energy levels, reduce feelings of anxiety or loneliness, and reduce pain for centuries, is of course exercise. I recognise it can be tough sometimes to get up, or even leave the house, and after spending 12 months in some form of lockdown motivation is very low.
So start small - 20 minute walk around your local green space, or a 5 minute breathing exercise (the Calm or Headspace app are great). If you can also catch some sunshine this will help list your mood and help regulate your circadian rhythm.
Exercise improves energy but also releases endorphins which help you feel good, reduces pain receptors and decreases stress, so hopefully over time you can increase the amount of time spent moving, or try new exercises such as yoga or HIIT training. I've recently started the Japanese art of forest bathing. You go into a lush, green space and simply stop and be still in nature and take in your surroundings. Be mindful of where you are and take some deep breaths to calm the mind and body.
You are not alone, if you need to speak someone, there are many charities who provide a safe and free help line.
If you want to chat to me about improving your diet and digestion to maximise every day health whilst boosting your happy hormones, book in a free 20 minute consultation today.
Registered Nutritional Therapist
Kelly is a Registered Nutritional Therapist who focuses on positive physical and mental wellbeing, achieved through diet, lifestyle, sleep and exercise. Having struggled for years with IBS and hormonal imbalance, and increasingly frustrated with the lack of support and helpful advice from her GP, Kelly began her own journey of healing the body from the inside out. After seeing huge improvements she quit her job to study nutrition and focus on harnessing the healing powers of food to help other people in similar situations.