Whenever I go to a networking meeting, I usually meet at least one person who has a family member or close friend with a mental illness. Usually, these people are barely eating anything and are self-medicating with recreational drugs or alcohol.
When they ask me what they can do to help their loved one, the first thing I usually tell them is, put them on a healthy diet where they eat 3 regular healthy meals per day.
This may sound simple because often these people are on antipsychotic and other strong medications that are supposed to help them. What difference could diet possibly make?
Eating a healthy diet is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for people with mental illness. A healthy diet provides the body with all the nutrients it needs to form neurotransmitters, which govern our mood. Eating regular meals makes sure that these nutrients are available on a regular basis so we don’t run out and our mood stays balanced, along with our blood sugar.
Many of the people I talk to who tell me about their family members describe how their loved ones subsist on alcohol and/or very poor diets. Eating a healthier diet may not resolve their issues, but it will certainly help put them on the path to better overall health and especially mental health.
Why do people self medicate with alcohol or recreational drugs?
Recreational drugs and alcohol help lift your mood by increasing certain neurotransmitters in your brain. The problem is, the effect doesn’t last very long and users feel worse than they did before they took the substance. Because they want to feel good again, they take more of the substance more frequently, which can lead to addiction. They don’t feel good unless they’re high.
How does healthy food help?
Eating regular healthy meals provides a steady source of nutrients that the body uses to function and repair itself. It also supplies neurotransmitters or their building blocks to help balance mood so you no longer get the extreme highs and lows.
Healthy meals consist of sufficient protein as well as carbohydrates. As someone who suffered from depression for many years, I noticed after awhile that if I didn’t eat a balance of protein and carbohydrates, my mood would be affected. Eating too much sugar (a building block of serotonin) would make me feel good for a short time and then I would crash and feel depressed. Eating too much protein without a balance of carbs would make me depressed because I wasn’t getting enough serotonin.
You are what you eat, but you also feel what you eat. Want to feel good? Start by eating healthy.
Don’t know where to start? Check out my anti-inflammatory diet. It’ll teach you how to prepare regular balanced meals that will improve your mood.