Foods To Heal: Anxiety and Depression

“Self-care is more than being aware of how we speak to ourselves, it includes what we eat, what we drink”

When we eat well, we feel well and we look well. Nutrition is vital for healing both our inner and outer being. Often people overlook what they eat, becoming oblivious to the power that food can have on our well-being overall. Food isn’t just a tool to use when we want to lose or gain weight, it is an energy source for our mind too. There are many who believe in the power of a balanced food intake in supporting our holistic health as much as there are people who rely on food supplements through taking vitamins or in the case of mental health, the use of prescriptive medication. Whether an individual chooses to use medication or food supplements, doesn’t take away the benefits that can be found by including the right foods, herbs and spices as part of our self-care routine. Being mindful of the fact that there are conditions linked to mental health which require the intervention of medical support, by doing some background research into the healing properties of nutrients found in certain foods can help you to have more control over your health.

Being interested in the power that food can have for our mental health since studying for my degree, I was interested to read more around the link between our mental health and our hormones. One of the reasons being following the birth of my son, I found that with my hormones changing as expected post baby, my diet had changed too. Sometimes skipping meals, eating quick meals, not exercising as much as pre-baby and having more sugar through fizzy drinks to give me the “energy I need”. As we know our own bodies better than anyone else, we know what works and doesn’t work when we want to feel good.

Being aware of how different hormones affect our moods and the food we can consume to re-balance anything that feels “out of place” is useful for you to know as part of your everyday self-care practice. It doesn’t mean our depression or anxiety will vanish after one day of eating “healthily” or even at all, but it does give you a way to feel better over time. Let’s consider for a moment some of the main hormones responsible for our mood changes and thought patterns:

Oxytocin – this is a hormone I often refer to as the “love” hormone. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and a hormone that is produced from a section in the brain. This hormone can help to stimulate the emotional connection between mother and new-born during breastfeeding as the hormone is released through the milk, this then helps to create a secure bond between child and main caregiver. The hormone also plays a role in women’s reproductive system.

There is research into the Oxytocin hormone being able to reduce and manage stress, anxiety and depression as a release of this “love hormone” can play a part in reducing the hormone “cortisol” which is responsible for our stress.  Overall it can help to promote feelings of well-being, growth and healing.

Opposite to the love hormone, Oxytocin is cortisol is the hormone we should work at each day in preventing its increase. Cortisol is often called the “stress hormone” because of its connection to the stress response, however, cortisol is much more than just a hormone released during stress as there is evidence that suggests cortisol is required in small amounts to help maintain a healthy blood pressure, limit fatigue, support muscle strength, control weight loss, balance mood swings, and prevent changes to the skin tone and texture.

The beloved hormone every woman is thankful for, (or not) the hormone, Oestrogen is responsible for many areas in females, including mood changes. Quite often the primary reason for dramatic mood change in women during menopause is the decrease of Oestrogen. Similarly, during women’s menstruation, this hormone can  create the fluctuating changes in moods. Similar to Oestrogen in having a role in our emotional well-being, the hormone Serotonin too plays a large part in how we function.

Finally, Serotonin which is found mostly in the digestive system,  blood platelets and the central nervous system. Serotonin impacts every part of our body, from our emotions to our motor skills. Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabiliser. It’s the chemical that helps with sleeping, eating, and digesting. Serotonin also helps reduce depression, regulate anxiety and heal wounds. Serotonin in the brain is thought to regulate anxiety, happiness, and mood.

With knowing this information about hormones and their impact on our emotional well-being, we can begin to think about ways to feel better from the inside out. As part of your self-care routine include some of these daily rituals to keep you centred physically and mentally well:

Morning Brahmi Tea:

Brahmi is a traditional Indian herb that is mostly used in Ayurvedic healing practice. The herb originates from the plant Bacopa Monnieri. I discovered this herb when reading on natural ways to restore hormone imbalance following the birth of my son (also for thinning hair and nails) in the first month of drinking brahmi tea I noticed my nails grew quicker and hair became thicker. Use half a tea spoon of brahmi powder in hot water up to four times a day, use some sweetener or honey if you have a sweet tooth as the taste is a little bland. The benefits of Brahmi powder/tea include; relief of stress and anxiety. The active ingredients in Brahmi can affect hormonal balance in the body and positively impact the balance of stress hormones in our body, thereby inducing a calm, relaxed state in a natural way. It also supports our cognitive development by stimulating the mind, especially memory and concentration. Being interested in Ayurveda, Brahmi has  been used in Ayurvedic medicine to increase focus and restore balance.

A Teaspoon of Ghee

Historically ghee is well known for weight gain and causing high cholesterol. As an oil used largely within the Asian communities it has caused controversy as to whether or not it is beneficial for you or more damaging to health. Ghee is clarified butter, the milk solids are boiled away from the butter, sinking to the bottom of the pan during cooking. I tend to use an unsalted, organic butter to give full health benefits. Primarily I find Ghee is great for the digestive system, the butter lubricates internally and externally. So if you find your skin and lips tend to be quite dry, Ghee is good to reduce these symptoms. It also helps to boost energy levels, vitality and immunity. Ghee will enhance all of these qualities when taken consistently in proper proportions; I usually take a teaspoon of warm Ghee in the morning. Once you have made your Ghee you can store it in a fasten clasp clear jar and take what you need each day. Store for as long as you need to in a dry cupboard, though I like to consume mine with 2-3 weeks.

The vitamins found in Ghee, A, D, E an K all contribute to a healthy mind, in particular vitamin D which we should aim to increase our Vitamin D intake during the Winter months due to the link the vitamin has in preventing any depression symptoms or feelings such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Turmeric and Almond Milk

Turmeric has so many good things about it! I add turmeric to almost anything; baked beans, tinned tomatoes, almond milk (or just milk) gravy, hot water/tea sometimes even my porridge oats. There are lots of ways to eat turmeric as well as using it for other purposes such as face or hair masks. As a newly born vegetarian who doesn’t eat dairy but still not quite there yet with veganism, I use almond milk and turmeric as an evening hot drink to help aid sleep.

Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory which helps to keep off any unwanted physical health issues created by inflammation. Not only does it have these benefits but also the active ingredient which is found in turmeric, being curcumin is believed to be responsible for increasing two key neurotransmitters linked to depression, serotonin and dopamine – just what we need for a mood uplift!

You can use any drink you enjoy the most to mix the turmeric with (within reason) I choose Almond milk mostly due to not drinking cows milk. But turmeric can be added to even your regular morning coffee or hot water.

Remember making good food choices isn’t going to cure a problem overnight, being persistent, creating daily changes that become habits is the surest way to “recover”

Love and Well Wishes

Interbeing Living

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