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Understanding the Link between Food, Stress and Mental Health

By Jenetta Haim
from Stressfree Management®

It is vital that the link between nutrition and mental health be recognised by your practitioner if you are to maintain your wellbeing. I have seen the proof for this with my clients through my many years of experience as a practitioner. Years ago a less polluted planet with less artificial toxins made it much easier to remain healthy. There were more organic (less toxic pesticides), home grown foods and better unprocessed meats. Now there are many detrimental factors to consider when people become ill which can confuse the issue as to the causes. When you come for a consultation and I discover you have a poor diet of packaged, sweet or over salty, fatty foods that is the first place I look as to what is happening in your body, and mind. Just treating your symptoms however will not pull the roots out of your illness. If you are going to be healthy I need to pull the roots of the cause.

The importance of good nutrition

Nutritionists and naturopaths alike are taught that good health begins in the gut. That means all good health, including mental health. It is important for you to realise that if you are suffering with overwhelm, intrusive thoughts, worry, stress, anxiety, depression etc. that this is not only in your head. Your head is connected to your toe. If your toe hurts your head knows it. We cannot divorce one part of the body from another. If you have any kind of worry or other mental health issues then it is important for you to also address what is going on in your stomach, liver, lymphatic system, heart, lungs etc. Are you breathing properly, are your bowels working properly, do you drink enough water, do you get enough sleep, do you exercise enough? All these matter and your trained natural therapist will take these into account when you visit. So you will need to treat and heal your gut as part of healing your stress.

What is stress?

Everyone has an idea of what it means to be stressed. What you communicate to me about your stress is in the way you walk, talk, dress, look, act and that is before anyone has listened to your heart beat or taken your blood pressure. Some people though are stressed and don’t know it. They tell me they have been ‘doing that for years’ and my answer is that they have been stressed for years. It is so important for you to ‘slow down’ and take time out to meditate and relax. Sometimes you don’t realise just how stressed you are until you have slowed down. Stress is inside, not outside. It is not in the traffic jam in the morning, in the heavy meeting or workload overwhelm. Stress is in the demands YOU put on yourself and the perspective YOU have on life. Stress is in the lack of boundaries when you let other people demand you meet their picture of how you should be. Stress is in the image you look at in the mirror which YOU tell yourself is not good enough. If you change your perspective by learning new techniques to re-shape your outlook in a positive way, the stress will become less. Unfortunately for some though that does not work. Why?

When people call me for an appointment for mental health one of my first questions to them is regarding their hormones. How is your menstrual cycle? When you come I check if your cortisol and melatonin levels are messed up. I ask you to get a blood test from your doctor to check your thyroid and hormone levels. Over the years I have found many people who have issues with anxiety, depression, stress and other mental health issues often have a hormonal factor involved which goes back to borderline or existing thyroid issues.

Case study

I remember one client Julie (name changed) who came with anxiety, stress, irregular menstrual cycle. She had seen a naturopath previously but this did not work quickly enough so she gave up and stopped going. In our session I suggested Julie have a sensitivity test to see which foods were causing inflammation in her body. Also some natural supplements for her gut and to stabilise hormones. I began to teach her meditation to relax. Julie was happy with that and agreed to go for a blood test for me to compare with the sensitivity test. I also put her on a more natural diet.

Next session we correlated all the results. I found Julie had an imbalance in oestrogen and iodine deficiencies. Very slight. Julie then remembered her previous naturopath had also mentioned it. This corroborated my evidence from many previous cases where I had found hormonal imbalances quite often precede a thyroid imbalance which impact other stressors such as food sensitivities, digestion issues etc.

The importance of a healthy thyroid

The thyroid is very important because an imbalanced thyroid can affect all areas of your life. Physically, mentally, emotionally. It affects your mood, your menstrual cycle, your thoughts even. Whenever there is an imbalance your hormones and thyroid may come into play. At this point we have come full circle. A mix of toxins, deficiencies, nutrition looking at the gut health, absorption levels. If these are overlooked often solutions for better health are not found.

It took about two months for Julie’s mental health to improve as has been the case with many other clients. Food affects every area of your life. Dismiss any of these other factors though and you will soon find the healing process incomplete. There are many trained specialists to help but YOU have to put into play their advice. You need to eat the right food and follow the a, b, c’s your professional has given you and you will soon find that there is a bit more spring in your step and you are feeling much, much better.

More about the author

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Jenetta Haim
– Stressfree Management®

Jenetta Haim runs Stressfree Management® at Gipps Road, Greystanes in Sydney and specialises in assisting your to get well and stay healthy in all areas of your life. Jenetta designs specific programs to either suit you personally or on a corporate level for your staff. Her clinic is a one stop health clinic that offers nutrition and hypnotherapy, stress management, meditation and mindfulness courses, naturopathy, NLP, reiki, theta and other energy healing and courses for upcoming professionals. Jenetta is a published international author of Stress-Free Health Management, A Natural Solution for Your Health available from your favourite bookstore or online. For more information and to get in touch, visit her website at Stressfree Management.