So, you may have seen our recent Facebook mention of an article in the Guardian about the link between mental and physical health… a snippet here:
“We need to look more to underlying causes for why we often feel so glum, many of them physical. We don’t exercise enough. We eat junk food. Many of us suffer from chronic high levels of inflammation, with inflamed guts leading to stressed bodies – and low mood…. When I look back at my own battle with the black dog (depression), I wonder if I might have recovered more quickly .. if I had understood more about the connection between my mental and physical health.”
We couldn’t agree more, especially about the suggestion to stop dividing into mental and physical health, let’s just say health!
Perhaps it seems a strange to discuss food when talking about emotional wellbeing? But think about what you do when you have low mood, do you grab chocolate for example? We know now that chocolate can boost your mood as it increases serotonin in your brain. Likewise cheese (common in junk food) also has morphine-like compounds and things like alcohol, caffeine and sugar can all influence our moods and can often also have an addictive element.
We also often eat in front of the TV and often before we know it have devoured a whole packet of crisps or biscuits.
In busy disabled lives eating can seem like a chore, especially if we need assistance to prepare food, and finding the time to eat mindfully (and respectfully for our tummies) is difficult.
We may also have physical issues with tasting, chewing or swallowing etc. which reduces our interest in eating and can even change what we eat.
If you or your family member have an impairment, food is especially important. Food is healing. We are what we eat and it seems logical that if we put better stuff into our bodies, we’ll get more energy and our bodies will have the right nutrients to heal better and be in the best condition they can be. Some limited research is starting to come out linking poor gut health to poor mental health and people also report that certain foods can alleviate pain conditions. When you eat poor food, your gut finds it difficult to heal your body, which in turn decreases your immunity making you more likely to get ill, which saps that precious energy you need to deal with everyday life even more.
The process of preparing food is also an important part of human culture. It provides a time to share, time to experiment and time to look after and show love to ourselves and others. By finding the time to cook rather then eat fast food, helps us wind down, take a break. It can distract us from worries. Touching food, smells, textures, can help us connect with the world and living things around us, the closer our food is to the real thing the better.
And results can be quick. Physical symptoms can be alleviated in as little as 2-4 weeks on a changed menu plan, though improving immunity, emotional resilience and mood can take longer.
Most importantly in disabled lives, where we often feel we have limited control, food and drink is an aspect that we can often control, so there’s an opportunity to make it work it’s very best for you, to give us the best emotional health and the best resilience against those drains on the old battery.
As always if you need support in changing your diet and seeing how it could improve your well being, get in touch with us. If you are in a food rut, or can’t see how you can prepare the right food, or if you feel addicted to poor food choices, we can help you find a way to healthier living through our 1-2-1 Purple Therapy.
Rebecca Dent is a high performance dietician who has worked with health and sports clients including disabled athletes and can hopefully give us all some pointers on maximising our nutrition so that our bodies are in tip top condition and she can also explain how she can support you. Click on her name to visit her website to take a look at what she does.