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What is the link between

Nutrition and Mental Health?


The body of evidence linking diet and mental health is growing exponentially, showing that food plays a vital role in the development, management and prevention of specific mental health problems and therefore, plays a significant part in both our short and long-term mental health. 

The brain is incredibly sensitive to what we consume and just like the rest of the body, it requires nutrients - especially essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and water to remain healthy and to function optimally.

Our microbiome consists of both helpful, but also potentially harmful microbes. In a healthy body, these microbes can co-exist without an issue, but if there is a disruption to the balance between helpful and harmful microbiota, then dysbiosis can occur and could lead to the body becoming more susceptible to disease.

Diet, illness and the prolonged use of certain antibiotics can cause such an imbalance. 


There is also now a wider understanding of how the gut has a huge effect on human physiology. The gut itself is very complex -  it hosts the largest number of immune and hormonal cells and the largest number of nerve cells outside of the brain and spinal cord. 

When the body is under increased stress, our nutrient requirements also increase, however, increased stress also means that the amount of nutrients we are able to absorb and use effectively from the food we consume is reduced.

Frequent or chronic stress can then manifest as physical symptoms such as constipation or diarrhoea, bloating, fatigue, headaches and recurrent infections. 

Traditionally, mental and physical health problems are treated separately with symptom management designed around isolated conditions rather than patients as individuals. This is exactly the opposite of how Nutritional Therapists support their clients and address their health concerns. 


95% of your serotonin is made in your gut


Serotonin, aka the 'happy hormone' stabilises our mood and feelings of wellbeing and plays a crucial role in our digestive function and sleep cycle. The building blocks of serotonin must come from the foods we eat. 


Altered levels of serotonin as well as other nutritional deficiencies have been linked to mood disorders, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and dementia. 

Let's not forget that this is a two-way street, and psychological stressors (that may come from your work, home or social life) can completely change your gut bacteria and negatively impact the physical movement of your gut. 


We also must acknowledge the overlap between mental health conditions and long-term physical health. Those with poor mental health are less likely to keep on top of the self-management of other health concerns as well as their general physical health, which could result in the worsening of any conditions. Those who experience severe mental illness also have a significantly higher rate of physical illnesses, dramatically impacting life expectancy.


Recognising the connection between food and mood and acknowledging the role nutrition plays at a molecular level is paramount for the optimisation of your overall health. 

Want to implement Wellness in the Workplace sessions for your team or company? 

You can explore my bespoke corporate services here. 

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