We need to pay as much, if not more, attention to our mental health as our physical health during this crisis. Last week, I discussed how the two are intimately related. Perhaps one of the most obvious connections between the brain and body is how nourishment effects our mental function.
Please keep in mind, though, that food and diet is only one small factor in overall wellness. In an upcoming post, I will discuss some other, arguably even more, imperative factors. These are psychological support and social determinants of health.
Food for the Brain
Most people are aware that nutrition and lifestyle are impactful tools for overall well-being. For example, dietary and exercise patterns can effect clinical outcomes, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and support healing. (source, source)
This concept of “food as medicine” becomes even more intriguing when we look beyond metabolism, and realize that certain dietary compounds can alter how DNA, our cellular genetic code, will be expressed. This is the concept of nutrigenomics. It explains how the foods we eat can literally change our physiological functioning.
The naturopathic and functional medicine principles are centered around the idea of personalized medicine. As a naturopathic doctor, I recognize that people have different dietary needs based on their unique biochemical individuality. This means that everyone has different nutritional needs based on genetic variations, digestive capacity, health status, history of eating behavior, culture, and beliefs about nourishment. One of the most obvious examples of this is that certain nutrients, or lack thereof, have been associated with changes in mental states.
Nourishing the Brain
Overall dietary patterns have been found to impact brain health. For example, eating a diet full of phytonutrients from plants and balanced macronutrients can help with managing stress, anxiety, and prevent mental health issues. (source, source, source, source) Furthermore, it has been found that skipping meals is associated with mood imbalances. (source, source) This demonstrates the importance of nourishing the brain, rather than being restrictive.
Specific Nutrients to Consider for Balancing Mood
I previously discussed several clinical trials and provided evidence on how food can impact mood and vice versa. For example, certain nutrients and supplements can modulate various chemical signals in the brain, impacting emotions. Below are some additional highlights.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids
Recently, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued a review of complementary therapies in mood disorders. They recommended omega-3 supplementation as an adjunctive therapy for mood disorders, including bipolar depression. The APA did note that there may be greater efficacy with treatments using eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) alone or EPA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) with higher levels of EPA. (source, source)
2. Folate and SaMe (methylators)
The APA release also found positive and promising evidence for other nutritional and supplemental adjunctive treatment for brain health. These included folates, SAMe, and exercise. (source, source) It should be cautioned that folate is an intervention that can also aggravate depression. Talk with your holistic, naturopathic or functional medicine doctor.
3. Vitamin K and zinc
Evidence exists that nutrients such as vitamin K and zinc can be protective or reduce depressive symptoms. Without these factors present, many do not have the energy to practice self-care and nurturing behaviors.
**Please note that these nutrients work best if you are deficient and need them. It is not wise to just take supplements without guidance form a healthcare provider and a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor.
The Two-Way Street Between the Diet and Brain Health
There is a bidirectional relationship between nutrition and mental health. Dietary choices can impact brain wellness and mental health states can influence dietary habits and food choices. For example, evidence of the gut-brain axis has been implicated through research on the gut microbiota. Various studies have also found certain microbiota patterns are associated with many neurological and mood states. (source, source)
For this reason, minding our microbiome with good lifestyle practices, and essential oils, can do wonders for our emotional state.
I have used nutraceutical support and personalized nutrition to help clients with mood imbalances for years. Yet with all this impact, we know that diet and exercise are not the sole answers for brain health. There are many brain factors to consider.
In an upcoming post, I discuss why we need to focus more on social determinants of health and other factors, rather than sick care or simple lifestyle changes that many may not be able to access.
Nourishing Your Mind and Body Webcast Series
I just published a post on how stress negatively impacts the brain, and how lifestyle interventions can mitigate the damages.
On March 23rd, I will be offering the first webcast of my group series focused on mind-body support to enhance emotional resiliency, improve focus, and optimize physical wellness.
This month, the focus will be on using essential oils for mental, mood, and physical resiliency. Sarah James from Some Like It Hot Yoga Studio will be joining me along with Sherry Saben, RN.
The classes are free but donations are welcomed. Suggested donations range from $5- $15/class. Any amount is appreciated.
You are welcome to join any or all of these (almost) monthly events.
Space is limited, first come, first virtual smell! 😉
Please see more information and RSVP here starting May 4th.
Once you register, you will receive the link to join in.
News, Updates and Resources Regarding the Current Crisis
Below are some of the news features from the previous week with updated information and resources on the current pandemic.
Along with the resources located on the CDC and WHO website, I have been keeping up with the latest research and medical advances daily. These references are from international medical journals, healthcare and medicine websites, research articles, media sources, and sharing within my integrative medicine community.
This week’s topics include integrative testing, emerging therapies, and other news on finding the best practices in medicine during times of uncertainty.
I am hoping you find this helpful and having the weekly updates will decrease your “need” to stay glued to the daily news and enhance the ability to reset to calm.
- FDA tightens regulatory requirements in antibody testing– labs must apply for EAU within a time frame
- FDA makes serology test performance data public for assays with EUA
- First FDA-Authorized use of CRISPR technology for testing
- First FDA home saliva test approved
- What testing tells us
- Can we test our way out of this?
Medications & Integrative Therapeutic
- Remdesivir critiques emerge with changes in primary endpoint results, twice
- HHS announces shipments of donated remdesivir for hospitalized patients with COVID-19
- Trio of drugs show promise
- FDA approves emergency use of VENTFREE to decrease respiratory muscle disuse on ventilators
- More relieving observations regarding the continuation of hypertensive drugs
- Care guidelines released for rheumatic disease
- Rheumatic drug may help patients
- Blood thinners may help outcomes
- Spike protein found to be linked to activation of infection
- Two drugs for other illnesses show promise for treatment
- Artificial intelligence tool could speed up search for treatments
- Is there a role of male hormones increasing risk?
- Vitamin D for immune support
- TCM approaches to immune support
- The Wellness Perspective of Ancient Medicine
- Functional medicine updated review of botanicals for complementary immune support
- Important drug-drug interactions with experimental medications could affect treatments and increase risks (Liverpool interaction checker, prescribing resource)
- Recently recovered patients produce varying virus-specific antibodies
- New mutation found that may mean less severe disease
- Finding of potential more transmissible mutations sparks the media
- Yet more mutations continue to be found
- Study to determine the amount of children and family members affected
- Could farming impact epidemics?
- French retesting of samples found evidence of virus in December
- More skin manifestations and rare reaction in children
- Germany study results in for one area of country
- Trump administration to replace HHS Inspector General and many audits underway
- Master question list from Homeland Security- cleared for public view
- Tech tracking and tracing (source, source)
- Several White House personnel self-quarantined
- Alcohol abuse agitated by virus stirring liver concerns
- Shocking stats on NY patients
- Stopping the wave
- Tests show UVC lamps could light the way in virus fight
- Virus in semen, conflicting reports. If there, it may not be infectious.
- Is Obamacare on the way out?
- Social media to remove “fake news”
- American College of Surgeons guide for resumption of elective surgeries
- Calls to domestic hotlines climb in Europe
- New predictions for “deaths of despair” released
- U.S. jobless rate around 15%
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
For additional safety and medical information, visit my essential oils database. It includes a full category on how to use essential oils safely and potential drug interactions that can occur.
Please be extra cautious and be sure to check with your doctor if you have a seizure disorder. The Epilepsy Society of the UK lists certain essential oils implicated for their antiseizure effect as well as those that have stimulating properties.
If you and/or your physician are interested in consulting with me to assist with supporting the integration of essential oils safely into a therapeutic protocol, essential oils consultations are available.