Feeling low and anxious - It's not all in your head

Our bodies react to all sorts of environments: childhood, peer pressure, home, school, lifestyle, work, people and your own internal environment. 

This environment is made up of organs, bones, tissues, glands, nerve cells, muscle cells, immune and blood systems, as well as the digestive system. The bowel is encased in 80% of the body's immune system, as well as having its own nervous system called the enteric. Hence it is known as the 'Second Brain'. It can bear influence over the cranial brain so it makes sense to feed your body well.

Serotonin is a familiar hormone spoken about when discussing psychological reactions and whether it is too low or even too high. Studies show  90% of serotonin is produced in your bowel with only a small amount being produced in the brain. Not all crosses the blood/brain barrier, but it bears large influence. Your digestive tract needs to be in good order to deliver the benefits of serotonin, e.g. positive effect on mood, appetite, cognition, memory, sleep and sexual behaviour. So what does this all say: you can help yourself quite significantly through sound nutrition.

The more typical areas of eating unrefined over refined carbohydrates is known, i.e. helping to regulate blood sugar to stabilise mood and anxiety. But looking towards other areas too.  What helps to manufacture serotonin? Tryptophan is an amino acid found in protein. So remember good protein intake is very important. Lean meat, nuts, seeds, eggs, avocado all good sources including vegetarian options. Avocado is a 'superfood' containing all eight essential amino acids, good fats, vitamins and minerals. A powerhouse packed protein!

Lessening inflammatory reactions in the body can be needed, whereby food intolerance can agitate the body. Remember as I said earlier, 80% of the immune system is in the bowel. This influences the whole body including the brain. An inflamed immune system is an inflamed, agitated, unsettled brain and hence will only but weaken a more vulnerable mind. Oily fish contains omega 3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory and provide the desired raw materials to build healthy hormones. 

Water - a simple, basic part of life's necessities and making up 70% of the body. So how can the body, brain and mind function well without it? Maybe you do not like water, but water likes you! A natural anti-histamine and detoxifier. Try adding three or four good squeezes of lemon juice to a glass of water. The juice is full of electrolytes to help aid water absorption as well as Vitamin C which is used in huge quantities when stressed.  

Certain medications given to people act as calcium channel blockers to help relax the brain. The mineral magnesium, which can be deficient in people, is nature's natural calcium channel blocker. What about Vitamin D? Did you know it is actually a pro-hormone not a vitamin? Living in the northern hemisphere is not great for Vitamin D production in the skin from sunshine. So have you had your Vitamin D blood levels tested? There are a lot of receptors for Vitamin D and magnesium in the brain. And guess what - low Vitamin D and low magnesium results in the brain becoming destabilised and you start to feel those effects. So does your thyroid gland! Eggs and oily fish again are a couple of Vitamin D sources.  Vitamin D is also good for stimulating serotonin production. 

Low energy levels and lack of sleep are very typical with low mood and anxiety reactions. Sometimes the adrenals, which are responsible for the 'fight and flight' reactions, pump out adrenalin and cortisol causing them to eventually become fatigued which then results in low energy and an inability to sleep. Serotonin pops its important head up again here: serotonin is the precursor to melatonin the sleep hormone! Guess what - tart cherries also contain melatonin. Drinking tart cherry juice could be a good alternative fruit juice option. I would also go back to magnesium, as a certain type of food state magnesium I use will aid sleep when taken just before going to bed. Possibly no more need for sleeping tablets!
Adrenal fatigue does not have to be a way of life. A tailored nutritional programme can help aid function and recovery so you and your brain/mind can operate again. When the body's cells are fatigued, through poor diet, they become resistant to up-taking glucose and nutrition.   

And finally, what about different times of life. Menopause and andropause - this stage of life in men and women can trigger all sorts of changes in mind and body reactions in a person, as well as self-confidence, feelings related to attractiveness and where has the energy and sleep gone? "I never used to be like this!" It does not have to be all consuming when given good dietary support.

Puberty - is a time when children can 'go off the rails', but what about how their bodies are manufacturing hormones and how they are being affected by them? Just think about that!

Autistic spectrum - more and more children, and even adults are 'appearing' on this spectrum. Why is that? What can be done? As mentioned, working on the gut brain aids the cranial brain, so emotional outbursts, difficulty with veering from only eating certain foods and sometimes not eating at all, and working on the neurotransmitters' excitability so behaviour can change is feasible. Go back to serotonin levels too - are they too low?

If you want to help address any imbalances in your life of an emotional, mental and physical nature, a nutritionist can create a tailored nutritional programme to meet you where you are in your life.  'One size does not fit all'. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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