The foods we eat can have a huge influence on our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Proper nutrition is a good defence against all illnesses including bipolar symptoms such as depression. We can change how we think and feel by changing what we put into our mouth.

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The famous French psychiatrist Philippe Pinel concluded in 1807: “The primary seat of insanity generally is the region of the stomach and intestines.” Psychiatry is one form of medicine that does not always look at the patient’s digestive system, and yet medical history has plenty of examples where severe psychiatric conditions were much improved by simply “cleaning out the patient’s gut”. Nutritional treatment is the way forward for many patients and more and more psychiatrists are becoming aware of it.

Our body is amazing. It has incredible powers of healing and resilience but it is the mind that is master of it all. When the mind is truly connected with the body it is like a light going on in every cell. By nourishing and nurturing ourselves on all levels we move closer to balance and harmony within ourselves. As a nutritional therapist I believe we need to wake up to the realisation that poor nutrition and chemical imbalances underlie a lot of mental health problems.

The modern western diet has become woefully lacking in essential fats, vitamins, minerals and other key brain nutrients. One of the biggest problems is processed food which has been tampered with to enhance its shelf life. Eating a diet consisting of ready cooked meals, white bread, fizzy drinks, crisps, fast food takeaways, excess tea and coffee is not proper food for our brains.

This sort of diet contains damaged fats known as trans fats or hydrogenated fat which upsets the brain function and contributes to depressive illness. Add to this excess alcohol and smoking which damage the lining of the gut and upset the blood sugar balance within the body, causing mood swings, low energy, irritability, leaky gut and deficiency in vital minerals, vitamins, essential fats and amino acids.

This further upsets the PH balance (the degree of alkalinity and acidity) within the body which is vital for wellbeing. If we become too acidic we literally lose the ability to digest our food correctly because the enzymes needed to do this work cannot be activated.

When the body is too acidic our worldview becomes darker and more contracted and we are unable to achieve real quality of life. Light is of great importance because it connects everything in the universe, including every single cell in our body; so spending time in the sun not only increases our vitamin D but is also very important if we are to connect and illuminate our “own inner wisdom”.

Our ideal diet should be as natural, seasonal, local and organic as much as possible. If we want to improve our mental health through diet we need to regularly eat some of the following food.

The omega 3 essential fatty acids are very important. Low levels have been linked to depression. It is well worth reading The Natural Way to Beat Depression by Dr Basant Puri, whose ground-breaking work with fish oils has helped numerous people with depression.

Good sources are cold water fish, herring, mackerel, organic and wild salmin, buts and pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds. Eat dark green leafy vegetables such as watercress, kale, spinach, green beans, broccoli raw or lightly cooked. These are rich in B vitamins which are vital for good mental health.

Have a protein breakfast to stabilise blood sugar levels e.g. muesli with natural yoghurt and some fruit, omelettes and boiled eggs, smoothies. Eat eggs regularly, preferably organic, free range and high in omega 3. Drink 8 – 10 glasses of water every day. Cut down on fizzy drinks – they upset the mineral balance, reduce intake of fried and processed food. Steam vegetables and fish. Avoid ready-made meals and fast food takeaways.

By nourishing and nurturing ourselves on all levels our mood will improve and we will have more energy, feel calmer, have better mental clarity and we will be better equipped to deal with the stresses and strains of living in the 21st century. I wish you all well on your healing journey. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step; begin today.

Mary Wallace-Cooley is a former psychiatric nurse and is a practicing Nutritional Therapist.

She is passionate about promoting good mental health through natural nutrition.