Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How Does Diet and Nutrition Affect Mental Health?


Diet And Nutrition Affect Mental Health

Food is medicine. Increasingly, this is becoming a scientific fact more than a spiritual sentiment. Food is medicine. For those who are living with mental health conditions including substance use disorders, a healthy and balanced nutrition full of the right kind of foods can help the treatment process. Food can support the work of prescribed medication, therapy, and the treatment process as a whole. For mental health conditions which have never been treated, the right diet can alleviate symptoms. As support for the mind, body, and spirit, food acts as a catalyst for healing and a proactive tool for life.

Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can include many different food types. For mental health specifically, the brain needs certain nutrients. Substance use disorders, like drug addiction and alcoholism, deplete the brain of the nutrients it needs to function. Chemical dependency is as it is named- the brain and the body become chemically dependent upon drugs and alcohol rather than more natural substances. These are the best foods for supporting mental health and the recovery process.

Omega 3- Fatty Acids

The brain absolutely needs fatty acids to function. Omega 3-fatty acids come exclusively from food. Fatty acids, healthy fats, help the brain strengthen its nerves and neurons, supporting the reestablishment of neural pathways. Foods for omega-3 fatty acids includes:
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Coconut Oil
  • Avocado
  • Flaxseed and Chia Seed


Complex Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates get a bad reputation because of the way the modern diet relies upon bad carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates like processed sugars, and breads are not good for the brain. When the brain digests the sugar and creates glucose, it causes swings which can imitate mood swings, exacerbating existing symptoms of mental health conditions. Complex carbohydrates like grains, oats, whole wheat, and quinoa, give the brain the proper energy without the swings and the crashes.

Lean Protein

Amino acids are what helps neurotransmitters function in the brain. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin play a significant role in mental health, especially substance use disorders. Drug and alcohol abuse completely exhaust the brain’s ability to create dopamine, which is essential to the brain’s ability to create and experience pleasure. Lean proteins are full of amino acids which build strong neurotransmitters and help the brain heal.


Diet and nutrition is a lifestyle change as well as a set of learned skills. At Cottonwood Tucson, our addiction rehab and behavioral health treatment programs provide private work with a behavioral health nutritionist. Diet, exercise, and wellness are part of our integrative approach to treatment. For information on how our proven co-occurring disorders programs provide hope and healing, call us today by dialing (800) 877-4520.

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