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How Diet and Exercise Support Mental Health

Did you know the benefits of good nutrition and exercise surpass maintaining a healthy body weight? Positive attitudes about eating and moving your body in ways that feel good can support your brain, body and soul. In fact, good nutrition and regular exercise have the power to prevent or reverse many diseases, from dementia & depression to cardiovascular disease & cancer.

How Diet and Exercise Support Mental Health: The Interconnectedness of Mind & Body

There is a bidirectional interconnectedness between the mind and body that we often refer to as the mind-body connection. This means that our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. And vice versa. What we do with our physical body (what we eat, how much we exercise, even our posture) can impact our mental state (positively or negatively). For example, some people with depression have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population.

The Role of the Gut Biome on Mental Health

Our gut and brain are connected by the vagus nerve, a major component of the autonomic nervous system which enables you to breathe, digest food, and swallow automatically. This nerve is able to send messages to your brain for your colon, and vice versa.

This connection, referred to as the gut-brain axis, is becoming a vital player in mental health, illnesses that affect the brain, and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It explains why stress can take a toll on your digestion, but also why digestive problems can make you unhappy.

To support your health, your gut microbiome needs to be diverse, and diversity helps keep it balanced. However, if it is not balanced, opportunistic microbes can take advantage and proliferate, resulting in inflammation.

So, reducing inflammation can improve both mood and anxiety levels. Eating mostly whole, unrefined plant foods is one way to increase the abundance of diverse microbes and reduce inflammation. Beneficial gut bacteria thrive on a natural, plant-based diet because fiber is an important source of energy for them.

Why Diet Is Important to Support the Gut Biome

It’s clear there is a link between gut bacteria and depression. Diet is crucial to supporting healthy gut biomes. For instance, supplementing our diets with various nutrients, probiotics, and prebiotics can increase the number of healthy and beneficial gut biomes in the digestive system. As the number of healthy gut biomes increases, there is a noticeable shift in our moods. We notice we feel less stressed and anxious. If we are experiencing depressive symptoms, those too gradually start to decrease as we notice an improvement in our moods and positive feelings and emotions. 

What Happens When We Exercise?

The link between exercise and mood is strong. Usually within five minutes after engaging in moderate exercise, you get a mood-enhancement effect. However, the positive effects of physical activity on mental health extend beyond the short-term. Research shows that exercise can also help alleviate long-term depression.

Some researchers suspect exercise alleviates chronic depression by increasing serotonin, the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports the growth of neurons. Another theory suggests exercise helps by improving sleep quality, which is known to have protective effects on mental health.

Exercise may also boost a depressed person’s outlook by helping them return to a meaningful activity and providing a sense of accomplishment. Not to mention the fact that a person’s responsiveness to stress is moderated by activity. It’s likely that multiple factors are at play.

How Diet and Exercise Support Mental Health — Exercise Can Improve Your Mood

Depression and many other chronic diseases have been linked to chronic inflammation. Enjoying an anti-inflammatory diet and moving your body regularly in ways that feel good for you can reduce the risk of depression and improve your quality of life.

In general, whole, unrefined plant foods fight inflammation while red meats and processed foods are strongly inflammatory. The color variety in fruits, vegetables and legumes signals healthy nutrient diversity. Each week, try eating at least one red, orange, yellow, green & blue/purple plant food. Feel free to experiment with new dishes, or make your favorites more colorful by adding greens to a smoothie, mixing edamame or pinto beans into rice or topping cereal with berries. Over time, little changes in the foods, drinks and ingredients you choose can have big health benefits.

Regular exercise has a profound impact on cognitive function; it improves mood and memory, and reduces the risk of developing depression by 35%. So, every minute of movement counts— especially when you sweat. Try adding 5, 7 or 15 mins of exercise to your pre-shower routine. Coupling exercise with an activity you already do, like showering, can make a new habit feel easy. It’s also important to make movement a part of your schedule and not just an afterthought. Early in the morning, during lunch breaks, after work or before showering are great blocks of time to work out. Think about what’s really stopped you from exercising routinely. Then, find alternatives that address those challenges. Too tired at the end of the day? Try working out in the morning this week. Intimidated by the gym? Work out at home or outside. Too busy with kids? Make exercise a family activity.

Alternative Ways to Support Mental Health

In addition to enjoying anti-inflammatory foods and exercising regularly, exploring alternative ways to support your mental health can help improve your overall well-being. Some of the more common alternative options you could consider are:

IV Nutrient Therapy

Maintaining a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods is the best way to get nutrients and fight inflammation. However, when stress, travel or poor food choices deplete the body’s vitamin supplies, IV nutrition can help nourish, replenish and hydrate.

TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation)

If you’ve tried medication or talk therapy, but are still experiencing symptoms or unwanted side effects, TMS could be your next step. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy is a non-invasive, non-drug, and FDA-cleared treatment with zero downtime that is safe and effective for a range of conditions affecting mental health and cognition. 

Spravato and IV Ketamine Therapy

Designated as a ‘breakthrough therapy’ by the FDA, ketamine can rapidly—often within an hour or two—lift the symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, and other conditions. After a short series of repeated doses, this effect typically extends out for weeks to months.

Nutritional and Mental Health Support in Los Angeles, CA

At Neuro Wellness Spa, we understand there’s more to mental health treatment than a pill. To learn more about TMS, Spravato, IV Ketamine or IV nutrient therapy, or to schedule a consultation, contact us or call us at 1-877-847-3984 today.

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