Mental health has finally started to get the attention it deserves.
Let’s characterise mental health as your proclivity to fall into alternate and unfavourable mental states, such as anxiety, depression or stress.
We all experience these states, some more often than others, and some much more powerfully than others.
Mental health seems to have roots in both biology and psychology. For example, a bad experience during childhood, losing our jobs or feeling isolated can make us more anxious or depressed.
But, also, mental health problems like depression can be improved, at least momentarily, by restoring certain neurotransmitter imbalances, such as a lack of serotonin. This is why most clinically depressed individuals are treated using SSRI drugs or other similar treatments.
Mental health can also be adversely affected by trauma, loss or going through generally bad experiences which can shape our brain in different ways.
Our genetics can also play a role in our tendency to suffer from depression and anxiety.
Mental health is insanely complex, and there definitely cannot be a “one size fits all” approach to treating it or optimising it. It seems to be highly variable.
The decline in mental health is pervasive in today’s world and may be even more devastating than the effects of neurodegenerative disease. Living in suffering is no way to live at all.
Thankfully, there’s a lot of fresh research being conducted that is slowly uncovering the complex puzzle of depression, anxiety and mental health. We need to find what causes it, and how to treat it effectively to keep us healthy and happy in the long term.
Just to name a few interesting points:
- There seems to be some interesting links between your gut microbiome, in particular gut dysbiosis and depression https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6378305/#:~:text=A%20growing%20body%20of%20literature,health%20(17%E2%80%9319).
- There is intriguing research showing some links between mitochondrial disfunction (the powerhouse of cells) and its role in depression and reduced mood (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5997778/, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0953711207000245)
- Inflammation has been known to be higher in those suffering with depression and fatigue, so targeting this may be a potential treatment for these ailments (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6658985/)
- There’s been a lot of new research into the potential of psychedelics, ketamine and MDMA therapy in treating depression and PTSD. This is an exciting time, as these drugs are typically known/seen as party drugs or recreational drugs, however they seem to have huge potential as an actual therapy for serious mental disorders like depression in humans (https://maps.org/other-psychedelic-research/211-psilocybin-research/psilocybin-studies-in-progress/research/psilo/passiepsilocybin1.html%7D, https://maps.org/research/mdma/ptsd/phase3, https://www.healtheuropa.eu/clinical-trials-fda-marks-psilocybin-for-depression-treatment/95377/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6435835/)
In terms of some immediate lifestyle or nutrition strategies that you can look at to help improve mental health such as depression, anxiety or stress - there are a few things we would recommend:
- Exercise – as before with improving brain health, exercise can also produce endorphins, your bodies “feel good” neurotransmitters as well as reduce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This can leave you feeling happier and less stressed (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax)
- Meditation x 10-20 minutes per day
- Breathing exercises/box breathing to help stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and get you into a sense of calm and reduced stress easily https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/
- Natural supplements
- Supplements for anti-inflammation such as Turmeric or its primary compound Curcumin. We recommend looking at Hydrocurc specific brand.
- Also look into Saffron – this is the most expensive spice in the world, however it has therapeutic benefits as a supplement. It acts as a partial SSRI, a similar pathway that many anti-depressant drugs target. Some studies have shown that it even performs the same if not better than some anti depressant medications. Checkout our blog post here on Saffron.
- Kanna – Kanna is a plant that has been used for 100’s of years in Africa. It now has some clinical data showing that it too acts as a natural SSRI. It can improve mood, as well as reduce feelings of anxiety based on some good research looking at amygdala reactivity. Check out our full blog for Kanna Here.
- Probiotics and pre-biotics to restore a healthy gut flora (which may or may not be a potential factor in mental health)
- Adaptogens like Rhodiola Rosea, Panax Ginseng and Ashwagandha can help you attenuate the stress response
- To help reduce anxiety and create a sense of calm, look into L-Theanine, Magnesium Glycinate, GABA and L-Tryptophan
- Eat a high fibre, low sugar and low inflammation diet