Nutrition and a heavy metal detox may play an important part role in enhancing your mental health. The process of choosing and absorbing the food necessary for good mental health starts with knowing what nutrients are required, where to find them and knowing that you are absorbing them.
Achieving good mental health from nutrition is a multisystemic approach which may involve a few key systems within your body such as your:
Naturopathically, all health starts in the gut and it is beyond our own cells where we can make the most change.
Our microbiome exists to keep us healthy and operates via the ‘gut-brain’ axis. The human microbiome is a community of bacteria which generally resides in our gut. The microbiome play an important role in the programming of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis early in life, and stress reactivity over the life span (1). The HPA is also referred to as our central stress response system. Furthermore, the microbiome varies from person to person, due to what we consume.
A diet high in prebiotic foods; bananas, blueberries, onions, garlic, and wholegrains will feed the commensal bacteria that act on our immune system to induce protective responses and prevent pathogenic colonisation.
Conversely, a diet high in sugars; simple carbohydrates, too much fruit starves the beneficial bacteria and feeds the opportunistic species into overgrowth. As a result, this may reduce our immune protection and increase our vulnerability to neurodevelopmental (ASD, ADHD, Austism, etc) and psychiatric disorders.
Our microbiome performs these protective mechanisms through the suppression of neuroinflammatory cytokines and aiding the production of neurotransmitters.
A neurotransmitter is referred to as your body’s chemical messenger within the nervous system which transmit messages to other parts of your body. The production of neurotransmitters involved in mental health require not just a balanced microbiota, but may also require a variety of nutrients such as:
For example, Dopamine, which helps us with learning and motivation, mood, and attention, may also play a role in sleep, kidney and blood vessel function and heart rate and more. In medicine, it is highlighted that a lack of dopamine may cause or contribute to ADHD.
Our body makes Dopamine from the amino acid tyrosine combined with Vitamins B3, B6, folate, iron, and magnesium.
Let us look at Serotonin. Our body makes serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan, Vitamins B6, B3, zinc, folate, magnesium, and vitamin C. As mentioned above, a group of nutrients is required to make about 2 neurotransmitters.
Furthermore, this shows we may need them in abundance to make all the neurotransmitters required. So where do we find them? A variety of fresh whole foods is the easiest way.
What are whole foods? Whole foods are refined or processed as minimally as possible. In addition, they are also free from artificial additives such as:
Eating a rainbow of vegetables and fruits daily will provide us with many of the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals (e.g. antioxidants; non-nutritive plant chemicals with disease preventing properties) and fibre that we need.
We may not be able to obtain Vitamin B12 from plants (vegan food is fortified, including savoury yeast) and the absorption of non-heme (plant) iron is very poor in comparison to the heme (animal) iron. For this reason, you may want to include organic and pastured eggs and red meats in your daily food intake.
Similarly, DHA, the essential omega 3 fatty acid that forms our brain’s myelin sheath, is very poorly converted from the plant based (flaxseeds, chia seeds) ALA into DHA. Moreover, the myelin sheath is the fatty acid and protein cover that wraps around our nervous system axons to protect them and help fire chemical messages faster and more efficiently.
In addition, about half of the population lacks the fatty acid desaturases; the enzymes responsible for that conversion, highlighting the importance of regular seafood consumption or DHA supplementation (2).
Choosing the right foods is the 1st step and avoiding the toxins that block the receptor sites may be just as important. Toxic heavy metals that accumulate in us may be because of the chronic exposure we receive through:
Furthermore, toxic metals in cookware may also accumulate in your organs and glands which may block hormone receptor sites and destroy enzymes for hormone production (3).
Moreover, having a balanced hormone production is imperative to obtaining good mental health. Too much cortisol, a hormone that is produced as a stress response, alters levels of chemicals such as:
As a result, the excess production of oestrogen can cause anxiety and irritability and low thyroid hormone can cause depression. If we have heavy metals adding to already low levels of thyroid hormone, even if we have adequate levels of the nutrients to make thyroid hormone, we will have thyroid disease.
The only way to solve this problem is to detoxify from heavy metals, which can be done under the supervision of a qualified Naturopath, using herbal and nutritional medicine to chelate the metals and eliminate them effectively from the body.
Once achieved, avoiding sources of heavy metals, as much as possible is key. It may be impossible to avoid all heavy metals, which is why it is important to eat a healthy diet, every day, so we have the nutrients available to support our body’s detoxification pathways.
To give yourself and your family the best mental health it is important to include a variety of fresh seasonal produce, ensure your overall health is excellent, to optimise absorption of nutrients and detox regularly.
Do you have existing health issues or not sure where to start?
Book in with Chelsea Everingham a qualified and experienced Nutrition Naturopath who can ease you into your health journey. Chelsea is well experienced in areas such as:
Working alongside the dentists at Gold Coast Holistic Dental Care, Chelsea is trained to use the most appropriate clinical and testing methods testing to ensure you have the highest quality treatment. To book an appointment, call our friendly staff on 07 5644 6000 today or book an online appointment.