Revitalizing Inner Self Essence is an integrative trauma-focused practice. One part of an integrative approach includes discussing holistic ways to approach mental health healing. This conversation at RISE includes many aspects, but one important aspect that is often overlooked in mental health discussions is nutrition. To be clear, before there were psychotropic medications or herbal supplements, there was food. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color have long used ritual holistic healing practices using sources directly from the Earth.
Food and Mood Connection
Science and research have begun to verify the connection between nutrition and mental health or, as we say, food and mood. Because of the gut-brain axis, communication is always happening between our nervous system and our gut. With people who experience PTSD, Anxiety, or Depression, these subtle changes are often overlooked, but they’re a big deal. Taking a closer look at them isn’t optional. For Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, it is decolonial.
Anxiety and Stress
Individuals who experience stress and anxiety are impacted by nutrition sometimes unknowingly. Stress, at times, suppresses the appetite. This is because when the body is stressed, the nervous system sends stress hormones such as epinephrine to the adrenal system. The release of epinephrine indicates that one’s fight-or-flight system has been activated, which suppresses appetite.
When stress is prolonged, the body releases cortisol, which may increase appetite and motivation, such as stress eating. When people are stressed, they tend to reach for cakes, pies, cookies, and other desserts. This often happens because sweets appear to have a calming effect on the body. So, what am I saying? Anxiety and stress directly impact our desire to eat and our cravings. The foods we then consume impact various parts of our body because of the bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain.
Depressive symptoms also impact mood. Over ninety percent of serotonin is made in the gut. Let me say that again, over ninety percent of serotonin is made in the gut, which means the food we consume can provide us with happy chemicals. Serotonin is the happy chemical targeted in many anti-depressants. To receive happy chemicals holistically, our gut, meaning our nutrition, plays a huge role. When we are sad or depressed, we often reach for processed foods that aren’t good for our gut. When this happens, we decrease the amount of serotonin in the gut and cause feelings of sadness and depression.
It’s not just your mental health that is impacted. Your overall wellness is impacted as well. This may look like:
- Blood sugar fluctuations: When we eat sugary foods, our blood sugar levels rise quickly and then crash. This can lead to mood swings, irritability, and fatigue.
- Blood pressure fluctuations: When we eat processed foods, restaurant foods, or foods high in sodium, our blood pressure levels rise. This can lead to mood swings, irritability, and difficulty breathing.
- Nutrient deficiencies: Essential nutrients, such as B vitamins, iron, and magnesium, play important roles in brain function and mood regulation. Deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to low energy, mood swings, and depression.
- Gut health: The gut microbiome, the trillions of bacteria that live in our digestive tract, plays a role in both physical and mental health. Research has shown that a healthy gut microbiome is associated with improved mood and reduced anxiety.
Holistic Healing with an Integrative Trauma Therapist in Baltimore, MD.
You can start improving today by three things:
- Work with Christina of RISE, an integrative trauma therapist
- Mindfully eating by eating food from the sun, limiting processed food, and eating a rainbow.
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
In our practice, we focus on integrating all parts of the human experience into trauma therapy. Therapists aren’t nutritionists, and neither this blog nor work in therapy replaces working with medical professionals. But, we believe in a liberatory decolonial approach that includes returning to traditional practices like food and nutrition. At