Mental Health Awareness Week

photo of a woman thinking

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, and  I was pleased to be involved in speaking at the Cardiff Junior Lawyers Health and Wellbeing breakfast seminar to share how Good Nutrition can support Resilience to Stress

Everyone in the legal profession will be aware of the stress placed upon all levels of the profession in the current workplace environment. As a former solicitor, married to a senior lawyer, I am acutely aware of how the pace of business has increased to frantic levels, adding to the stress of living in our constantly connected 21st century. There are no surprises then that mental health issues are increasing in the profession. In 2018 LawCare received its highest ever level of helpline calls.

And of course, this issue is not limited to the legal profession – it exists in all areas of work, from accountancy, advertising and marketing, insurance, call centres, to  teachers, NHS workers and more….

As a Nutritional Therapist I see many clients suffering from conditions such as chronic headaches and migraines, IBS, weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and low mood. Most if not all of these conditions are driven by stress.

There are a number of ways that food – both what you eat and how and when you eat it, can help reduce the effects of stress in the body. Sadly, the Standard Western Diet that many of us eat today is devoid of fibre and nutrients and fails to give our body what it needs to work well.

What can we all do to mitigate against this? The main strategies that I suggest are:-

  • Balancing blood sugar – eating natural unprocessed wholegrains – eat brown and seeded not white and refined, complex carbohydrates – including the carbs in vegetables; and protein with every meal. This strategy ensures that glucose enters the bloodstream in a gradual way, avoiding energy highs and lows which have a massively detrimental effect on energy and mood
  • Replacing depleted nutrients like Vitamins B and C, magnesium, zinc and iron. Easily obtained from vegetables, fruit and other plants – so eat a rainbow of these, aiming for 10 portions a day. It’s a lot, so work up to this gradually! Without these nutrients our body just cannot perform its metabolic functions -its not surprising that we can feel unable to cope with the stresses of daily life
  • Eating good fats to support a favourable Omega 3/6 ratio:- olive oil, oily fish, nuts, avocados. These all support the manufacture of hormones, cell walls, absorption of certain Vitamins and help our nervous system work well
  • Eating good proteins to provide the building blocks of neurotransmitters – especially plant proteins like beans, pulses, nuts and seeds
  • Supporting your gut microbiome by eating the 3 Ps:- Prebiotics –soluble fibre found in plants like leeks, garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes, lentils and oats; Probiotics – the live bacteria in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and miso. Finally, Phytonutrients – the plant chemicals found in, yes, plants. Research is showing that plants contain thousands of different nutrients that have a positive function on the gut and therefore on the rest of the body. I’m talking about things like the polyphenols in coffee, chocolate and red berries; the lycopene in tomatoes and quercetin in apples and onions. There is a massive amount of research into the Gut – Brain link at the moment. It’s showing that a healthy microbiome supports not only our digestion and nutrient absorption, but also our brain health. The key is Diversity – eat as many different natural foods as you can each day. Research shows that a diverse diet leads to a diverse microbiome which correlates with good health

assorted vegetable lot

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