Seeing someone as a whole person rather than a body with individual systems is nothing new. But only recently have health practitioners begun to more fully understand — and guide patients accordingly on — the interconnectedness of nutrition with physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
Nutrition is an essential part of functional medicine, which focuses on the whole person and couples conventional medical treatments with complementary therapy approaches. With this method, nutrition is seen as a tool that supports not just the body, but also the mind and spirit. Read on to learn more about the relationship between nutrition and these health areas.
Why Nutrition Matters
Functional medicine recognizes that physical health is directly affected by mental and spiritual health and vice versa. In fact, The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This means even if we seem physically well, if we aren’t in other areas, we are not as healthy as we may think.
Our busy lifestyles and culture of seeking treatment for our symptoms rather than their underlying causes are just a few factors causing the health issues seen most commonly in today’s society. Then, when you add in our diets of processed and unhealthy foods that are often nutrient-deficient or even full of harmful chemicals, it is clearer that a holistic health view is vitally important for our quality of life.
How Food Affects Health
You may have heard your gastrointestinal tract referred to as your body’s “second brain.” That’s because your brain and your GI tract are closely related. The GI tract houses bacteria that impact the body’s production of neurotransmitters, chemicals that relay messages from the gut to the brain. When you eat healthy food, your gut can effectively produce these neurotransmitters. In contrast, unhealthy food can decrease production and increase harmful inflammation, leading to uncomfortable symptoms.
In addition to causing physical issues such as obesity, diabetes, or heart issues, studies have shown that a poor diet can also contribute to mental illnesses like depression. Further, when our physical health is suffering, our spiritual health suffers too because we aren’t in a good mindset to focus on our spiritual well-being when we don’t feel our best in other areas. When we don’t feel well, we tend to eat more poorly, which starts the cycle over again.
Optimal Nutrition for Health
On the other hand, eating a healthful diet with enough fruits and vegetables and the proper balance of fats and carbohydrates can alleviate depression and mood swings and even help curb emotional eating. So, how can we eat well to support our overall health? In addition to sleeping for at least 8 hours per night, drinking plenty of water, avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol, and getting enough exercise, there are some diet guidelines you can follow that help you feel your best.
- Fruits and vegetables are healthy and fiber-rich, helping you avoid sugar highs and crashes.
- Berries, leafy greens, salmon, and seeds are rich in antioxidants and beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Lentils and cantaloupes especially are high in folate that contributes to dopamine production.
- Mushrooms can help with vitamin D production, which influences serotonin levels.
- Dark chocolate, nuts, bananas, and beans are filled with magnesium that helps keep your gut healthy and stave off symptoms related to depression and anxiety.
- Foods with probiotics like miso, tempeh, kombucha, and sauerkraut help your gut get the good bacteria it needs.
Faithfully Guided Is Your Whole Person Health Provider
Knowing that what we eat can negatively or positively impact our mental and physical health, we can take steps to ensure that our bodies get the nutrition it needs to heal any issues we may experience. At Faithfully Guided, we focus on a whole-person approach to help you learn more about your relationship with food and how your mental and emotional health has informed your eating. We help you create positive feelings around food and recognize food behaviors while guiding you on a healthy diet that works for you.
Reach out to us when you’re ready to learn more about how food plays a part in how well you feel physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Our knowledgeable and caring team of providers truly cares about helping you live an abundant, healthier life.