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Diet as Mind-Body Therapy

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Diet as Mind-Body Therapy? Or diet to help heart health, reduce your risk of chronic disease and your risk of cancer. Eating nutritiously helps calm me as I stress out about myriad side effects, fear of relapse, fear of therapy-induced secondary cancer and on and on.

I am a long-term cancer survivor. Believe me when I say that struggling with a

  • cancer diagnosis
  • cancer therapy plan with chemo and radiation
  • and cancer survival

can do a number on your mental health.

And mental health is often overlooked by conventional oncology but essential none-the-less.  The Mediterranean Diet comes up in study after study as being the best all-around nutritional therapy.

I will confess that I do cheat on occasion. Meaning, I stray from the what the link above says. But day-in, day-out, it is the Mediteranean Diet that I follow.

Why is diet as mind-body therapy possible?

Nutrient Influence on Brain Function

  1. Essential Nutrients: Certain nutrients are crucial for brain health. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts) are vital for brain function and development, and they have been linked to lower rates of depression and cognitive decline.
  2. Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamins such as B12, B6, and folate are important for neurological function and can influence mood. Deficiencies in these vitamins can lead to mood disturbances and cognitive impairments.
  3. Antioxidants: Foods rich in antioxidants (like berries, dark chocolate, and nuts) help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, which is linked to better cognitive function and lower rates of neurodegenerative diseases.

Gut-Brain Axis

  1. Probiotics and Prebiotics: The gut-brain axis highlights the connection between gut health and mental health. Probiotics (found in yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods) and prebiotics (found in fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) support a healthy gut microbiome, which can influence mood and cognitive functions.
  2. Gut Inflammation: A diet high in processed foods and low in fiber can lead to gut inflammation, which is associated with higher rates of anxiety and depression. A healthy diet can help maintain gut health and, consequently, mental health.

Blood Sugar Regulation

  1. Stable Blood Sugar Levels: Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can affect mood and energy levels. Diets that include complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats help maintain stable blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of mood swings and irritability.
  2. Avoiding High-Glycemic Foods: Consuming foods with a high glycemic index (such as sugary snacks and refined grains) can cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar, leading to fatigue, anxiety, and mood disorders.

Inflammatory Response

  1. Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Chronic inflammation is linked to several mental health issues, including depression. Foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, such as fatty fish, leafy greens, and nuts, can help reduce inflammation and support mental health.
  2. Avoiding Inflammatory Foods: Reducing the intake of processed foods, sugary beverages, and trans fats can decrease inflammation and improve overall well-being.

Hormonal Balance

  1. Supporting Neurotransmitter Production: The body requires certain nutrients to produce neurotransmitters that regulate mood. For example, tryptophan (found in turkey, eggs, and cheese) is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences mood and sleep.
  2. Balancing Hormones: A balanced diet helps maintain hormonal balance, which can positively affect mood, stress levels, and cognitive functions.

Mindful Eating Practices

  1. Mindful Eating: Paying attention to what you eat and how you eat it can reduce stress and improve digestion. Mindful eating encourages being present during meals, which can enhance the enjoyment of food and lead to healthier eating habits.
  2. Reducing Stress Through Diet: Certain foods, like those rich in magnesium (e.g., leafy greens, nuts, and seeds), can help reduce stress and anxiety by supporting the nervous system.

Personalized Nutrition

  1. Individualized Approaches: Different individuals may have unique dietary needs based on their genetic makeup, lifestyle, and health conditions. Personalized nutrition plans can optimize mental and physical health by catering to individual needs.

man hand holding his nutritional supplemets, healthy lifestyle background.

The one thing I add to my nutrition is nutritional supplementation. I do so because I cannot eat, for example, enough fish to ingest the amount of fish oil that I think helps my mind-body, heart, blood etc,. etc. health.

Are you a cancer survivor struggling with mind-body health? PTSD? Anxiety from a fear of recurrence?

Email me at David.PeopleBeatingCancer@gmail.com

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet Is Inversely Associated with Anxiety and Stress but Not Depression: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Community-Dwelling Older Australians

“Abstract- Diet quality may be an important modifiable risk factor for mental health disorders. However, these findings have been inconsistent, particularly in older adults. We explored the independent associations between adherence to a Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) and severity of symptoms related to

  • depression,
  • anxiety
  • and stress

in older adults from Australia. This was a cross-sectional analysis of older Australians ≥ 60 years. MedDiet adherence was assessed using the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener (MEDAS), and the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS−21) was used to assess the severity of negative emotional symptoms.

A total of n = 294 participants were included in the final analyses (70.4 ± 6.2 years). Adherence to a MedDiet was inversely associated with the severity of anxiety symptoms (β = −0.118; CI: −0.761, −0.012; p = 0.043) independent of age, gender, BMI, physical activity, sleep, cognitive risk and ability to perform activities of daily living. Furthermore, MedDiet adherence was inversely associated with symptoms of stress (β = −0.151; CI: −0.680, −0.073; p = 0.015) independent of age, gender, BMI, physical activity and sleep.

However, no relationship between MedDiet adherence and depressive symptoms was observed. We showed that adherence to a MedDiet is inversely associated with the severity of symptoms related to anxiety and stress but not depression. Exploring these findings with the use of longitudinal analyses and robust clinical trials are needed to better elucidate these findings in older adults…

Conclusions- We report that adherence to a MedDiet was inversely associated with severity of symptoms related to anxiety and stress in community-dwelling older Australians. However, this relationship was not observed for depressive symptoms.

We also observed that specific dietary components of a MedDiet, including a low consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages as well as increased fruit, nut and legume consumption were all independently and inversely associated with symptoms of anxiety.

Our results therefore contribute to the wider literature in support of adherence to a healthy dietary pattern to mitigate mental health disorders (diet as mind-body therapy). Nevertheless, these findings should be investigated further using well-controlled longitudinal analyses and robust clinical trials to better elucidate these findings in older adults…”


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