While social media is often seen as one of the causes of mental health issues nowadays, nutrition plays a huge part in a person’s overall well-being and that includes addressing mental illnesses.
Dietitian-nutritionist Cheshire Que said the brain and gut are connected, with the latter acting as the second brain.
“If you don’t eat well, you don’t eat at the right time, you abuse your lifestyle and you don’t get enough and quality sleep, you decrease the amount of gut bacteria. When your gut lining is destroyed, that is when toxins are allowed into your bloodstream and into your brain. You won’t be able to deal with the stresses in life,” Que said during a recent forum in support of World Mental Health Day sponsored by sanitary napkin and liner brand Jeunesse Anion.
Que usually asks her patients to undergo a simple metabolic profile test. “It’s a simple test. After sending it to the laboratory and comes back after three weeks, I see that 100 percent of the time that my patients have nutritional deficiencies. And that has something to do with the gut again.”
Que pointed out that food is needed for the brain to function optimally and poor nutrition causes nutrient deficiencies that affect hormonal imbalance and many other factors that influence mood, thought process and other functions of the brain.
Using the nutrition route to diagnose and treat mental disorders, she said the approach is to bring back balance in the body by removal of food triggers (gluten, dairy, refined sugar); repair through fresh produce, functional foods and supplementations; and re-inoculate probiotics and feed the gut with prebiotics such as honey.
“I know it’s cheaper to buy one-piece chicken with rice than salad. But if you cannot help it, make sure that when you get home, you have fruit waiting for you. You can have fruit and vegetable soup to reduce the inflammation (in your stomach),” she said.
Que explained further that serotonin and dopamine are important to health and these spur the body’s happy hormones. Dopamine is released by the body during pleasurable experiences while serotonin addresses anxiety and is produced through sunlight, exercise and eating foods rich in tryptophan.
Other speakers were Victory Greenhills campus missionary and pastor Dave Estrera who spoke on social media’s effect on individuals’ perception, socialization and rest. Sheila Suntay talked about how the death of her son Renzo due to depression has deeply affected her family and gave birth to YOLO by Renzo Suntay, a non-profit organization that aims to be the voice for those who are suffering from depression, anxiety, and other conditions.
There are 3.3 million Filipinos who suffer from a depressive disorder and 3.1 million are afflicted by anxiety disorders. Of high school students 13 to 15 years of age, 17 percent attempted suicide at least once, 12 percent seriously considered taking their lives and 11 percent made plans on how they would commit suicide.
Given the numbers, the country has only 60 psychiatric health care facilities and only two mental health workers for every 100,000 population.