When it comes to looking after anxiety & mental health, nutrition is key. So many times in clinic I speak to patients with chronic anxiety who are missing key nutrients in their diet.
I am a big advocate of smoothies to help jam in some nutrients into your diet. It just makes it a lot easier and it's a pretty yummy way to do your Naturopathic homework as it were :)
So I thought I'd share one of my easy mental health smoothies to help with anxiety & cognition. I can confirm with some certainty that they help as I am cool as a cucumber most of the time *slowly takes of sunglasses like the guy in CSI:Miami*
The key ingredients in my mental health smoothies are a good protein powder, Zinc, Magnesium, antioxidants and something to help the gut stay happy.
Protein - Alkaline Complete Protein Raw & Organic
Protein is made up of amino acids. Certain amino acids are vital in the production of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are brain messengers that regulate sleep, concentration and help to reduce feelings of anxiety. Without these amino acids we can't produce these brain chemicals that are important to healthy function. So keep your protein up!
I like to use Raw & Organic Alkaline Complete Protein. It's made from wholegrain brown rice & pea protein. This tends to be a more hypoallergenic (meaning a low chance of having an allergy to these ingredients). Whey protein is dairy based and I prefer to avoid too much dairy due to its mucus forming and hyper-allergenic nature (ingredient that has a high chance of causing allergy).
Zinc - Pepitas/Pumpkin Seeds
Zinc is a co-factor nutrient (co-factor nutrients are important to a particular process in the body - in this case Zinc is important to the process of creating a neurotransmitter) needed to create GABA and a bunch of other neurotransmitters. GABA is particularly important in the management of anxiety. This is the neurotransmitter that helps to keep you chilled in stressful situations and in day to day life.
Happily, Pepitas or pumpkin seeds (whatever you want to call them!) are a great source of Zinc. So into the smoothie they go!
Magnesium - Spinach & Wholegrains
So Magnesium is another super important co-factor for the production of neurotransmitters. Just like Zinc, certain neurotransmitters can't be created without it. Not only that but magnesium is a key nutrient in muscle conduction. It is responsible for endorsing relaxation in skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscle is all the muscles you can control, like the muscles in your shoulders and back. It is super common for patients suffering with anxiety to experience extreme muscular tension. This is usually because:
1. The body is ripping through magnesium stores trying to keep up with the demand for magnesium in neurotransmitter production
2. The body is burning through magnesium stores in an effort to control muscle conduction and help them to relax
So people suffering with chronic anxiety have a much greater need for magnesium (and really all the nutrients I am listing in this article) because they use them up so much faster than someone who isn't fighting anxiety. So into the smoothie it goes!!
Antioxidants - Berries & Spinach
So antioxidants are pretty rad. They help fight oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. They also help to keep your little grey cells pumped and ready to go. They can help to inhibit premature aging and fraying of neurological tissue. The more we can have in our diets the better, as we are constantly exposed to carcinogens and toxins that create damage. So chuck it into your smoothie as well :D
Gut Love - Barberries & Yoghurt
Recent research has connected how much the health of the gut impacts mental health. Particularly the microflora, ie probiotics. These are the gut bugs that keep your digestion happy and strong. They also have a big influence over the health of the immune system.
Pathogenic bacterial, yeast and parasitic infections have all been connected with changes in cognitive function and stress response. By eating the right foods you can keep your microflora happy and healthy and help to impede pathogenic flora that may contribute to anxiety and poor cognition.
In my smoothie I popped coconut yogurt which is a probiotic source to help support the gut flora and also Barberry. Barberries are my latest thing. They are a relatively tart flavored berry, but I like a bit of tart now and then ;) I use Barberry tincture in my naturopathic treatment to support the health of good microflora/probiotics. Barberries also happen to be great at supporting the production of bile and gastric acid to help with digestion. 'Cos you won't be absorbing all these wonderful nutrients if your digestion is crap. So chuck them in as well :) !!!
So this is an easy smoothie mix with ingredients you can pretty much grab from any fruit & veg and/or health food store. Mix it all together with your favourite seed milk (i use Soy but you can pop almond milk, rice milk or even cows milk in if you tolerate it well). Wizz it up and enjoy. Popping it all together is a low stress way to ensure you are consuming the right nutrients to support mental health :)
<3 naturaljaz xx
As we lead up to Easter it's not unusual to start seeing hot cross buns and choccie eggs in our fridges. One of the primary reasons most people celebrate Easter is for the sugary goodness!!
However increasing dietary sugar intake can play havoc with energy, as the body has trouble stabilising blood sugar.
Enter Cinnamon. Cinnamon is one of the primary herbs I use to help patients with blood sugar regulation issues.
Symptoms of Blood Sugar Regulation Issues
- Drops in energy throughout the day
- Feeling tired after meals
- Prone to getting “Hangry” when you haven't eaten
- Waking in the middle of the night for a snack
- Craving sugar/carbs and/or coffee
Cinnamon is used as an antidiabetic herb that aids in insulin resistance. It helps to maintain and modulate blood sugar to help minimise these symptoms. I usually prescribe Cinnamon as a herbal extract but it can also be used as food as medicine as well. You can obtain ground Cinnamon from your local health food shop. You can use it in your cooking, sprinkle it on your cereal or oats in the morning. Add it to a chia pudding or some yoghurt; anything you like, just find a way to add it into your diet. But make sure that you do not use Cinnamon Sugar! However tasty it s, it is not medicinal like raw ground Cinnamon :)
- Aunty Jaz xx
Anxiety is a huge mental health concern affecting millions of people everyday. I see it all of the time in my practice and it's astonishing how much anxiety can affect other aspects of health. In recent years it has been established how much digestion can be affected by anxiety and low mood. As people become more inclined to live a fast-paced high pressure life, it is important to be able to find ways to improve mental well-being and reduce feelings of anxiety in everyday life.
In Buddhist teaching a mantra is a powerful way to instil an intention. A mantra is performed by repeating a powerful phase over and over. Traditionally a mala is used in order to count and repeat the phrase. A mala is a string of 108 beads (plus an additional one – this is considered the Guru bead) similar to rosary beads. The mala works by twisting one of the beads for every time you repeat the phrase and working your way through the beads until you reach the Guru bead. It is a helpful tool but you can perform the mantra without it.
So let's give it a go! So either take your mala or other method of counting out 108 times (this can be as simple as ticking off a tally etc.) and begin to repeat the following phrase to help allay your anxiety.
“I love and approve of myself, I trust the process of life. I am safe”
By repeating the phrase over and over we create a strong neurological pathway in the brain that makes it easier for us to integrate the belief. The wonderful neuroplasticity of the brain will help you to refer to this belief more so than the feelings of anxiety.
Try to do 108 repetitions everyday or even if you just have a bit of time whilst you are waiting at the trains station, waiting for your coffee or waiting in traffic; just repeat the phrase as many times as you can. The more you do it, the stronger the neural pathway will be and the more it can help to reduce your anxiety!
I have found this technique wonderfully helpful for my patients and myself. It can be a beautiful way to start appreciating and nourishing yourself and begin supporting your mental health :)
- Jazz xx
Jaz is a Naturopath, Pathology Testing Adviser and educator. She practice as a Naturopath in Melbourne, Australia and via skype worldwide. She teaches fellow practitioners on pathology testing and educates pracs and the public on the bridge between Naturopathic care Biomedicine.