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Coping with emotional bingeing: The nutritious way out of mental health issues

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

When 23-year-old Kamala (name changed) came in to meet me, sugar had become a major soother for her. She was indulging in what many call ‘emotional bingeing’ – eating your way out of emotional turmoil. In the months since she had been diagnosed with depression, Kamala found that at her lowest moments, comfort foods like biscuits or cola seemed a big help. But she also found that her moods fluctuated wildly as she came off the sugar highs.

It was only when we gradually changed her diet to include a variety of healthy foods, that she found her moods starting to stabilize. Over time, she realised that she didn’t suffer those drastic mood swings anymore and was much better able to manage the symptoms of her depression.

For many women like Kamala, recent research into diet and mental health is an important sign of hope on the horizon. Studies show that healthy eating can have a significant impact on mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, significantly helping to control the effects of such mood disorders.

So, what should you eat, and what should you not?

1. Stay away from sugar

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One consistent finding is that high sugar diets can increase the severity of symptoms of anxiety and depression because of the variations of high blood sugar followed by a crash. Sugar is also linked with chronic inflammation, which impacts the immune system and the brain, among other systems in the body. Such inflammation too bears a strong link with many psychological conditions.

High sugar diets are particularly problematic when such foods become soothing mechanisms. While they may make you feel better in the short term, they do not help in the long term. Portion control is also difficult in such cases, further feeding into bingeing habits.

2. Reduce carbs and fat, include more protein

While sugar is most problematic, people with mental health concerns can also benefit from reducing the carb and fat components of their meals, and increasing the protein content. After all, dietary proteins help regulate blood sugar better as they are digested more gradually than carbs and fat. What's more, dietary proteins provide the amino acids that contribute to the building of neurotransmitters. Low levels of many of these neurotransmitters are strongly linked to the development of various mental health conditions.

If you are a vegetarian, then your best source of protein is from dals.

3. Have a colourful plate of fruits and vegetables

More recently, a few studies have found that following traditional eating patterns, like the Mediterranean diet, that incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables can reduce clinical levels of depression, though more evidence is needed on this front. Experts believe that this linkage makes sense because of the discovery that the neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates sleep, appetite, mood and pain, is produced in the gut. This process is impacted by the intestinal microbiome, the collection of millions of microbes in the gut. Healthy diets rich in fruits, vegetables, seafood, lean meats and dairy help good bacteria thrive in the intestine, significantly affecting mental health.

4. Don’t consume junk food

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The more we invest in packed, processed and junk foods, the more trouble we put ourselves into. In my nutrition audits, I see that this is what most of our refrigerators are full of. Processed foods tend to have hidden preservatives and other ingredients which, at best, are of no use to our health, and at worst, damaging for our health.

Shifting to a healthy diet means building slowly towards habits that can be maintained. When we work with patients we start slowly. We find out what they like and slowly help them find healthier alternatives. We also ask them to get involved in picking and selecting their foods. Normally, the family members keep them out of the shopping process. But we ask patients to go out and pick out foods they like. This gives them a sense of involvement and control, which prompts them to eat healthier.

Making the shift to healthier diets also requires plenty of support from families and others in the immediate environment. While we can prescribe a very healthy diet, it won’t work if the person does not have support from others in sticking to it.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Pregnancy’s effect on blood pressure and how a healthy diet helps

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

It is no mean feat to grow another human being inside oneself. So, it comes as no surprise that pregnancy has several profound impacts on the body.

Plasma volume increases progressively through pregnancy. Cardiac output increases by 20%. The mother’s body requires more iron to produce foetal haemoglobin and certain other enzymes, as well as folate and B12. Her glucose metabolism undergoes changes to provide the foetus with sufficient glucose and energy and fuel its development. And the growing uterus causes mechanical changes to the digestive tract, pushing the stomach upwards and increasing gastric pressure.

Pregnancy and blood pressure

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Among these many changes, one significant shift that women should watch out for is a change in blood pressure. The pregnancy causes blood pressure to decrease in the first and second trimester but increase in the third. This increase in blood pressure can have a significant effect on the foetus if care is not taken.

It can cause a decrease in blood flow to the placenta, affecting the amount of oxygen the baby receives. This can, in turn, lead to intrauterine growth restriction, low birth weight, or premature birth. High blood pressure can also cause the placenta to be separated from the uterine wall, causing severe bleeding.

There are several factors that contribute to increases in blood pressure during pregnancy. The risk increases if women are overweight or obese, over 35 years of age, not getting enough physical activity, carrying more than one child or have a family history of hypertension.

How a healthy diet can help

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Pregnant woman must also look into their iodine intake, as deficiency of iodine in the mother can lead to congenital abnormalities and decreased intelligence. Supplementation of iodine in severely deficient mothers is likely to increase the IQ of the infant. In severe cases of deficiency cretinism could precipitate. Iodine deficiency also leads to hypothyroid issues in the mother and infant. The easiest and best way to ensure that the required iodine reaches the mother is through iodised salt.

However, one of the main contributors to high blood pressure is dietary sodium. Sodium levels in the diet increase from added salt as well as from processed or ready-to-eat foods. Hence, pregnant women should highly restrict the consumption of foods high in sodiumsuch as pickles, papads, and preserved food. Store-bought sauces are also another prominent contributor of sodium and should be avoided as far as possible.

One good way to do this is to replace salty tastes with tangy or citrus tastes. For instance, pregnant women require a large quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diet to ensure adequate micronutrients. A good way to achieve this without adding more salt to the diet is through fresh salads seasoned with lime juice or coriander.

Another clear contributor to high blood pressure is bad cholesterol. When the arteries get clogged due to cholesterol, this forces the heart to pump harder, which increases blood pressure. Thus, women should also stay away from unhealthy cooking such as fried foods and dishes containing trans fats. What’s more, fried foods also often contain high levels of sodium, which increases sodium intake.

Sweets and desserts, particularly those prepared outside the home, can also be red flag. Such preparations often contain unhealthy fats, which again contribute to bad cholesterol and high blood pressure.

While it might seem like that cravingsareundeniable, all our cravings are learnt and we do get used to a variety of tastes over time. So, when eating while pregnant, it’s time to cut down on sodium-richand fatty foods, and experiment with more fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a range of other spices and herbs. This will ensure that you and your baby stay healthy and happy.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 

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