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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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Your baby’s first solids: How your infant can shift smoothly from breastmilk to other foods

Dr. Dharini Krishnan

Dr. Dharini Krishnan
09 January 2021

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.

Every step of raising an infant is fraught with stress, as parents agonize over whether they are making the right decisions. One of the biggest transitions parents worry over is the shift from breast milk to solid foods.

Fortunately, the process can be easy and comfortably managed if parents follow a few simple strategies.

Infant growth and nutrition

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The first year of a baby’s life is a time of rapid and intense growth. Usually, the baby doubles its birth weight at about six months and triples it at about one year. All of the physiological systems of the infant body undergo rapid growth. The baby’s height also increases by about 10-12 inches in the first year after birth.

Brain development is another crucial area of rapid growth. Infants are born with 100-200 billion neurons or nerve cells, but these are not fully mature. During infancy and toddlerhood, the brain forms thousands of connections between its nerve cells.

Infants also develop several sensory and motor reflexes, as well as motor skills related to crawling, standing and walking.

All of these developments require large amounts of energy, as well as a range of nutrients. While breast milk forms a necessary part of the infant diet, therefore, it is not sufficient by itself.

Transitioning from breastmilk to solid foods

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Shifting to solid foods is a gradual and progressive process that can be carried out in a series of well-planned steps. The first food infants can be introduced to are grains in the form of porridge, since they provide energy in the form of carbohydrates to fuel the infant’s growth. In south India, ragi is often preferred because it is a rich source of calcium, iron and protein, besides providing carbohydrates. These grains have to be dehusked by soaking, grinding and straining to make them easy to digest.

Next, infants can be introduced to a new vegetable every week. Parents can begin with carrots and watery vegetables, followed by beans, and finally leading up to cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. With fruits, parents can start with stewed apple, followed by mashed ripe bananas, and then other soft fruits. Harder fruits should be blended before being fed to infants.

With proteins, green gram dal is the best to start with, while some proteins like chana dal should preferably be given only after one year. Non-vegetarian proteins like egg, fish and chicken can also be started after the first year.

If breastfeeding is stopped after the first year for any reason, cow’s milk or curd can be given. Once the child reaches the age of one, he or she can eat most of the foods that the rest of the family eats, provided nothing is too oily or spicy.

In terms of preparation, parents should start with pureed or mashed foods, followed by food cut into very tiny pieces. Eventually, they can move to finger foods and then hard foods such as small apple pieces or boiled beans.

Feeding fussy children

For many parents, children growing fussy about eating is a major cause for concern. However, many children become fussy when parents focus too much attention on the feeding process in some way. When children start sitting up, they should be encouraged to pick up pieces of their food and eat it themselves. They should also be encouraged to sit and eat with the rest of the family from the first year onwards. If they learn from other members of the family to eat different varieties of foods, they are likely to develop healthy eating habits. On the other hand, if parents try to only feed children particular foods that they initially develop a liking for, they are more likely to grow fussy.

Transitioning from breastmilk to solid foods can seem a complex and difficult task for many parents. However, there are a few simple strategies that parents can follow to simply things for themselves and their babies. Done right, introducing children to solid foods can be a joyous experience of discovery for parent and child.



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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