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Do you lack the basic necessities of a mental health? … Keep it simple.  Here we discuss basic necessities that help us maintain optimal mental health. 

MindCheck provides weekly in-depth information on the orthomolecular approach to coping with mood, behavior and psychotic disorders.  This series by Dr. Ray Pataracchia N.D. is endorsed by the  Mindful Network - ‘A Better Future for Children’s Mental Health’.

Mental Health Basics: A Nutrient-Lifestyle Perspective

The Basic Necessities of Mental Health: A Nutrient-Lifestyle Perspective

You can take control of your mental health and be more productive in life.

The Basic Necessities of Mental Health

The basic necessities of optimal mental health include:

Basic Nutrition

Eating Wisely

Getting Sleep

Keeping Active & Moving

Motivating Yourself

Basic Nutrition

Meeting optimal nutrient levels for your body can help improve your state of mental health. By eating well as discussed below you have a better chance of maintaining basic nutrient levels.  However, when diet alone is not sufficient to sustain optimal mental health you may need nutrient supplementation.

Assessing what nutrients are necessary and in what quantities is important.  A targeted orthomolecular approach is sometimes needed.  Some common nutrient syndromes associated with mental health compromise are methylation imbalance, protein deficiency, thyroid dysfunction, and heavy metal toxicity.  Schizophrenia and Mood and Behavior Disorders (depression, anxiety, ADD, and OCD) have a specific orthomolecular nutrient approach.

Eating Wisely

Eat Fresh Unprocessed Food

Real food that is fresh exists in its whole form and it has not been exposed to commercial food processing.  Food processed for commercial use is widely available in grocery stores or fast food restaurant chains.  Processed foods are high in salt, sugar and fat.

Ideal Cooking Techniques

Healthy cooking methods include baking, steaming, or broiling versus frying.  To avoid excess salt you can substitute with spices, fresh is always best.  Be sure to fully cook meat, especially poultry.  Discard spoiled food.

Eat in moderation

There is no need to starve yourself to be healthy, but eating too much is not healthy either.  Obesity is a growing concern in North America and today’s Sugar Mentality in young and old is a serious health concern.

Eat three solid meals a day. The most important meal is the first meal of the day and this is where high quality protein should be consumed.

So long as you are eating foods that are healthy and well tolerated that do not make you sick (i.e. intolerant foods) they can and should be consumed regularly in moderation.

Eat a Colorful Plate of Food

Plant vegetables and fruit exist in variety of colors and it’s important that we eat a wide variety to take advantage of the full repertoire of available antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Fish for Dinner

Cold water fish with teeth (e.g. salmon, trout, cod) provide an excellent source of essential fats, fats that are ideal for optimal brain function (the brain is 60% fat by dry weight).  Those with metal dental fillings or other mercury exposures (immunizations) may need to avoid fish as mercury overload is commonly seen in mental health conditions.

Avoid the ‘Whites’

Avoid fast sugars/carbohydrates including white sugar, white rice, and white bread.  These refined products have little nutrient value.  Carbohydrate dominance has a plethora of health complications associated with it.  Shifting to a diet higher in protein is essential for a vast majority of our carbohydrate dominant society.

Learn to Appreciate the Taste of Healthy Food

If you have always eaten white wheat flour based pasta and you shift to rice pasta or corn pasta you will notice some difference in taste.  Once you start eating it regularly however, you will stop comparing the taste to white pasta (and you may notice less bloated and less tired after effects).  You essentially have to give a new food routine a chance and often all you need is a short time to adjust and establish a new norm.

The same goes for snacks.  You should learn to appreciate the taste of health snacks including fresh fruit and vegetables as a substitute for chips and candy.

Parents need to help their kids appreciate that healthy food tastes good.  Give them a constant supply of healthy alternatives and they will adopt a liking for one or more.

Remain Hydrated

Good quality water is essential to human functioning and mental health.  Adults need to drink 8 glasses of water a day and children need up to 4 glasses a day.  It is important to drink pure water that is unsweetened liquids. You may need to drink more during summer months or when exercising or doing heavy work.  Avoid alcohol and soft drinks.

Getting Sleep

Getting a good night sleep will help you restore basic body systems.  Lack of sleep is often a trigger for relapse.  Insomnia has several nutrient and physiological aspects to consider.

Keeping Active & Moving

Take advantage of the multitude of outdoor and indoor activities to keep your body moving.   Improved circulation of nutrients and better digestion are side effects of exercise.  Exercise need not be taxing and 15-20 minutes of elevating your heart rate daily is a good formula for general health maintenance.  Exercise will improve your state of mind and help you relax as well.

Motivating Yourself

Lifestyle changes are daunting to many however when you take small steps you can initiate a lifestyle change.

Here are some basic philosophies on starting a new habit:

1) Do not set unreasonable goals, but rather keep them simple; it’s better to initiate a behavior change by taking small steps in the right direction; and 2) Give yourself some time for trial and error; good habits need to be cultivated and so long as you are proactive you gradually ease yourself into a new lifestyle.