When discussing holistic nutrition, there are several presuppositions that are foundational to any program if we are to achieve long term results.
- The first is that there is a profound connection between the spirit, soul (mind, emotion & will) and the physical body.
- Secondly, biochemical stress internally (poor nutrition, poor elimination, toxic overload) will add to and multiply external stresses (traffic, miserable job, kids at 5:00pm).
- Finally, behavior can often be a compensation for biochemical problems. For example, many poor lifestyle choices (excessive eating, drinking, smoking) are at least in part driven by an attempt to gain the energy your body needs. The nutritional imbalance can drive the behavior and not the other way around, as we often assume.
In working with clients on a clinical basis, we find there are five areas where nutrition can play a role in emotional health. Most of the information for this article is based on the book, Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis by Dr. Lawrence Wilson, M.D. We also use Hair Mineral Analysis in our practice to guide therapeutic nutritional recommendations.
- Hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, is usually the result of a diet high in refined carbs and sugar. Our body functions best at a narrow range of blood sugar. When we eat these refined carbs and sugars, we can see extreme highs and lows that contribute to symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, confusion, tension and violence. Two books that I often recommend to clients are Food and Behavior by Barbara Stitt, Ph.D. and Potatoes, Not Prozac by Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D..
- Additives are neurotoxins that can cause allergic reactions in the brain. There are over 3000 additives in use in processed foods today. They are classified by the FDA as “GRS”, generally regarded as safe, but they are not regulated and many have been proven harmful. Their effects are cumulative and additive.
- Toxic metals are all around us. They can affect brain chemistry and their effects are also cumulative and additive. Our body is designed to detoxify these harmful metals at a certain level, but the problem starts when we experience excessive exposure and simultaneously lack the mineral nutrients that we need.
- Nutritional deficiencies can cause emotional symptoms as well. Calcium, magnesium and zinc are sedative minerals and sodium, potassium and manganese are energy minerals. When we lack the full spectrum of vital nutrients in our diet, including good fats and adequate protein, our body has to compensate. A book I recommend for understanding the issues of low nutrient content of our foods is Empty Harvest by Dr. Bernard Jensen and Mark Anderson. A treasure of nutritional information is found in the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, Ph.D..
- The fifth area, hormonal imbalances, can actually be a symptom of several of the first four. These imbalances in male and female hormones can cause significant mental and emotional symptoms. The method of testing most commonly used to detect these imbalances is saliva testing or blood tests.
Nutrition can be a confusing area of study because individual people are simply individual. Not everyone is affected by junk food, for example, in the same way. It is easy to say, “Look at Uncle Joe who lived to 99 on “fill in the blank”, and he seemed just fine.” The truth is, he may have been just fine or you may not know what he really faced physically and emotionally. If he was born before 1950, he likely had a better start than pop tarts and donuts for the first twenty years and that gave him a nutritional grounding for life! You also cannot compare yourself to your neighbor or your best friend, or even compare your kids to each other. The key is in determining the nutritional support you need to live a full and enjoyable life for 100+years!