Taking Care of Ourselves One Bite at a Time
Mood and food has been an increasingly popular topic everywhere from journal articles to blog posts, and while we always have to take caution when looking for the one answer to mental or physical health concerns, being more aware of the connection between what we consume and how we feel is a very simple place to start in self-care.
After medical consultation and barring any prohibitive health conditions, fiber is a great place to start. The body responds to the two types of fiber differently, but we need both in the food we eat. Soluble fiber helps our bodies maintain stable blood sugar by slowing the absorption rate of sugars we consume which can then contribute to less cravings for sugar. Insoluble, or indigestible fiber is the type we think of that moves waste through our bodies and this can help with bowel function. In the short run, fiber helps us feel full, slows sugar absorption, and can reduce constipation. In the long-run, fiber rich diets have been shown to decrease our risk weight gain and for type 2 diabetes. In addition, fiber-rich foods tend to be fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods which are good for us anyway!
What does this have to do with mental health? Many health conditions increase an individual's risk for depression and anxiety. According to research from the Archives of Internal Medicine dating back from 2010, depression and type 2 diabetes may be more closely connected than previously thought. It has long been thought that the poor self care often associated with depression increased health conditions such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes; however, more recently research has been evaluating the role of the stress hormone cortisol as a culprit in this particular dynamic. The stress, or cortisol, of the experience of chronic physical and mental health conditions cannot be understated or ignored in self-care practices.
This can all be overwhelming for anyone, let alone someone trying to manage multiple health conditions. So, starting small with attainable efforts like (slowly!) increasing our fiber intake can strengthen our self-care and change muscles. Eat an apple instead of having juice and you gain 5 grams of fiber! Swap low-fiber bread for whole grain bread or add a scope of black beans to your salad and get a whopping 10-15 grams! Even for those who are unsure, starting with one small change can be a beginning to taking action for your health and feeling a one bite better.