Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post on ADHD triggers because since being diagnosed with Combined Adult ADHD, I noticed that certain days felt like a living hell. As I learnt more about what ADHD is and how it effects my behavior, moods and feelings, I realized that these bad days were ‘ADHD going wild days’ and I had been having them on and off for years. Because of my fear of mental health medication, I started to research ways to avoid triggering ADHD symptoms naturally and I found that changing what you eat plays a massive part. I tested some of the things that I discovered and since then, have been managing my eating habits differently to prevent bad days where I feel like ADHD is winning or getting the better of me.
This doesn’t just apply to the ADHD brain though. This applies to all mental health issues, conditions, disorders or illnesses – whatever you want to call these neurological differences. Whether it be depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, addictions, personality disorders or obsessions, food can actually be your first line of defense against these things. Yes there are effective medicines and forms of therapy but they are not he only answer.
Your mental health is so important. It affects every single interaction you have. The condition of your brain can be determined by the condition of your digestive system or your gut. Not only are bloating, gas or diarrhea signs and symptoms of an unhealthy gut but so are moodiness, anxiety and depression. Serotonin is your happy hormone and around 70% of your body’s serotonin levels are found in your gut. If you have an unhealthy gut, this will massively affect your ability to use serotonin. Also, If you have a leaky gut, which is usually caused by eating too much inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, sugar and excessive alcohol, your body will lose most of the serotonin it produces so taking care of your gut is vital when it comes to supporting your mental health. These inflammatory foods have also been linked to eczema, joint pain, migraines and several mental health issues and violence and aggression.
The best foods for a healthy gut are:
- Cabbage, Kale, cress, bok-choy, Brussels sprouts, rocket and other green leafs
- Mustard seeds
The worst foods are meat and dairy.
This is because eating a diet full of meat and dairy alters microbes living in the gut. A microbe is a microscopic organism too small for the human eye to see. Your body contains trillions of microbes (including bacteria and fungi) and the ones in your gut, although they cause disease, play a critical role in digestion and immune function.
Researchers found that after 2 days of consuming an animal-based diet, microbes found in the food, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, quickly colonized the gut and promoted inflammation. These inflammation causing microbes are linked to several serious chronic diseases including mental illness, cancer, heart disease and more. The same researchers discovered a plant-based diet had a positive effect on mood and brain disposition.
Plant-based foods are also the best source of vitamins and contain minerals that your brain and body need to feel and perform at their best. Omega-3s, B vitamins, zinc, vitamin D, iron and magnesium are all nutrients that play a vital role in brain health and these are found in:
- Hemp seeds
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Coconut and almond milk
- Non-dairy yogurt
- figs and dates
- Exposure to sunlight
Here are a few other reasons why animal products or an animal based-diet does not do our brains any good:
- Arachidonic acid, found at particularly high levels in chicken and eggs, produces inflammatory compounds that affect our brains.
- High consumption of fish has been associated with lower testosterone, chronic fatigue and depression.
- Toxoplasma brain parasites from meat have been linked to schizophrenia and bi- polar.
- Chicken has low levels of omega 3 fatty acid which is a vital nutrient for the brain.
- Glycotoxins which are found in chicken, pork, beef, and fish, increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
My whole point is, You can manage and improve your mental health by changing your diet and be more mindful about what you eat. I have found through research and personal experience that the best way to do this is to follow a plant-based or vegan diet with as little sugar and alcohol as possible. I don’t follow this as strictly as I would like to but I am getting there. I have cut out lots of things and have severely cut down on the things I find it harder to quit. Its been just over a year and I have felt the difference hugely. I have a lot less bad days, a much clearer head (most days) and I have a great sense of being in control. I do get excited by my progress and forget why I feel so good sometimes (typical ADHD) and then can find myself impulsively eating stuff I shouldn’t but I feel so awful the day after, its really not worth it.
I know this is a lot to take in and a lot to cut out but don’t get overwhelmed. Start with 1 thing at a time and commit to say 2 weeks without that thing. When you feel the difference, it will motivate you to cut other things out and when your brain feels like a beautifully glittery ball of cotton wool floating along a river of silent water… lol you will know why and you will feel so in control. Changing my diet has also improved my skin and my energy, so there are many reasons why this is just overall better for our bodies. I will be praying for success and happy brain activity for everyone trying this!
Also, here are a few plant based bonus facts that I have heard:
- Walnuts are a good source of healthy fats and calm cravings
- Potatoes can contribute to a good nights sleep
- Avocado combats depression, inflammation and can calm the brain.
I did most of my research on these sites: