Mental Health and Men
Many of us know men who suffer greatly with their mental health and we’d all like to be able to help them more. Here are some nutritional points men experiencing low mood or anxiety related symptoms should consider. This is by no means an exclusive list, but I hope you find something that resonates with you or with a man you know who is affected by depression or anxiety.
Levels of B vitamins
B vitamins are involved in a process called methylation. Around 30% of the population have problems with methylation, that rises to 40% among people suffering with depression. If this process is not working well, neurotransmitter production and the brain’s sending and receiving of these mood-affecting chemical messages will be affected. B12 and folate are especially important. Also, B6 is needed for serotonin production.
Action: Eat plenty of green leafy veg, some liver, eggs and good quality red meat to get these nutrients. However, if you are an over or under methylator you may benefit from supplementation. I regularly organise tests to check my patient’s methylation status.
More and more studies are coming out all the time linking our microflora (gut bacteria) to anxiety and depression. The gut bacteria play a huge role in many aspects of health. One of these is that they help control inflammation, and depression is now recognised by many as an inflammatory state. Suffice to say, if our bacteria are out of balance then our mental health can suffer. Also, if there is inflammation in the gut, then the lining of the intestine can become damaged, endotoxins from bacterial waste or poorly broken down food particles can leak into the blood stream and an inflammatory response is mounted. Certain medications, stress, poor diet, lack of sleep can all contribute to such a situation.
Don't forget that up to 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut. Making sure the gut is in optimal health, means you may have more of this neurotransmitter for your brain.
Bloating, acid reflux, excessive wind, constipation, diarrhea and nausea are all indications of poor gut health, resulting in a potential impact on your mental health.
Action: This is difficult to generalise as different foods may cause problems in different people. Generally, provide substrate for the bacteria. This means lots of veg, some fermented foods and unprocessed foods, not too much booze or sugar. Consider probiotics and potentially other therapeutic supplements to get you back on track. If you have digestive symptoms with low mood or anxiety, then consider comprehensive digestive testing to determine levels of beneficial and pathogenic or opportunistic bacteria and other important markers.
This is a huge area in mental health and men have a tendency to battle on through (forgive the sweeping statement) and possibly then to hammer it out in the gym or self-medicate with alcohol. So how can stress affect your mood, other than it just not being something to smile about? When we are stressed our cortisol levels go up. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and has many roles. One of these is a buffer against inflammation. If cortisol is consistently high, cells become resistant to it, and inflammation levels rise. Raised levels of inflammatory cytokines are very often present in depression. Cortisol is also partly responsible for managing blood sugars, and if it’s too high (or eventually too low) then blood sugar can fluctuate. A dip in blood sugar can trigger anxiety, low mood and irritability. Action: Eat foods to support blood sugar balance. This means plenty of protein, essential fats, and foods rich in zinc and chromium, such as eggs, nuts and seeds. Keep caffeine to a minimum and limit refined sugars. You can do a simple saliva test over 24 hours to see what your cortisol levels are doing throughout the day. Saliva is an excellent carrier of this hormone.
This is usually an inherited disorder and affects around 15% of people with depression. If you have excessive pyrolles, vitamin B6 and zinc will be stripped out of the body. B6 is a co-factor not only for serotonin, but also for GABA and dopamine, all involved in feeling happy and calm. If you have low zinc, you are likely to have high copper. This results in excess adrenaline, which can cause anxiety and poor sleep.
Action: Test for levels of pyrolles and if high you will need to supplement with high levels of zinc and B6. This can make a vast difference very quickly in affected individuals.
Your general diet
Is it rich in natural foods, with oily fish, good quality meats and eggs, plenty of veg, some starchy carbs and maybe some nuts and seeds? All these contain nutrients such as essential fats, zinc, magnesium, iodine, which are vital to mental health, helping you to produce, send and receive important chemical messages.
If you are concerned about your health and would like to have an individual nutrition programme to support your mental wellbeing , or for more information on the testing mentioned above please contact Kate. She is happy to offer a free no-ties 15 minute chat to see if you'd like to work with her.