Join the Voices for Recovery: Feed your body, feed your soul: Part 2
September 13, 2018
This is the second installment in a four-part series from the Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership about National Recovery Month and how those struggling can find wellness options locally.
Welcome to week two of the Health Partnership's wellness series for Recovery Month. This week's topic is all about feeding your body to feel better. While mental health problems are often depicted as emotional struggles, existing "all in your head," the body and mind are intricately connected in ways that scientists are still exploring. For many people in recovery, therapy often goes beyond support groups and medication; it often involves lifestyle changes. Your emotions, behaviors, and thoughts are rooted your brain and nervous system; the foods you eat affect the neurotransmitters and hormones that send messages to and from different parts of your brain and body. Thus, changing what you feed your body can be one of the most foundational ways to "re-program" an unbalanced system.
Nutrition: What's on your plate?
We all know that poor diet can lead to major health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, but did you know that it is also linked to higher rates of depression? People who eat a diet high in processed, fried and sugary foods have as much as a 60 percent increased risk for depression.
The great thing about improving your food choices is that it doesn't have to be expensive. Think of it like fashion choices: you don't have to be wearing fresh-off-the-runway looks from top designers to look stylish. Similarly, you don't have to buy expensive food delivery services or shop at specialty stores to improve your diet. Lean meats, eggs, legumes, whole grains, and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables are found at every grocery store.
Stress can cause sugar cravings, and this excess sugar, in turn, can wreak havoc on your digestive system, potentially causing more cravings and further physical and mental health problems. This month, see if you can find all the sneaky ways you're ingesting extra sugar: in your salad dressing, sports drinks, snack bars, pasta sauces, even in your coffee? Break this cycle by cutting back and eating foods that support healthy gut bacteria: bananas, garlic, berries, apples, yogurt with active cultures, kombucha (fermented tea), and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar.
What about alcohol?
Just like anything else you feed your body, alcohol can have a huge impact on your mental health. Low-risk drinking for women is defined as no more than three drinks per day and no more than seven drinks per week; for men, this is no more than four drinks per day and 14 per week. Alcohol use causes a rush of feel-good chemicals, but over time, heavy use depletes your body's natural store of those neurotransmitters and makes your brain less sensitive to them, leading to heightened risk for depression and anxiety. On the other hand, people struggling with mental health problems are two to three times more likely to have a substance use disorder, as alcohol and other drugs may become a method of self-medication.
Substance use disorders affect almost one in 10 residents in Northwest Colorado — that's around 6,000 people across five counties. So what can you do this month? Contemplate your own habits, do an online risk screening, and practice moderation. If you, a friend, or family member want further information about recovery options and support, call Mind Springs Health at (970) 887-2179 in Granby.
Sarah Valentino is the regional behavioral health educator for the Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership.