In more recent years, studies have been emerging that focus on the possible connection between gut health and mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. The microbiome makes up all microorganisms in the human body. The microbiota encompasses all the microorganisms in a particular location, such as the GI tract. These together are developed while in the womb. During this time, early nutrition can play a role in shaping the developing gut microbiota. This helps with the development of various healthy bacteria.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 10, 2022 anti-inflammatory diet, anxiety, depression, dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, gut health, gut health and mental health, healthy eating, healthy food, intuitive eating, keto diet, mental health, nutrition, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian0 comments
The Science Behind Gut Health and Mental Health
As solid foods are introduced to infants, the microbiome is exposed to many different energy substrates, creating and developing our metabolism along with new variations of bacteria that make up the gut. It is difficult to determine what a normal microbiome consists of given the environmental, seasonal, and health status of an individual. Although, what we eat can determine what type of bacteria are predominantly present. This can also be directly linked to inflammation of the GI tract, placing stress on the microbiome. This can result in the release of cytokines and neurotransmitters. Elevated blood levels of these pro-inflammatory markers increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. Their release influences brain function, leading to anxiety and depression.
Pro-inflammatory cytokines are also important stimulators of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). The hypothalamus releases various hormones, one in which stimulates the adrenal release of cortisol, a known stress hormone. Cortisol stimulates a pro-inflammatory response, leading to a dysregulation of the HPA axis, resulting in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
When the human microbiome is challenged with dietary changes, coupled by stress, or maybe a course of antibiotics, the physiology of the normal microbiome changes. When there is a loss of beneficial bacteria, this can trigger a pro-inflammatory response and weaken the intestine. This can lead to increased intestinal permeability and allow bacteria to leak through, leading to detrimental effects on our bodies, which can be demonstrated in diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Probiotics, living microorganisms of yeast and bacteria, have been utilized as supplements for aiding in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Primarily, they have been studied in the suppression of cytokines, noting improved intestinal barrier integrity. This promotes a decrease in inflammatory response. As a result, adding a probiotic to your daily regimen could help reduce pro-inflammatory hormones, especially in individuals suffering from chronic inflammation.
Although, there is no FDA regulation pertaining specifically to probiotics, and ultimately, no dosage recommendations. Until more research behind the use of probiotics as therapy for anxiety and depressive disorders is available, probiotics cannot be considered a reliable treatment method as compared to psychiatric medications.
When it comes to diet, various components in food can help reduce inflammation. Consider foods that are high in fiber, omega-3s found in fish, oils, and leafy greens, polyphenols (plant chemicals) found in fruits such as berries, and unsaturated fats found in almonds and flaxseeds. All of these foods can be incorporated into your daily diet to help reduce inflammation and promote a healthy gut and microbiota!
- Yogurt: containing live bacteria cultures, yogurt can help support a healthy gut by keeping the microbiome healthy. The probiotics in yogurt can help reduce inflammation and symptoms of bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea. Many yogurt varieties contain added sugar, so look for plain options and add your own flavoring with fruit, nuts, and seeds to avoid excess sugar intake.
- Fermented foods like Kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and miso are rich in probiotics. The good bacteria grow during the fermentation process. Add fermented foods to your diet for a healthy dose of probiotics.
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables: Packed full of vitamins like A, K and magnesium, dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, and collards, are crucial for brain function and gut health. Swiss chard is a great example of a food that is loaded with fiber, feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut, preventing inflammation.
- Omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids also support brain health. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Foods containing fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, and support healthy digestion. This can help you feel less bloated and sluggish.
- Healthy Grains: Whole grain foods, such as oatmeal and bulgar wheat, are high in fiber, which plays an important role in stabilizing blood sugar levels. This helps restore a potential imbalance to the gut that can happen when blood sugar levels are challenged. Most whole grain products contain beneficial prebiotics that help increase healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome.
- Berries: Berries are rich in antioxidants, which can help keep your gut healthy by reducing inflammation. They are also a great source of prebiotics, which promotes healthy gut motility. One of the highest vitamin C foods, which can improve the gut barrier and enhance nutrient absorption.
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by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 29, 2022 body positive, body positivity, dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, healthy eating, healthy food, intuitive eating, keto diet, nutrition, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian, weight management0 comments
In more recent years, society has progressed towards a body positive mindset, inclusivity and loving your body at any size. In turn, the question surrounding food and nutrition is transitioning to “what can my body do,” instead of a detrimental focus on the number on a scale. With this shift, the focus on nutrition and a weight management mindset of restriction is also changing.
Read on for 4 Dietitian-Recommended Ways to Help You Achieve Body Positive Weight Management:
- Utilize other measures of success. For those individuals above a healthy weight, losing weight can improve overall health, reduce risk of certain chronic diseases, and lengthen lifespan. While weight loss is a good thing for most individuals, abandoning body positivity in the process can only hinder your self-esteem and motivation. Utilizing other measures of success, such as energy levels, mindfulness and awareness, and sleep quality, can all provide a positive outlook on the journey to being the best version of yourself.
- Focus on how foods can benefit your body. Allowing one-self to shift and focus on a more positive mindset surrounding how foods can benefit your body by providing energy, satiety, fullness, and completeness can help increase overall self-awareness. This means a focus on whole, complete foods that can create well-rounded meals. For example, think of lean proteins for satiety, high fibrous foods for fullness, and bright colored vegetables that are a good source of both fiber and vitamins/minerals. Think “how can I make my meals better?” Utilizing the foods and meals that you enjoy, think how they can be enhanced with flavorful, nutrient-dense foods that add satiety and fullness, and help your body and mind feel better.
- Honor your hunger and fullness cues. Utilizing fullness sensations and hunger cues to guide eating versus the mindset of restriction can also help create a positive mindset. By focusing on “how do these foods make me feel,” this will help to create an emphasis on what my body can do versus the need to restrict certain foods. It can also help reduce stress eating. Prolonged stress increases cortisol levels in the body. Elevated cortisol levels can lead your body to deposit fat in the midsection. This increase in fat in the belly is shown to increase risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Cortisol can also enhance cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods by making them taste better. Practicing stress-reducing techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or simply allowing yourself to sit in a quiet space, can all help to calm our bodies down and reduce those cortisol levels.
- Identify stressors to help reduce negative thoughts and improve mental health. Reducing stress, and viewing foods as beneficial additions to help your body be the best it can be for you, can improve your overall mental and physical health. Body positivity is about eating well, creating movement that you can do, and being honest about your needs in the moment.
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by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 18, 2022 dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, healthy eating, healthy food, keto diet, ketogenic diet, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian0 comments
When it comes to healthy eating, we all have questions to ask a dietitian—conflicting information is everywhere. Our Registered Dietitian answers some common questions about diet and nutrition.
Q: Is vegetarian (or keto, or…) the best way to eat?
A: There’s not one best way to eat. We are all unique, and some individuals may have various medical conditions that play a role in the way we fuel our bodies and the food choices we make. The best plan for you is that one that meets your medical and nutritional needs. And one that is enjoyable, accessible, and something you are able to stick with for the long term. By meeting with a registered dietitian, they can help you navigate and understand the best possible plan for you.
Q: How many glasses of water should I consume daily?
A: Staying hydrated is very important for many reasons related to our bodily functions, such as maintaining a normal body temperature and removing waste through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements. So it is essential to make sure we are consuming enough water throughout the day. Consider your thirst sensation as being the best indicator that you need to drink. Make sure to keep beverages visible so you remember to take a sip throughout the day. Although there is not a static number of ounces for everyone, aim to consume water with each meal and snack.
Q: Is food labeled “organic” more nutritious?
A: There are a plethora of marketing claims on products all throughout the grocery stores and markets. When a product or food is labeled as “organic”, this is referring to the method of farming, not the nutritional value of the product. An organic logo does not reflect the nutritional contents of the food, such as calories, fat, salt, or sugar. Nutritious foods, whether conventionally or organically grown, are those that provide a good source of fiber, protein, and are low in salt and saturated fat.
Q: Should I avoid fruit because it has too much sugar?
A: The number one source of added sugar for Americans in their diet is from sweetened beverages, such as soda and energy drinks. Fruit provides about 1% of the added sugars individuals consume. Of note, health advice to limit “added sugar” does not apply to the natural sugar in fruit. Even if Americans consumed the recommended daily amount of 1-2 cups per day, it wouldn’t come close to the volume of sugar from ultra-processed foods and beverages. Bottomline, keep enjoying fruit, especially those with skins and seeds, as these are great sources of fiber.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 27, 2021 goals, healthy eating, healthy food, new years resolution, personal growth, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian, resolutions, self care0 comments
The New Year is here! While we have all been on a whirlwind trip these past 2 years with a global pandemic, it is time to focus on the new normal, including setting sustainable New Year Goals. In doing so, we need to make sure the goals we set for ourselves in this new year can be sustainable for years to come. Here are some resolutions to help you not only improve your health, but ones that you can actually keep.
- Eat more whole foods. Adding more whole foods to your diet is an easy and sustainable way to improve your overall health. Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins such as chicken and fish are packed with beneficial nutrients that can help you reach your goals. Whether your goal is to lose weight, or decrease the amount of processed foods you consume, this is a great way to start. They are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals to keep you full and satisfied.
- Ditch the diet mentality. Make a plan that works for you. Instead of jumping on the next fad diet this New Year, make a resolution to create a sustainable, nourishing eating pattern that works for you. Most individuals who aspire to lose weight, and choose a restrictive diet, regain up to two-thirds of weight lost within 1 year. Prioritize long-term health benefits over short-term satisfaction. This can include a healthy diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods that is adaptable to your life, and one you can follow no matter the circumstance.
- Sit less and move more. It is not only important to consider adapting a more personalized diet that is fit to your lifestyle, but also an exercise or activity that you enjoy doing. Activity can look different for everyone. Whether you enjoy walking or running, swimming or bike riding, small amounts of activity can greatly improve your overall health, and you’re more likely to stick with it. Once you choose an activity, set an attainable goal, such as planning to take your dog for a 30-minute walk everyday.
- Practice self-care. These past 2 years have been very stressful and likely inconsistent for most people with the ever-changing external environment. It is important now more than ever to take time for yourself. It does not have to be time-consuming or elaborate. It can be something as simple as taking a bath once a week, journaling, reading a book, taking on a new hobby, or preparing a healthy meal for yourself. Consider picking a day that suits you best, one that can help you reset, and get ready for the week ahead.
- Limit screen time. Over the past 2 years, we have relied on technology as our main way to communicate and work. The increase in social media usage has been linked to depression, anxiety, and loneliness in many people so consider reducing the amount of time you spend on your phone, particularly social media. Setting a goal to cut back on your usage can benefit your overall health, may boost your mood, and enhance productivity.
During these past 2 years a lot has happened, especially regarding the way we look at our health. It is important now more than ever before to ensure we are living our healthiest life.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghOctober 21, 2021 Certified Nutritionist, dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, food for anxiety, food for depression, food for mood, healthy eating, healthy food, nutrition, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian0 comments
There are no magic foods for boosting your mood. But when Registered Dietitian Kali Alrutz works with patients at the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, she often begins by telling them that a healthy diet can really help support their mental health, as well as their physical health.
Kidsburgh asked Alrutz for advice on how Pittsburgh families can use healthy food and drink to help manage stress. Here are her tips:
- Choose good proteins: Many people get their protein from meat, Alrutz says, and that can be good — especially if you’re choosing leaner meats like chicken. But our brains get a boost from fish and also from nuts, because these foods offer healthy fats including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Healthy fats have anti-inflammatory properties, and “help our moods, help our brains function and think more clearly.” Along with eating fresh or roasted nuts, she also recommends buying nuts in bulk and blending them to make your own nut butters. Beans of all kinds are also great choices.
- Make better snacks: Leafy greens are great for brain health. If your kids aren’t big fans of cooked greens or salads, try making homemade kale chips. Lots of easy recipes are available online — simply spread kale on a roasting pan and sprinkle with a bit of salt or any spices your family likes, then roast at low heat until kale leaves are crunchy. You can also make great brain-healthy snacks with chickpeas (also known as garbanzos). Dry them with a paper towel, then toss them with just a bit of oil and spread them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper or any seasonings you like, then roast them in the oven at 425 degrees until crispy, about 30 minutes. “These types of foods will give you tons of fiber,” Alrutz says. They’re great protein sources that are low in saturated fats and “high in your poly- and mono-unsaturated fats that are very good for your brain.”
- Stay hydrated: When we get dehydrated, it impacts our brain function and mood regulation. But if we drink plenty of water, research shows that we can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety. Rather than relying on sweetened soft drinks, make water a central part of your day. And take time to notice if you’re feeling thirsty.
- Keep sugar limited: Although sugar can make us feel better in the short run, “regulating your blood sugar levels is another really important idea,” she says. “Your insulin resistance also has an effect on your stress levels.” Eating sugary foods can temporarily drive blood sugar levels up, but invariably those levels will drop. That affects adults and kids physically and mentally. “With low blood sugar, you might become a little bit more irritable or you might not be able to concentrate,” and that can impact overall stress levels in a household.
- Try new foods and new recipes: “Variety is really important,” Alrutz says, “because every food that we consume provides us with a different vitamin or a different mineral or some type of benefit to our system.” Beyond restricting your vitamin intake, eating the same foods all the time can get boring, making mealtime feel even more like a chore and adding stress. So try looking online for healthy recipes that will be easy to make and appealing to you and your kids. Bonus: If kids get to choose new recipes and help shop for ingredients, that can help get them excited about cooking and make mealtime less stressful for the whole family.
- Eat consciously: So often people grab a meal on the run. Or we’re busy working or doing something else while eating. Alrutz says that if we slow down even for a few minutes and notice our meal, we’ll feel better physically and mentally. “A lot of people tend to overlook mealtimes because it kind of takes a backseat. We have busy lives, right? We have a lot going on. But, you know, we need the fuel. We need that energy to make sure that we’re mentally stable and managing our stress levels.”
Kali is looking forward to helping you achieve your goals. Whether it is something you have been wanting to do for a while, or recently decided to seek professional assistance, she is here for you. With personalized nutrition therapy, guidance, and support to help you throughout your journey to better health and overall wellness, Kali will be there every step of the way to help you succeed.
Kali provides in-person therapy in our South Hills location. If you’re interested in working with Kali, you can reach us at 412-322-2129 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. Or contact us here.
This story was originally published by Kidsburgh.org, the nonprofit news website where families in the Pittsburgh region can discover local resources and expert advice on raising healthy, thriving children in southwestern PA. You can sign up for their free newsletter here.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 9, 2018 Certified Nutritionist, dietitian, Emotional Health, integrative health, integrative medicine, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian, wellness pittsburgh0 comments
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