Written by: Jenna Pixner // @fitlisticjenna
A lot of people surpass the idea of nutrition and physical health to be related to any sort of mental illness. That, or don’t even consider it being a possible contributing factor to what may cause or aggravate mental problems and their symptoms.
About 6 years ago mental illness hit me like a brick wall. I was raised in a good environment and had loved ones I knew cared for me, but I was still extremely depressed for what seemed to be “no reason” to me at the time. I always felt like a burden to people so I never really talked to anyone about how I felt about things, and I saw myself as completely worthless. Around the same time, I began to starve myself because I had body image issues that I had struggled with for most of my life. In grade school, I was ridiculed by a number of kids and their comments about being overweight. Their daily comments made me start to believe what they were saying was true and this continued on through high school. I didn’t really notice what I was doing to myself and how much I was hurting myself until one of my closest friends commented on how “boney” I became. I had a lot of conflicting thoughts at the time and I had so much trouble understanding why I felt this way.
Later that year I was diagnosed with a liver disease called autoimmune hepatitis, this was without my doctors or family knowing about the mental health issues I was dealing with. It was very scary for me but something was telling me I had to fight it, for the first time in a while I actually wanted to live. There’s one thing, to this day, I remember my holistic doctor telling me which was: “having an unhealthy liver will affect emotions”. I will never forget that statement because I believe that statement alone is why I do what I do now, and also the reason why I’m writing this post.
I’m currently studying holistic nutrition, which is essentially an alternative to traditional western medicine, where we see everyone as an individual and consider the mind, body, and spirit working in harmony to be healthy and well. As I was healing myself through diet and lifestyle with the help of holistic doctors and practitioners, the initial positive change I noticed was my frame of mind and mental health. I was happy with myself for the first time in a very long time and I started to prioritize my feelings about myself over what others thought about me.
Some of you may be thinking, “The diet improved your mental health struggles? Really?”. It truly did. Through my experience and schooling, I noticed that what I choose to put in my body truly affects my mood and mindset. For example, the intake of omega 3 fatty acids (whether it be fish oils or vegan alternatives such as flax oil) have shown significant improvements in my symptoms of depression, particularly those which have a higher level of EPA.
Although I did incorporate omega 3s into my diet more, I also had to heal my liver (like I mentioned earlier we’re all individuals, we all have different needs). There are a lot of herbal remedies to a healthy liver, and ultimately what can positively impact how you feel emotionally. One in particular that worked wonders for me was milk thistle, which is available as tea, liquid tincture, or capsule. Of these three, I found the most effective one to be the tincture. Milk thistle is a herb that helps heal and detoxify the liver.
Another avenue that continues to help me control my depression symptoms is exercise. Exercise comes in so many forms: Strength training, sports, yoga, etc; my favourites are sports (more specifically soccer) and strength training. At the beginning of my diagnosis I wasn't allowed to participate in sports due to my physical health at the time and it really brought me down because it was my outlet. The endorphins released in the brain while doing strenuous physical activity actually increases energy and helps you feel really good emotionally. But it wasn't too long before I could finally be active again.
As mentioned above, we are all individuals. Improving my nutritional health was a major tool I used to help me through one of the toughest times in my life. Want to learn more about how I utilized nutrition and lifestyle to help reduce my symptoms and possibly yours? Let’s talk about it. Reply in the comments below or feel free to private message via Instagram: @fitlisticjenna
No matter what you’re going through, I believe you will get through it. It’s only a matter of time, have faith.