Seeing people enjoying actively their lives makes you dream, however you keep asking yourself questions like: Where do they find all that energy and motivation? Why I can’t be regular on a diet or a sport? It is as if your body and mind aren’t cooperating.
In fact, the relationship between the body and the mind is extremely complex as they are permanently influencing each other through a language of a chemical nature.
Every second, every day and at any moment of our life, behaviors that make us the humans we are such as our decisions, feelings and actions are processed by our brain. This fascinating biological machine translates our thoughts into electrical and chemical signals to which the rest of the tissues and organs react. Similarly, the body is eternally affecting the brain’s activity through a long list of chemical and physical signals and it is the optimal functioning of this interdependent couple that provide us a feeling of balance and wellness.
But how this exactly happens? Do active people have special bodies? Is there something we can do to be masters of our physiology?
Scientists are answering all these fundamental questions and in the last twenty years, researchers made tremendous progresses in the understanding of the human body secrets.
Today it is well known that unbalances in our brain and mind can translate into dietary disorders, either by exaggeration or insufficiency. Several reasons including stressful episodes can push many persons to the overconsumption of tasty but unhealthy food and the opposite is also observed, the same conditions can induce the loss of appetite. Therefore, it is clear that alimentary habits are closely related to the body-mind balance.
Recent statistical studies have shown that:
- A demonstrated relationship between diet quality and depressive illness exists and researchers from the department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne in Australia advised clinicians to advocate dietary improvement for their patients with depression. (Felice N. Jacka et al. “Does reverse causality explain the relationship between diet and depression?” Volume 175,2015,Pages 248-250,ISSN 0165-0327,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2015.01.007.)
- An adherence to a high-quality diet was associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms over time. (Molendijk, Marc L. et al. “Diet quality and depression risk: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies.” Journal of affective disorders226 (2018): 346-354 .)
- Subjects with a current psychological disorder had a significantly lower diet quality than healthy controls. In addition, they showed a dose-response association. Poorer diet quality was linked to poorer psychological conditions. (Deborah Gibson-Smith et al. “Diet quality in persons with and without depressive and anxiety disorders”. Journal of Psychiatric Research, Volume 106,2018.)
When we learn how the human body functions internally and how our nutrition is turned into primary elements of vital roles, all of these scientific findings will look so obvious to us.
Let’s start by understanding how our brain is affected by our dietary habits and through which mechanisms.
First of all, the human brain is an avid energy consumer. Despite it represents only a small fraction of the total body mass, it consumes alone more than 20% of the overall energy. So to keep your brain healthy and aware you need to have enough circulating sugar in your bloodstream, as sugars are the raw material that cells use to power themselves. According to Harvard Medical School, thinking, memory and stress management are closely related to glucose levels in the blood. In fact, in the case of an insufficient glucose intake the production of neurotransmitters (molecules used by neurons for communication) is troubled and this induces disturbances in brain functions causing behaviors such as irritability and the inability to concentrate.
However, the nervous cells who are dependent on sugar intake are also affected by its presence in high concentrations. Elevated levels of glucose are responsible of free radicals production, which are very reactive chemical species that attack nearby molecules, damage proteins, DNA and can even induce inflammation and cell’s death. This is why your dietary habits have to ensure a balanced provision of sugar (mainly found in cereals, fruits and vegetables), in a way that respects the needs of all your organs including your brain. These sugar levels or “glycaemia” have to always be contained between 0.74 g.L-1 and 1.06 g.L-1.
This doesn’t stop here…
The nervous system requires various other chemical elements to fully perform its functions and to allow you the access to most of your physical and psychological potential.
Researchers from the Academy of Micronutrient Medicine in Germany affirm that magnesium is essential for our health as it is involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions including energy metabolism, it also regulates muscular contraction and blood pressure. They warn that imbalances in the magnesium status may translate into nervous disorders such as migraine, lack of attention and even Alzheimer disease. (Gröber, Uwe et al. “Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy.” Nutrients vol. 7,9 8199-226. 23 Sep. 2015, doi:10.3390/nu7095388). It may also induce insomnia, cramps, and weakness. Therefore, in order to boost your mood and body functions be sure that your daily intake of magnesium (mainly found in almonds, spinach, peanuts, avocado and banana) is between 300 and 400 mg as recommended by the US National Institutes of Health. (https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer/)
Similarly, calcium (dairy products, broccolis, and kale), zinc (seafood, beef, beans, and chickpeas), manganese (whole grains, nuts, leafy vegetables) and iron (meat, seafood, spinach, and lentils) are crucial trace elements for the brain healthy functioning and you should include them in your food in addition to C (citrus fruits, berries, kiwi and brocolis) and B vitamins (whole grains, nuts, meat and green vegetables).
To sum up, an unbalanced diet or as described by scientists “poor diet” or “low quality diet” can cause your brain to lack essential energy and factors. This “supply shortage” causes dysfunctions in the nervous cells that find themselves unable to process information correctly and such dysfunctions can be the origin of mood shifts, troubled vision, sleeping issues, unexplained fatigue, weakness or laziness, vertigo, lack of motivation, anxiety and even depression.
So, if you feel that you are unmotivated, unable to take decisions or to protect yourself from negativity and stressful environments start by checking your diet. Look for flaws in your food habits and correct them before you get stuck in the spiral of passivity. Otherwise, it will be really hard for you to exercise or jump on opportunities with an underpowered brain.
Exercising is a second powerful instrument for life regulation. It is an important factor that through immediate and long-term mechanisms can adjust your brain function and your psychological status. In fact, you can use sport and physical activity as an emergency tool to extract yourself from a panic, a stress or a mood shift episode.
This is explained by the fact that exercising oxygenates your blood and decreases the carbon dioxide levels. As high concentrations of carbon dioxide are perceived as toxic by the tissues, they are responsible for the release of stress hormones. This is exactly what can cause you unexplained sadness, panic and fear feelings in addition to muscular tension and unusual aggressiveness. So by deep breathing and physical activity you will be able to throw the excess of toxic gases out of your body and to free your muscles from the unnecessary call for action caused by stress hormones.
Exercising has also long-term beneficial effects, recent studies suggest that it is linked to a low risk of nervous and psychological disorders. Researchers found that frequent physical activity and participation in sport contribute to greater well-being and lower levels of anxiety and
depressive symptoms in both sexes. (McMahon, E. et al. “Physical activity in European adolescents and associations with anxiety, depression and well-being.” European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 26 (2016): 111-122.)
Practicing a sport also decreases the risk for cancers and heart diseases (Moore, Steven C. et al. “Association of Leisure-Time Physical Activity With Risk of 26 Types of Cancer in 1.44 Million Adults.” JAMA internal medicine 176 6 (2016): 816-25 .). Moreover, Silva and collaborators suggest that exercising can improve the sexual performance even in subjects suffering from erectile dysfunction (Silva AB, Sousa N, Azevedo LF, et al Physical activity and exercise for erectile dysfunction: systematic review and meta-analysis British Journal of Sports Medicine 2017;51:1419-1424.).
As a conclusion, if you want to enjoy the full potential of your body, to live a positive life and to achieve your goals no wonders you’ll have to start from your daily habits.
Recommendations to Bring Back the Bounce in your Life
First recommendation, stop skipping your breakfast and make sure you’re having the right amount of sugars to fuel your cells. Provide the right quantity of mineral elements and vitamins we cited above so they can boost your brain functions towards better productivity, positivity and mood balance.
Secondly, once you adjust your diet to suit the new active lifestyle you aim for you should start regular exercising. Don’t complicate things for yourself and begin wherever you are. What really matters is how much carbon dioxide you throw out, how much oxygen you get in and how many calories you burn so you dissipate stress and can sleep like a baby at night in order to be fully charged and ready to enjoy a new day!