Here is another article by Helen written specifically for YSTH on Health and nutrition:
How Nutrients Affect The Brain
It should not come as a shock to anyone that eating healthily is good for you. What many people are unaware of is the fact that eating healthily can help to ward off mental disorders . We have a tendency to think of mental disorders as something nebulous, something impingent upon an individual’s strength of character, or aspects of their personality. This is a vast oversimplification of the facts, and can cause dangerous misconceptions about those with mental illnesses . As anyone suffering from trauma knows, it is a very complex matter . While deep emotional scars cannot be healed by something as simple as healthy eating, getting the right nutrients can give the brain the resources it needs to keep the healing process going. As the brain is the ultimate seat of mental disorders, giving it the right nutrients is a vital part of helping ourselves to heal.
It’s really about time that we acknowledged food for what it is – a natural pharmaceutical . Depending, of course, on what you eat and how much of it you eat, food can have astonishingly medicinal effects upon the body. Far from simple fuel, the right kind of food contains compounds which will be a far better cure and safeguard for your health than even the most comprehensive health insurance . And this goes for mental as well as bodily health. An astonishing amount of what we eat ends up in our spectacular brains. Anyone who has ever been drunk will have an idea of how swiftly the digestive system can send compounds (alcohol, in this case) up into the brain – the same applies to a great many of the things we eat. Some things, like sugar (and the aforementioned alcohol) have a deleterious effect if consumed in too high a volume. But the right amount of the right things really can have a very positive effect upon your mind and its health.
We notice the effects of things like alcohol and caffeine on the brain quite quickly . They cut straight to the chase. For other things, it takes a while for the effect to build up. This cumulative effect is known as ‘precursor loading’, and should not be dismissed simply because the effects are not immediately apparent (many mental health drugs work in the same way). Amino acids such as lysine and tryptophan take a degree of precursor loading, as does iron, high GI carbohydrates, and many water-soluble vitamins. All of these may not seem to have any immediate effect upon the way in which your brain works – but over time these nutrients will enable your brain to use various transmitters more effectively. Not getting enough of these nutrients can leave your brain unfueled, struggling to work, and vulnerable to mental disorders. Iron deficiency, for example, has been linked to issues in brain development , and is thought to contribute to low mood in adults. A lack of Omega 3 fatty acids is thought to contribute to problems with cognition.
What Does This Mean?
So what’s the takeaway from all of this? Well, it’s nothing new. If you’re a trauma survivor who is struggling with the psychological aftermath of that trauma, eating healthily can give your brain the resources it needs to help you. Eat may seem like less effort to eat junk, and it may seem more fulfiling in the short term – but, in the long term, taking responsibility for nourishing your body well will reap dividends when it comes to your mind. While healthy eating alone won’t heal you, it will help your brain to nourish the parts of your psyche which really can be of positive, practical help .
 Royal College Of Psychiatrists, “Eating well and mental health”
 MentalHealth.Gov, “Mental Health Myths And Facts”
 Sethanne Howard, Mark Crandall, “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder What Happens In The Brain”, Washington Academy of Sciences, 2007
 Stuart Wolpert, “Scientists learn how what you eat affects your brain – and those of your kids”, UCLA, Jul 2008
 Q, “Health Insurance”
 David DiSalvo, “What Alcohol Really Does To Your Brain”, Forbes, Oct 2012
 Mu-Hong Chen, Tung-Ping Su, Ying-Sheue Chen, Ju-Wai Hsu, Kai-Lin Huang, Wen-Han Chang, Tzen-Ji Chen, Ya-Mei Bai, “Association between psychiatric disorders and iron deficiency anemia among children and adolescents: a nationwide population-based study”, BMC Psychiatry, 2013
 Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, “Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function”, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Jul 2008