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Diane Shepard
Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals
Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals

Diane's posts

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Digestive Health: Critical for Mental Health
digestion allows us to absorb nutrients from food properly, nourishing our
bodies and our brains. When digestive function is compromised mental
health symptoms can be exacerbated.  Your gastrointestinal tract (GI)
includes the mouth, esophagus, stom...

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Inflammation’s Impact on Brain Function
It’s easy to recognize when
your body is stiff and achy.   This
usually means that inflammation has gotten out of control leading to pain.   Inflammation, in moderation, is normal.   It’s part of the healing process, for
example, after an injury.   However,...

Upgrade your diet and improve brain function with these three principles!

Healthy Brains Need Healthy Foods 
If you haven’t considered how diet impacts brain function, I encourage you to start now! If you're wondering where to begin, I’ve outlined three principles to follow, along with explanations on how they support mental health. 
1.  Eat healthy fats. These include fish, olive, and coconut oils, organic butter or ghee, and seed oils.  Avoid soy, corn, canola, vegetable blends and partially-hydrogenated oils.  These poor quality fats are found in most salad dressings and processed foods, so read the labels and ask questions when you dine out about what fats are used to cook your food.  We should concentrate on the type and quality of fat we consume rather than avoiding it altogether. 
Dietary fat has been slandered for too long when it really is vital for health!  Healthy fats modulate inflammatory molecules which wreak havoc throughout the body and brain.  Some of the healthy fats we eat, such as fish oil, contribute to healthy inflammation levels in people.  Depression actually has an inflammatory component, so eating foods that help bring this inflammation down is especially important. 
All of your body’s cells are surrounded by a membrane that consists of fatty substances, and these materials allow brain cells to communicate and take in nutrients properly. Brain function is especially dependent on healthy cell membranes and as such is particularly vulnerable to a diet lacking healthy fats.  Cholesterol is a fat that has worn a villain’s hat, but it is needed for many functions in the body. The brain contains 25% of the cholesterol in the body and communication in the brain requires cholesterol.  In fact, 50% of fat in cell membranes is cholesterol.  Building synapses, that space between brain cells where neurotransmitters (your brain chemicals) are active, also require cholesterol.  Cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D, and low levels of vitamin D often accompany mental illness.  (It is a good idea to have your doctor test your blood levels of vitamin D.)  Cholesterol is manufactured in the liver if we need it, and dietary intake of it is not usually the reason people have unhealthy cholesterol levels. 
2.  Eat complex carbohydrates mainly from vegetables. Fiber in vegetables helps balance blood sugar. When blood sugar is too high or too low it contributes to rotten moods.  Our metabolically active brains also need the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that vegetables provide.  These micro-nutrients are required everyday for numerous biochemical actions that we’re dependent on for energy, recovering from illness and stress, and balanced moods.
Eating simple carbs (such as crackers, cereal, pasta and bread) instead of vegetables sets us up for emotional fluctuations.  Simple carbs not only inhibit proper blood sugar management, they increase triglycerides, promote inflammation and are the major culprit to weight gain, so everyone would be healthier without them.  Dietary recommendations that are only counting calories often consider packaged snacks acceptable substitutes for whole foods.  However, processed foods don’t provide enough nutrients. 
3.  Eat protein. It is a necessity for building neurotransmitters. Animal-based proteins supply all the essential amino acids and generally are easier to digest than protein from grains and legumes. If you can’t digest a food it’s unlikely you’ll get nutrients from it.   Also, poor digestive health impacts brain health.   Eat poultry, wild-caught fish, beef or bison. Eggs, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt are good options, too, if you digest them well. Most of us don’t have to fear moderate cholesterol intake from grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish and organic egg yolks.  One exception to this would be if there is a history of hypercholesterolemia in a family, which is when very high cholesterol levels are found even in the early adult years.  Most families know about this trait and work with their doctors to manage it.  In this scenario, it is thought that cell membranes cannot process LDL cholesterol properly so limiting consumption of saturated fat is wise for these people.  If you are vegetarian or vegan make sure you really emphasize points one and two above. 
Planning and preparing balanced meals takes some effort, but you’re worth it!  Will an upgrade to your breakfast increase your productivity?  How much time can you spend this week around meal planning?  Can you allocate a half hour to go through your pantry and refrigerator to assess the quality of your cooking fats and condiments?  Perhaps you can add your new ideas to a shopping list so that each week you purchase one or two items to try? 

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How the Stress of OCD Interferes with Health
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and other anxiety-related
disorders, puts a huge strain on the function of the adrenal system.   When this happens, a person will feel
fatigued more often, while the ability to focus, concentrate and learn can be altered.     ...

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Exploring Food Intolerances
There are many tools to support mind and body wellness.   Often overlooked in our modern society is
that food is what has always nourished and sustained us.   As a species, we thrived with the diet that
was adopted by our Paleolithic ancestors and our brain...

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About the Author
                       Diane Shepard is a 2007 graduate of the Nutrition Therapy
Institute in Denver, Colorado. She is Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and a member of
the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.   Since becoming a Master Nutri...

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Stay calm and happy during the holiday season with these tips for winter survival!

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See my thoughts on the trauma of the Colorado flooding and how volunteering can help us reach out and rise above our own challenges. 

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It’s a Barometer!
                                                             I’m looking forward to interacting with members of the OCD community.   ...

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RethinkOCD Blog Disclaimer Policy
September 13, 2013      This blog is written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact ...
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