Look to Holistic Nutrition & Proper Digestion to Improve Mood, Energy Levels, and Mental Health



Look to Holistic Nutrition & Proper Digestion to Improve Mood, Energy Levels, and Mental Health

Your brain and body require a constant supply of fuel. What you eat affects your energy levels, the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss 




The Importance of Digestive Health

To change your relationship to food, explore what Naturopathic medicine has to offer. It is founded on the principle that “all disease begins in the gut” – a concept first observed over 2000 years ago by Hippocrates.
All naturopathic doctors begin with digestive health as part of a holistic healing and wellness strategy.


Follow these 5 simple nutrition strategies to improve mood and energy levels.




Eat a Balanced Diet - #1

What advice would a naturopathic doctor give you on how to achieve a healthy and balanced diet?

Naturopathic medicine, a holistic or whole approach to healing, focuses on natural remedies, complete foods, and the body's ability to cure itself. Instead of invasive treatments, naturopathic doctors rely on diet and lifestyle strategies to promote good health.

A naturopathic diet prevents illness, increases energy, and improves overall health. It relies on food as close to its natural state as possible. This means foods containing no artificial ingredients and free of chemical preservatives and additives.

Foods typical of a naturopathic diet include raw vegetables that are organic and seasonal and meat from animals that are pesticide, hormone, and antibiotic-free.


Medicine for the Body

Holistic practitioners believe food is more than just fuel; it also serves as medicine for the body. An Ayurvedic diet, for example, is based on bringing the body back to its natural state after having been unbalanced.

Eating holistic or Ayurvedic foods, including ones free of sugars and flour, can help keep your elements balanced. A diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function well.

An eating plan that helps promote health and manage your weight includes a variety of healthy foods. Add an array of colors to your plate and think of it as eating the rainbow. 




Why Choose to Eat Holistic Food?

The digestive system is where nutrients are absorbed, and toxins are expelled.

Eating nutrient-rich foods is the first step to staying healthy. The nutrients found naturally in whole foods may offer a protective effect against some medical conditions, as the health of your stomach affects the health of your entire body.

A nutrient-packed holistic diet includes consuming whole grains, fortified and fiber-rich grain foods, low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt or fortified plant-based alternatives, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, soy such as tofu and tempeh, beans, lentils, and nuts.


Holistic foods are raw or unprocessed with enzymes and nutrients, essential fatty acids, and organic foods free of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.

A more conventional diet will also comprise dark, leafy greens, oranges, tomatoes, and berries—even fresh herbs—loaded with vitamins, fiber, and minerals. Those foods can help your brain function better and help you feel less depressed and anxious. Adding frozen peppers, broccoli, or onions to stews and omelets gives them color and nutrients quickly and easily.

Include a variety of protein foods such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, nuts, and seeds. Keep sugar, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol at an absolute minimum. A good diet will also consider how many calories you need daily, based on your body type and weight. 



Stay Hydrated - #2

Water is the life source of all living things and, therefore, the key to everything. This perspective on water and hydration is a holistic view.

With over half our bodies composed of water, about 60%, it's clear why staying well hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your health. 

Dehydration can make you tired and unable to focus. Staying hydrated can improve cognitive function and boost energy levels.

Chronic dehydration presents several warning signs. First, chronic dehydration can begin when the body is forced to function without enough water over days and weeks. It can cause various health complications, from high blood pressure to kidney stones.


The most Common Signs of Dehydration include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Tired muscles
  • Dizziness and disorientation
  • Dark-colored urine (yellow, brown, or maroon)




Severe cases of dehydration can have side effects like headaches, swollen feet, or even life-threatening conditions like heat stroke.

Drinking enough water corresponds to one-half of your body weight in ounces per day, and more if you're active or in hot weather. If you weigh 160 lbs., drink 80 ounces (3.02 kilogram) of water daily. This would be eight 10-ounce glasses of water.

Water is the best way to stay hydrated, whether drinking it or eating foods like fruits and vegetables that contain a high percentage of water.

Drink water throughout the day and monitor caffeine and alcohol intake. You can make your water more interesting by adding flavor from fruits. Feeling parched? Go for a tall glass of water and avoid sugary, highly caffeinated drinks.

For clean, pure water, invest in a good quality filtration system for your kitchen and make sure the one you choose is certified by NSF International or the Water Quality Association. Remember to change the filters regularly to ensure your drinking and cooking water is always of the highest quality.




Add Omega-3s - #3

Every cell in the body relies on omega-3 fatty acids to function well and absorb other nutrients. The body is composed of over 30 trillion cells, and virtually all depend on EPA and DHA to maintain cellular activities.

Humans can synthesize EPA and DHA from alpha-linoleic acid (ALA)—a fatty acid precursor in flaxseed, walnuts, and canola oil. But, it is generally recommended to consume EPA and DHA directly through dietary sources or fish oil supplements.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, fish & algae oils, nuts, and seeds, are essential for brain function and can help reduce depression and anxiety.



It takes about 128 grams of Atlantic salmon to provide 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. Though doses vary, fish oil supplements typically provide about 300 milligrams per pill.

Incorporate foods like salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds to your lifestyle. The Journal of Psychiatric Research found that omega-3 supplementation improved symptoms of depression in young adults.



How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Support Brain Health

Joel Fuhrman, MD, seven-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition.



What Foods Provide Omega-3s?

Omega-3s are found naturally in some foods and are added to fortified foods. Adequate amounts are found in a variety of foods, including:


  • Fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
  • Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
  • Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
  • Fortified foods (such as certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages, and infant formulas)



Experts at the NIH have not established recommended amounts for omega-3 fatty acids, except for ALA. The amount you need depends on your age and sex. Below find values for ALA alone.

Values are provided for specific life stages.


Birth to 12 months*

0.5 g

Children 1–3 years

0.7 g

Children 4–8 years

0.9 g

Boys 9–13 years

1.2 g

Girls 9–13 years

1.0 g

Teen boys 14–18 years

1.6 g

Teen girls 14–18 years

1.1 g


1.6 g


1.1 g

Pregnant teens and women

1.4 g

Breastfeeding teens and women

1.3 g





Choose a High-quality Omega-3 Supplement

Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA) and (DHA) are essential for cellular and metabolic health throughout your lifespan. One of the first things people want to know is how much EPA and DHA should I take to meet my daily needs?

Organizations like The National Institutes of Health recommend adults consume more than 500 mg of EPA and DHA daily, recognizing that higher amounts are often needed for those with metabolic risk factors. Higher doses are required during specific periods of development, such as gestation and infancy. 

The NIH suggests consuming 1.1 to 1.6 grams of omega-3s per day, while the American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish (~4 ounces) a week as part of a heart-healthy diet.




Use Probiotics to enhance Digestive Processes - #4

A holistic perspective views the human body as a whole unit of intricate systems that depend on one another to function effectively.

Food is the foundation of holistic nutrition, and proper digestion is required to best use nutrients. Poor digestion tends to invite illnesses and diseases. Probiotics can do more than improve your gut health; they may also indirectly enhance your brain health. Probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir can help improve gut health and positively impact mood and anxiety. Simply put, probiotics improve gut-brain communication.

There is strong evidence that the gut and brain are connected, a partnership called the gut-brain axis. The Vagus Nerve* is the longest nerve in the body and joins them. The nervous system in the digestive tract, the enteric nervous system, and the central nervous system, including the brain, are connected by a biochemical process called signaling.

The gut has been called a “second brain” because it produces many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain does, like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid - all play a crucial role in regulating mood. In fact, it is estimated that 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive tract. When your brain senses trouble—the fight-or-flight response kicks in—it sends warning signals to the gut, which is why stressful events can cause digestive problems like a nervous or upset stomach.

The brain-gut axis works in other ways, too. For example, your gut helps regulate your appetite by telling the brain when to stop eating. Gut microbes produce proteins that can suppress appetite, which coincides with the time it often takes people to begin feeling full.

The human body has an innate ability to heal but needs the proper environment. Poor gastrointestinal functioning can significantly impact the body, mind, and spirit. Many studies have indicated that probiotics enhance digestion and help improve mood and cognitive function, and lower stress and anxiety. 





Superfoods & Juices - #5

Superfoods are the healthiest of healthy foods. They are full of essential nutrients, vitamins, or minerals imperative for your body's health and well-being.

Superfood juices, such as wheatgrass juice, are a natural anxiety reliever. The nutrient chlorophyll, has mood-enhancing effects. Wheatgrass contains many B vitamins, including C, A, E, K, selenium, zinc, and essential amino acids.

Chlorophyll is rich in magnesium and helps to reduce anxiety. People with low magnesium intake are more likely to experience anxiety.





Think of superfoods as natural medicines!

Avocados, beets, berries, celery, cilantro, cruciferous vegetables, ginger, pistachio nuts, seaweed, seeds, sorghum, and spirulina are healthy and delicious superfoods.



Avocados are an excellent way to incorporate creaminess into your juices. On top of tasting delicious, it is also full of healthy fats. It can help to protect your body against degenerative concerns and even some types of cancers.

Beets are root vegetables and are delicious raw, pickled, and cooked. Use both the leaves and the roots in juicing. This unique vegetable is rich in potassium, nitrates, and iron to supercharge your vitamin and mineral intake.

Ginger is a natural remedy for many types of ailments, including pain, muscle soreness, and even hair loss. On top of this, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce aches and pains as a substitute painkiller.

A green snack of raw celery is crunchy and refreshing. It's also a great addition to your juices for a healthy dose of vitamins K, C, and A.





In Conclusion

What you eat significantly impacts your mood, energy levels, and overall mental health. A balanced diet and eating foods high in nutrients can help your body work efficiently.

A varied and healthy diet usually consists of plenty of fresh, plant-based foods and limits the intake of processed food.

Food is the foundation of holistic nutrition, and proper digestion is required to best use nutrients. Poor digestion can lead to illnesses, so it's important to improve the health of the gastrointestinal tract. 

If you have questions about your diet or feel you need to lose weight or change your eating habits, schedule an appointment with your doctor or a dietitian. 



A health and nutrition professional can suggest changes to your diet that will help you get the nutrients you need to be healthy, active, and strong. A naturopathic doctor is best suited to treat your body as a working whole—holistically.




Find a Naturopathic Doctor here on Garden of Healing





© 2005 – 2023, Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing, LLC.

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