Poor Nutrition as Cause of Our Mental Maladies

It can be easily said that our modern American society has a lot more folks who are either sad, angry, or just plain crabby. We see the effects of this in many areas:

Stubbornness and intransigence when it comes to simple requests like wearing face masks.

More and more incidences of violent, or at least cranky, acts.

And then there's the culmination of modern irritability and thrill-seeking behavior that ocurred on January 6th of this year – the attack on our very government itself.

Countless articles and editorials have already reminded us of the usual culprits for this Societal Dissatifaction:

Our dehumanizing high-tech jobs, with their artificially enforced "teams" and pressurized goals that suppress creativity, and do not engage our Creative Spirit.

The financial anxiety scrunching up the guts of the many who cannot afford the high prices of homes, cars, and even food.

The dehumanizing effect of dealing with machines rather than human beings on the phone, at the gas pump, or on the internet.

And let's not forget the last four years of "leadership" by an individual who encouraged anger and discord. (This essay was written in 2020.)

But there is also an overlooked cause of our Modern Malaise, Moroseness, and Misanthropy.
It's the Standard American Diet!! It's all the stuff that most people are putting in their grocery carts. White bread, white pasta, white rice. Cases of sugary soft drinks. Big bottles of highly processed and heated/filtered soybean/sunflower/corn oils. Big slabs of meat and small jabs of vegetables.

We refine our grains until they have no vitamins or minerals or fiber.
 We cram our poultry and dairy animals in small cages where they do nothing but get fat and grow fast, and require medicines just to stay alive long enough to be processed.
 We fertilize and spray and modify our vegetables so that they also grow fast and don't have time to draw up minerals and other healthful compounds – and even flavor.

And we also have countless articles that point out the physical dangers of eating all this dessicated food. Coronary heart disease, cancers, diabetes and the like. But only lately have some of these articles point out the "mental", psychological dangers. It's our food that's making us a society of irritable, angry, and sad crabs. We "can't get no nutrition" in the stuff we are presented with to eat. And lately it is being pointed out that deficiencies in these various nutrients are what's causing our Recent Restlessness.

Here are some example of modern nutrient deficiencies and some of the resulting mental issues:

1 Magnesium: Found in nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, wheat and oat bran and greens. (You won't find many of those in the Standard American Diet!) Magnesium deficiency is associated – among other things – with: Increased stress, depression, and anxiety (due to degradation of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Complex).

2 Probiotics: Found in yogurt and other fermented foods. But it takes a substantial intake of fiber to support the Gut Flora. (And you won't find much of that in the Standard American Diet either!) Shortages of healthy Gut Flora are associated with:
 Fewer available neurotransmitters. The Gut Flora actually are significant source of the magic Serotonin – the big neurotransmitter.
 Higher CRP (C-Reactive Protein) levels. Certain Gut Flora reduce CRP – C-Reactive Protein. Higher CRP levels Promote inflammation, which itself is a risk factor for anxiety, depression (and even PTSD).

3 The Omega 3s. Found in certain wild caught fish. Also (in another form) in flax, walnuts, and certain seeds. Our brain neurons contain a high amount of DHA (one of the two Omega 3 compounds found in fish or fish oil). This helps keep these cells more pliable and fluid, resulting in enhanced mental function but also in a better mood. Quite a few studies show a strong relationship between higher Omega 3 compounds and the prevention of depression and anxiety. Yet our usual American diet is much higher in Omega 6 compounds, due to our high consumption of industrial oils (soy, sunflower, and corn) in processed food and fast food. The result is:
 "Numerous studies conducted all over the world show a correlation between higher omega-6 consumption and lower omega-3 consumption and poor mental health, including aggressive behaviors, ADD, and even a higher tendency to commit crime." (Ref: Natural Grocers Health Hotline, August 2021)

Various studies have shown that supplementation of either magnesium, probiotics, or Omega 3s have demonstrated a reduction in depression anr/or anxiety.

The list goes on, involving most vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (the plant-based nutrients found in vegetables and fruit):

4 Vitamin C deficiency is associated with higher fatigue.

5 Zinc deficiency leads to higher cortisol levels and the resulting stress "is associated with decreased information processing and increased impulsivity – two effects of stress – as well as risk of depression" (Ref: Live Naturally, Summer/Fall 2021)

6 Curcumin (found in Turmeric) is said to help regulate neurotransmitter levels, which are associated with learning, memory, mood, and behavior.

7 Lutein (found in greens and cruciferous vegetables). Lower levels of this phytonutrient are associated with worse results in certain measures of cognitive function, including reasoning, judgement, and regulating emotions.

So it just might be possible that the main reason for our modern dissatisfaction, disgruntlement, and dis-ease just might be due to the very products that the Food Industry is "forcing" us to eat.
 And, while we can't do much about the previous presidential administration or the coronavirus or Climate Change, we can do something about our diet.

We can get our beef and pork from organic farmers who allow the animals to graze normally, and avoid meat from the big packing houses.

We can get our milk, cheese, and eggs from organic farmers who also raise their animals in pastures rather than cages.
 In both of these cases, the nutritional profile of the meat, dairy, and eggs will be superior and will contain more healthy fats. Why? Because the animals will simply get more exercise! And also grasses and other pasture plants contain some Omega 3 raw material (Alpha-Linolenic Acid), with which the animals can create some finished Omega3 fatty acids. And since they're not fed grains, they won't produce Arachidonic Acid - which promotes inflammation. Plus, the typical grain food used by the Confined Animal operations is low nutrition by-products of grain production.

And in general we can clean up our diet and dump the sugar, refined grains, and saturated fats, gradually replacing them with fresh vegetables and fruits, high-quality protein, and better fats. Then we won't be as likely to be deficient in the powerhouse nutrients.
And then we just might not be such Crab Asses!

Copyright © 2021 J.A.