Written by: Tracy Spiaggia, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Because you are reading Brainz Magazine, I trust that we share an interest in the brain and all its wonder. It is the organ that brims with the potential to create every aspect of the human experience, including access to the mystery of the soul, and should inspire awe in us all.
Considering all its complexities, what a gift it is to live in such times when we have helpful and actionable information at our fingertips. May we all consume and apply it wisely. By now, everyone is aware that we are in the throes of a terrifying mental health crisis and it unfortunately continues to worsen. The enormity of this issue is more than most can bear, causing widespread analysis paralysis. The most heartbreaking and alarming statistic to me is the impact our modern-day lifestyles and culture are having on our children. According to the National Library of Medicine, “Nearly 20% of children and young people ages 3-17 in the United States have a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder.” ¹ According to the World Health Organization, “Depression, anxiety and behavioral disorders are among the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents." ² To put it bluntly, our minds and brains are profoundly struggling and we need to remain open and curious to find ways to reverse this trend that go beyond talk therapy and prescription drugs. While these can certainly be immensely helpful for some, it’s obvious on their own they fall short of a true solution. This is made evident by the skyrocketing number of psychiatric prescriptions and 6+ month waitlists for trained therapists. If these approaches on their own were enough, we’d see an inverse relationship, not a parallel one, between the ever-increasing number of sufferers and these interventions.
In this series, Expanding Our Mental Health Toolbox, I’m going to take you on an exploration of lesser-known triggers and home-based solutions for mental illnesses like anxiety and depression to inspire you, through motivational education, to claim your agency over your health story. The first subject we'll consider is the impact of what’s on the end of our forks – our diet. Only in recent years has diet found its way into some of the mainstream conversations around this topic, but not to the degree necessary to significantly influence prevention and treatment strategies. The time is now for us all to appreciate the inextricable relationship between what we eat and how we feel. Certainly, there are the beginnings of meaningful studies being published that hint at the implication of food quality adversely impacting our health. ³ As we wait on research conclusively establishing the safety, or lack thereof, of our food supply, there disappointingly remains a debate that highly processed foods, chemical preservatives and dyes, GMO crops, antibiotic and growth hormone use, pesticides, and herbicides have degraded and adulterated our food supply and are now wreaking havoc on our health. When we look at the mental health crisis trend alongside the trend of our culture that has moved away at warped speed from organically and sustainably grown whole food-centered diets prepared mainly in the home, we must at least be curious enough to consider a correlation. As a mom, I’m not willing to wait on interest-driven studies to assure me the food supply is safe. I know what I observe in my own body and home and that’s enough proof for me to adhere to the purest diet possible, no matter what it costs me in time and money. For us, it’s a top priority. But when my loved ones and I are not feeling our best, one of my first considerations is always, “What have we been eating?” When those gaps are addressed, health benefits are usually enjoyed within hours or days. Consuming whole nutritious foods is one of the most eﬃcient ways to access our inner pharmacy and stabilize our body systems to experience the relief we crave. In a study published in the National Library of Medicine, researchers echoed the conclusions of similar studies stating “Dietary patterns high in processed foods, or a “western dietary pattern,” are strongly correlated with an increased risk of developing depression, mild cognitive impairment, and ADHD.” ⁴ The verdict is in, making it a travesty that mainstream media and medicine are not proactively informing the masses about this immutable truth of our design.
Ultimately, direct-to-family empowerment through education is the grassroots effort necessary to turn this around and it’s my mission to contribute to this goal for the rest of my life. Parents – not big pharma, not your GP, not your therapist, not even me – hold the key that unlocks true healing, most especially moms. It’s a radical act of self-love to be mindful of our family’s food choices amidst a noisy culture insisting eating healthy is irrelevant and even inconvenient. A destructive lie far too many of us have believed is that a calorie is a calorie..grab something quick and move on. Our bodies by the millions are demanding we return to a way of eating (and living) that is aligned with our biological blueprint. There are many other ways we are self-sabotaging with our daily choices and, throughout this series, we will delve into the impact of some of the more critical areas like sleep/circadian rhythm, movement, social media, familial relationships/ACEs, Highly Sensitive Personality and spirituality on mental health. I hope you follow along and share with family and friends. If this topic resonates with you and you’d like to learn more about the ways you can positively affect your mental health, please visit my website and follow Slingshot Health Coaching on Facebook and Instagram.
You can also grab a copy of my book, From Chained to Changed, Break Mental Strongholds and Transform Your Life Through Faith. There is so much more we can do to bring mental health relief and it all starts with knowing better to do better.
Tracy Spiaggia, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Tracy Spiaggia is a Functional Nutrition and Lifestyle Practitioner, NBCHWC, Amen Clinic Brain Health Specialist, published author and founder of Slingshot Health Coaching. She collaborates with families struggling with mental and relational health issues. She’s very passionate about educating families how to gain an appreciation for the design of their bodies, to be perpetual students of themselves and family members, to repair relationships, to address their trauma wounds and nurture their spiritual lives. Having navigated her own grief and health challenges, she knows the power of a mother's love to tirelessly and effectively implement targeted, holistic care to achieve true and lasting healing.
 2022 NationalHealthcare Quality and Disparities Report[Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2022 Oct. CHILD AND ADOLESCENT MENTAL HEALTH. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK587174/
 World Health Organization (2021, November 17). Mental health of adolescents. Retrieved April21, 2023, from www.who.int
 Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009 Feb;49(2):164-75. doi: 10.1080/10408390701855993. PMID: 18989835.
 Lachance L, Ramsey D. Food, mood, and brain health: implications for the modern clinician. Mo Med. 2015 Mar-Apr;112(2):111-5. PMID: 25958655; PMCID: PMC6170050.