Can diet impact mental health and wellbeing in the workplace?
Mental health and wellbeing at work is rightly a hot topic at present as more and more employees are encouraged to speak out about any struggles they might be having.
Daily pressures in a frantic world can quickly get on top of us and it’s easy to automatically attribute any stress primarily to heavy workloads when things get a bit too much.
One of the most commonly overlooked factors, however, is diet. The nutrition we get before, during and after work plays a significant role in our overall performance, whether the signs of it are physical or not.
A 2017 study by Pulsin found that over a third of us in the UK are guilty of skipping their lunchbreaks in favour of working longer and harder hours at their desks. This can be a harmful lifestyle to be leading at work – it not only has the potential to affect performance at work, but it can also affect mental health and wellbeing at home in the long run if care is not taken.
How important is the workplace diet?
Providing the body with the recommended levels of nutrients and vitamins on a daily basis is vital for giving longevity to its health and wellbeing – they are “recommended” levels because they help maintain the necessary balance for the body and mind to operate at their optimum capacity.
When overworked employees go through long periods of opting for snacking at vending machines and quashing hunger as quickly as possible because of urgent deadlines, they run the genuine risk of affecting their health and overall susceptibility to mental health problems.
The mental health charity, Mind, found in its research that one in five employees in Britain had called in sick to avoid work when the conversation about stress levels arose. Stress can be caused by a number of different contributory factors and diet is one of them.
Access to a better diet won’t magically remove all stress triggers for employees in a workplace, but it can at least encourage them to make a change for the better. An improved level of overall health in your employees can lead to greater happiness at work in general and this can manifest itself in the likes of increased productivity, improved collaboration and enhanced communication throughout the business.
Could food intolerance be affecting the workforce?
Another key factor that your business should consider is the impact that food intolerances may be having on your workforce.
Thought to affect up to 45% of the population, food intolerances could be the root cause of a large number of disruptive symptoms. These range from IBS, migraines and low energy to psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.
Food intolerance can have a significant impact on the health of your gut, which in turn affects our mood and behaviour. This is because the immune system provides key communication pathways between the gut and the brain.
The measurement of food-specific IgG antibodies is used as a strategy for identifying foods to which your employees may be sensitive. This approach is then used as a starting point for an elimination diet.
Lorisian’s team not only offer IgG testing to up to 208 foods and drinks but can also provide nutritional support to help your workforce adapt to their new diet and get on their way to better health and wellbeing at work.
What food and drink should be encouraged at work?
One of the most common messages we get from our GPs is to drink more water – and this particularly applies to the kinds of workplaces that demand active brains and bodies on a daily basis.
Concentration levels are positively affected by the intake of more water, so it’s crucial that access to it is easy, whether it’s from taps, in bottles or in fruit-form. Fruit baskets are growing in popularity, too, and the likes of apples, oranges and bananas are great ways of taking in the daily mix of water, nutrients and vitamins that’s necessary for keeping your mind and body hydrated and healthy.
When the sweet tooth kicks in and snacks are on the mind, a small amount of dark chocolate is one choice that ticks both boxes: it’s rich in antioxidants and indulgent at the same time.
What can employers do for mental health and wellbeing at work?
If you haven’t introduced this already, simple fixes like installing water coolers and ordering weekly fruit baskets at the office can help to improve mental health and wellbeing in your employees. Not only will they have access to food and drink that’s better for them than those from a vending machine, but they’ll also feel more empowered by the fact that their employer genuinely cares about their mental health and wellbeing.
Certain employees may be reacting to something in their diet and this could be having a significant impact on their performance at work. It’s for this reason that more and more employers are making food intolerance testing* available to their employees so they can identify their trigger foods and help them to optimise their diet.
It rings true in any working environment that employers that look after their employees will have employees that are more inclined to look after them, so it helps to give them options.
Mental health can be seen as a very personal and private matter that may not be easy to talk about, so workplaces can and do often feel like closed-door environments for those who are struggling. Employers can actively encourage communication by breaking down the barriers to having someone to talk to – and sometimes it can even be as simple as leaving office doors open more often than they are closed.
Coupling this with access to healthier choices for food and drink and the option to take a food intolerance test* if they so wish can also have hugely positive impacts on any kind of working environment.
*Lorisian define food intolerance as a food-specific IgG reaction. Our information is intended to provide nutritional advice for dietary optimisation. Lorisian do not claim to treat or cure symptoms and recommend that your employees discuss any medical concerns they may have with a GP before undertaking one of our programmes.