by Jessi Guidry 8.26.19

 

Depression and mental health problems have become more common in recent decades. If you think about it, your brain is always working- when you’re awake and when you’re asleep, thus requires constant fuel which we get from food. The functionality of your brain depends on the quality of fuel your brain is provided. Is it possible that the foods we are consuming play a role in our moods and emotions? Dr. Eva Selhub, writer and contributing editor for Harvard Health Publishing states,

“What you eat directly affects the structure and function of the brain and, ultimately, your mood.”

photo credit: thedentalroom.com

Eating high-quality foods containing essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is “waste” (free-radicals) produced when the body uses oxygen, which damages cells. 

The brain can be damaged by low-quality food such as processed foods and refined sugars because it has little ability to get rid of these toxins. Studies have found a correlation between diet high in refined sugar and impaired brain function as well as the worsening of symptoms of mood disorders such as depression. Diets high in sugar worsen the body’s regulation of insulin and promotes inflammation and oxidative stress. 

It makes sense that if your brain is deprived of good-quality nutrition and free radicals are circulating around in the confined space of your skull that consequences are to be expected. Fortunately, the growing field of nutritional psychiatry is finding many correlations between your food and how you feel, behave and the types of bacteria living in your gut. 

photo credit: Foxy's Forest

The inner-workings of the human digestive system isn’t just for digesting food, but also assists with guiding emotions. Serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep and appetite, mediates moods and inhibits pain. Ninety-five percent of Serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract which is lined with hundreds of millions of neurons. The function of these neurons and serotonin are highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal biome. These bacteria play an essential role in maintaining good health: 

  1. Protects the intestinal lining
  2. Limits inflammation
  3. Improves nutrient absorption
  4. Activates neural pathways that travel between the gut and the brain

Recent studies have shown that when people eat or take probiotics their anxiety levels, perception of stress and mental outlook improve in comparison to those that do not. 

During your next few meals begin to pay attention to your physical and mental reaction to food- not just your immediate reaction, but over the next few days as well. Log these reactions in a journal then try switching up your diet over the next few weeks. Eat clean, cutting out all processed foods and refined sugar. Incorporate fermented foods into your diet including kimchi, pickles, kombucha, and sauerkraut while eliminating any dairy/grains. After three weeks, test each type of food by re-introducing them one-by-one. Record your body’s response after each one. More than likely, you’ll find that your brain and body feels much healthier and functions better when you eliminate these foods. 

 

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