It perhaps seems counter-intuitive that what we put into our mouths for nourishment for our physical bodies can also make a huge difference in our mental health. But it’s true!
Of course, if you’ve been at all interested in the food/mood connection and read or listen to videos and podcasts, then you’re aware of this. How much do you really know? And more importantly, would you like to know more?
A diet that is healthy and conducive to excellent mental health will help us be able to think clearly, feel more alert, be in a good mood, and feel difficult emotions like anger and sadness in a way that will not keep us down for a long time.
On the other hand, a poor diet can bring about extreme tiredness, impair our decision-making process, slow reaction times, and leave us feeling angry, anxious, irritable, aggressive, and more. Our behavioral choices usually show how we’re feeling and thinking.
Which way would you like to feel? Do I really need to ask this – LOL?!
Here in America and increasingly across the globe, we are consuming highly processed foods more and more. These are foods high in flour and sugar and other unnecessary chemicals and they have an addictive effect in our brains which leads to cravings for these unhealthy foods. (Well, this doesn’t happen to everyone, but it does happen the majority of time to the majority of people.)
So, if we ask you to stop eating these foods, your brain physiology will start to change! And yes, that’s a great thing. You will start to feel better, and your moods will start to improve. How you handle stress and other things will also start to improve.
That is, as long as you start to eat healthier foods instead. Have you heard of the gut/brain barrier? These two parts of our bodies are linked together through the vagus nerve, and they send messages back and forth to each other. The gut can influence emotional behavior inside your brain, and the brain can change the type of bacteria which lives in our tummies.
Inside our guts live the good bacteria, also known as the immune system, and the bad bacteria, the kind that causes problems. The bacteria in our guts produce neurochemicals that regulate both physical and mental processes, including how we feel. Most of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, is produced by the gut bacteria.
Most anti-bacterial products will effectively remove the bad bacteria, but they usually take the good bacteria down with it as well. It’s very important to know this! We do not want to weaken our immune system – it’s what protects us.
A few tips to help us build up our mental health are:
Other helpful suggestions might be not to eat in front of the TV and eat in a relaxing environment. Pay attention to what you’re eating – be in the moment – and really enjoy the flavors, textures, and other pleasant sensations. Also – enjoy your company if you’re not eating alone!
As always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
- Dr. P