Nutrition and It’s Role in A Healthy Mind

Our entire body is a fantastic interconnected system, working together for us to thrive. Possibly, the most important one pertaining to mental health is the connection between the brain and our gut. Decades of research have gone into studying and understanding this relationship between our minds and our stomachs, so let’s dive in and see just how it works and how the foods we eat contribute to our mental health.


How does the mind-gut connection work? 


There isn’t exactly an entire second brain hanging out in our stomachs communicating with the brain in our heads – but there are two thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells lining our digestive tract from our mouths to our backsides. Scientists call these two layers our Enteric Nervous System (ENS). The ENS is in constant communication with our Central Nervous System (CNS), composed of our brain and spinal cord.


The main goal of the ENS is to regulate digestion, and it begins as soon as we start chewing our food. Because of the mind and gut’s direct connection, they can relay information to each other. If there are issues in the intestine, it’ll report that to the brain and vice versa.


Due to this link, the issues in our gastrointestinal tract may be the cause or the product of the prevalent GI diseases and mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and depression that we experience.


What foods lead to inflammation and cause mental health problems? 

Diet culture loves to demonize carbs, sugar, and saturated and trans-fats regarding our aesthetics, but those foods tend to cause inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation can lead to many issues and can significantly impact our mental health.


A diet high in refined starches, sugar, saturated and trans-fats, and low in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber from fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are classified as the typical Western diet. The more inflammation we have in our bodies, the more our mental health is impacted.


Essentially, inflammation reduces the availability of our neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine. We need those neurotransmitters to help stave off the effects of anxiety and depression.


Here are foods to limit when trying to reduce inflammation:

  • Refined carbohydrates like white bread and pastries
  • Fried foods like French fries and buffalo wings
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, ice teas, and blended coffee drinks.
  • Red, high-fat meat, and processed meat like hot dogs.


What food can improve both our gut health and mental health? 


If our gut and brain are connected, then we can see the value of providing ourselves with foods that fuel us and give our mental health a boost.


Here are foods that can improve our anxiety and depression:


  • Lean meats – low-fat beef, chicken, pork, and seafood.
  • High-fiber foods – vegetables and fruit like beans, broccoli, berries, avocado, whole grains, and more.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Fish, seeds, nuts, and olive oil.


It’s also important to note that introducing prebiotics and probiotics into your diet will help aid digestion. Probiotic foods add diversity to the gut biome, and prebiotics provides nutrients to your gut bacteria. Think of adding some sauerkraut, high-quality yogurt, or kombucha to your diet to get yourself a nice variety of probiotics. As for prebiotics, it’s as simple as incorporating asparagus, onions, garlic, and leeks into some of your meals.


The bottom line


Good nutrition is the key to improving our gut health and mental health. Focus on figuring out what foods work best for you and help our little brain efficiently and effectively communicate with our big brain.





Older Post