Tips and Insights

Healthy Diet

There is research to suggest that what we eat may affect not just our physical health, but also our mental health and wellbeing. Eating well (i.e. a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and nutrients) can be associated with feelings of wellbeing. A 2014 study found high levels of wellbeing were reported by individuals who ate more fruit and vegetables. A recent study found that a Mediterranean-style diet (a diet high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.) supplemented with fish oil led to a reduction in depression among participants, which was sustained six months after the intervention.  

The importance of good nutritional intake at an early age is explored in multiple studies, including a systematic review in 2014, which found that a poor diet (with high levels of saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and processed food products) is linked to poorer mental health in children and adolescents. Research shows that there is a link between the health of your gut and your mental health. While a healthy diet can help recovery, it should sit alongside other treatments recommended by your doctor. 

There is bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain. In fact, reputable scientists such as Dr. Michael Gershon, professor of Pathology and Cell Biology and father of neurogastroenterology, adamantly believe that we have a second brain in our gut.

Chemicals implicated in depression and happiness, such as serotonin are also found in the gut; 90 percent of serotonin is manufactured in the digestive tract and not the brain. Many antidepressants work by increasing serotonin. Scientists have found that gut bacteria produce many other neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, and GABA, which are critical for mood, anxiety, concentration, reward, and motivation. The gut microbiome can cause changes in how our brains react.

What has become evident is that patients with psychiatric disorders have different populations of gut microbes compared to microbes in healthy individuals. Also, stress and stress hormones such as cortisol can have a negative impact on our microbiome. And all of these factors interact in complex ways with the immune system. As the knowledge of the exact nature of brain-gut interactions unfolds in relation to psychiatric disorders, treatments may include a probiotic instead of Prozac! What all of the above findings strongly suggest is this: Take care of your gut bacteria for good quality of life, better mental health, and a sharper brain. Think about the gut/brain connection – ‘Gut Instinct,’ ‘Gut Feeling,’ ‘Gut Reaction’