One of the most common questions that I get asked during an initial intake session, is “why are you asking about my diet.” For most of us, this question is only asked in most medical settings, and most are somewhat offended or perplexed about the question. The way I attempt to explain this to my client’s is by using the term “balance.” Recent studies show that a combination of physical, mental, and emotional health is needed to be and stay balanced. Dr. Gabriella Cora, a board-certified psychiatrist states that “we tend to separate our brain from the rest of our body, but good health means good health from a holistic perspective – from head to toe.”
The Science Behind Food and Mood
In a nutshell, the connection between diet and our emotions comes from the close relationship between our brain and gastrointestinal tract, which is also referred to as the “second brain.”
How does this work you ask? Well, our GI tract houses billions of bacteria that impact the creation of neurotransmitters, which are chemical substances that constantly carry messages from our gut to our brain. Common examples of these are dopamine and serotonin, which are both known to regulate our moods.
Therefore, eating healthy foods and establishing a proper diet promotes the growth and production of good bacteria, which in turn affects neurotransmitter production. When production of neurotransmitters is working correctly, our brain is better able to receive these positive messages more effectively, which reflect more positive emotions.
It is important to also know that a diet high in fat and constant consumption of junk food can cause inflammation that can hinder the production of neurotransmitters. When you stick to a diet of health food, you’re setting yourself up for fewer mood fluctuations, an overall happier outlook, and an improved ability to focus, according to Dr. Gabriella Cora, Psychiatrist.
Tips to Establish a Healthy Diet
- Establish a healthy eating plan
- Set realistic goals
- Pace yourself
- Seek support (dietician or nutritionist)
- Drink water
- Watch sugar intake
- Don’t skip breakfast
- Incorporate fruits and veggies
It is important to remember that it may take time to feel the mood changes once a better diet has been set into motion and how many changes are implemented. With time, eating healthy, exercising, and taking medication properly can assist in overcoming some mood disorders and help in lessoning the effects of others.