Over the past decade scientists have been delving deeper into how our stomachs and our brains are connected. Asking questions such as: What types of food can help healing? What should we eat to help our brain function better? Why are some foods better than others? Scientists have yet to pinpoint exactly how eating unhealthy affects our ability to function, but the link between eating unhealthy and the health of our mind has been seen time and time again. In fact, scientists have discovered that with the presence of an unhealthy diet, symptoms of depression and anxiety increase dramatically. On the contrary, when we fill our bodies with healthy, nutritious food, studies have shown a positive increase in mood and a decrease in depression and anxiety.
One hypothesis assumes that the bacteria found in your stomach after eating relays messages to various areas within our brain through our vagus nerve. The body then reacts to these messages by activating or suppressing specific neurotransmitters within our brain. Depending on the reaction that this bacteria elicits, we can either be helping our bodies function or hindering it. That being said, this is only one hypothesis!
I encourage you to spend some time researching ways you can regulate your gut and find foods that will make you feel good from the inside out! Below I have included a few tips to help kick-start your way into a healthier lifestyle that will make your mind, your gut, and your heart feel good!
- Make a list of all your favourite fruits, vegetables, and meats.
Many people associate eating healthy with tasteless food that is hard to enjoy. But eating healthy doesnâ€™t have to mean cutting everything you enjoy out of your diet. Itâ€™s all about moderation. Start by making a list of your favorite foods and then looking up the health benefits of each one. If you find that itâ€™s good for you, look up some recipes that include those foods. If you like the taste of what youâ€™re eating, youâ€™ll be much more inclined to eat it from day to day, so pick your favourites!
- Start your day with a glass of water.
Someone gave me this tip about a year ago, and nothing has ever made me feel better! Drinking water when you first wake up helps wake up your organs and helps their functioning throughout the day! Try drinking a gallon of water a day and I promise you will start to feel the benefits!
- Skip the sugary desserts.
Like most people, skipping out on desserts can be the hardest thing to change. But the recommended daily intake for sugar is 6 teaspoons because increased sugar intake has been linked to depression, anxiety, fatigue, difficulty thinking, and compromised cognitive abilities! At first it will be hard to cut out that sugar, but eventually your body will stop craving sugary foods. A tip to help with your sugar craving is to eat fruit, since fruit contains natural sugars.Â
- Never skip breakfast.
Breakfast is SO important! I remember when I first started learning about our brain and its caloric intake. One of my professors noted that most people think they are eating enough in the morning to sustain their bodies, but they donâ€™t realize that only specific parts of the brain get fed! The last part of our brain to receive nutrient is our prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making, thought processes, and social behavior. So youâ€™re compromising all of these functions when you skip your breakfast! But you want to make sure that your eating a nutritious breakfast. Studies have shown that people who eat a nutritious breakfast show a significantly more active prefrontal cortex!Â
- Stop snacking 2 hours before bed.
Eating close to your bedtime throws your bodiesâ€™ natural rhythms off! It affects your hormones, your quality of sleep, and studies have shown that you may actually be hungrier the next day!
- Cut the caffeine in half.
The last and likely most difficult tip of them all is cutting your caffeine intake. Adjusting to lower levels of caffeine WILL be hard, but it will ALSO be rewarding! Quitting coffee or at least reducing the amount you have little by little will eventually decrease anxiety, increase your mood, increase your quality of sleep, increase productivity, and lower blood pressure! This takes time, but I have to say that this is one of the most noticeable differences I have felt when I made this change in my own life. I no longer feel as if I need coffee to get through my day, and have finally slept soundly during the night! A feeling I havenâ€™t felt in a very long time!
By: Eliza Watts
Eliza graduated with a degree in Psychology and a specialization in research from Wilfrid Laurier University. She is a passionate mental health advocate whose goal is to help others through her own personal experience.