How diet affects your mental health: Understanding the nutritional impact

In recent years, biopsychology has attracted great interest in the scientific community. Merging psychology and the microbiome, the term refers to the study of how the gut microbial environment affects our mental health and brain function.

For example, recent studies have shown that certain strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus bacteria can reduce stress and have antidepressant-like effects. Other research on germ-free mice showed that abnormal stress responses could be reversed by introducing Bifidobacterium infantis (lactic acid bacteria).

As for humans, dietary patterns rich in prebiotics and probiotics, found in fermented foods like yogurt, have been linked to reduced anxiety and improved mental health.

“The food on our plates is one of the factors that determine inflammation in the body. Lifestyle practices such as an unhealthy diet or an overly acidic environment in the body will lead to inflammatory responses, chronic diseases, and autoimmune problems. The influence of diet and lifestyle,” Elaine Postolowski explained to Metro. On our mental health and mood starts with how we turn food into energy and how the best choices nourish our microbes and support the gut-brain axis. Health consultant specializing in nutrition.

He added: “Our choices determine the communication between the gut and the brain. Dysbiosis in the body, a weak immune system, and an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria determine the mood, cravings, satiety, and energy we need to grow, thrive, and repair ourselves.

Nutritional psychiatry — also known as nutritional psychology and psychonutrition — is a new scientific and medical discipline that studies the connections between the foods we eat and how those foods and nutrients make us feel mentally.

“Dozens of research have shown how our diet can help us feel good – or bad – depending on the specific foods we choose. For example, the ‘Standard American Diet’ (SAD), which features high amounts of processed foods, has been linked to high levels of… High in sugar and fat, low in fibre, and low in fruits/vegetables, with higher rates of health problems. Depression, anxiety, and stress – proving that the “sad” way of eating can actually make you feel sad. Unfortunately, the “SAD” eating pattern It is no longer just an American problem, as processed, fast and convenient foods are the dominant source of calories in modern countries around the world.

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On the other hand, the Mediterranean lifestyle is one of the most popular and influential ways to better focus on patterns in our search for optimal well-being.

“Adherence to the basics of the Mediterranean diet is associated with a significantly reduced risk of cognitive decline. In addition, the odds of cardiovascular disease are reduced and longevity is increased. The positive rewards of maintaining a lifestyle consistent with the Mediterranean lifestyle are It is healthy aging, where a person can maintain independence, reduce the risk of cognitive decline and prevent dementia or show fewer signs of Alzheimer's and neurodegenerative diseases, which are often associated with signs of “chronic inflammation in the body,” Postolovsky shared.

Metro spoke with Shawn M. Talbott to learn more.


Shawn M. Talbot, Nutrition Psychologist

Q: How does the composition of our diet affect our mental health and regulate our mood?

The foods we eat have a direct, immediate and profound impact on our mental health. In addition to the actual nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.) that directly fuel our muscles, brain, and other tissues, our food also contains fiber and phytonutrients that feed the trillions of bacteria in our gut (our microbiome). It produces the vast majority of our neurotransmitters, including 90% of serotonin (for happiness) and 70% of dopamine (for motivation). This means that eating the 'wrong' foods (such as highly processed fast food) can lower our mood and increase the risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, while eating the 'right' foods (such as fruit and fibre). – Rich vegetables) can improve mood and help prevent mental health problems.

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Question: How does the typical Western diet affect the brain and mental health, especially given the high consumption of ultra-processed, fried and sugary foods?

– A diet high in processed foods, which tends to be low in fiber and phytonutrients, “deprives” the microbiome of the nutrients it needs to produce all the “happy signals” to maintain our mental health. Instead, a diet high in processed foods tends to prompt the microbiome to produce a number of inflammatory cytokines that can cause inflammation throughout the body, including the brain (neuroinflammation), which is a known risk factor for depression.

Q: Are there any other beneficial diets you can mention?

– Many of the “healthiest” diets in the world share the approach of consuming fewer processed foods and more processed foods, so, in addition to the Mediterranean diet, we can recommend the Blue Zones diet, the Okinawa diet, and the Scandinavian, basically any indigenous diet that shares the same approach towards whole plant foods and away from processed foods. In my latest book (2021), “Mental Fitness – Maximizing Mood, Motivation, and Mental Well-Being by Optimizing Your Brain, Body, and Biome,” I outline a “Mental Fitness System” that combines the best aspects of each of these diets into one approach focused on building mental fitness and maximizing Of comprehensive mental health.

Question: Given the complex relationship between diet, micronutrients and mental health, how should dietary choices be approached to improve mental health?

The basic science – or the microbiome and the gut-brain axis – can be extremely complex and nuanced to understand and study, but applying this science to everyday life is actually quite simple. Eat less processed foods. Eat more processed foods – and focus on what I call the “3 Fs” – fiber, fermentables, and flavonoids – especially fruits/veggies, yogurt/kefir, beans, and whole grains.

Diets that limit the intake of processed foods in favor of minimally processed “whole” foods, such as fruits and vegetables, have been shown to help prevent mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and help us feel better overall. More energy, sharper focus and better ability to recover

Shawn M. Talbot, Nutrition Psychologist

The global trend towards vegetarian diets

erica golden, Nutritionist A specialist in nutritional psychiatry and gut health, he explains to Metro:

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“The upside of a plant-based diet is that it naturally increases your intake of antioxidants, many essential vitamins and minerals, and fiber, including prebiotic fiber. However, I think it is important for people to plan their plant-based diet to ensure nutritional adequacy.” Some of the most common nutritional deficiencies Commonly associated with mental health problems are nutrients that can be obtained more easily from animal sources (such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, EPA, DHA, and essential amino acids).

It's entirely possible to follow a whole-food vegan diet that's healthy for your body and mind, but for those new to plant-based eating, getting support from a trusted professional in the field can be helpful.

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