The significance of wholesome meals: the gut-brain axis

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Gut bacteria can act on the gut-brain axis to alter appetite control and brain function as part of the development of eating disorders. The gut-brain axis, connected by neural, hormonal, and immunological pathways, is a bidirectional communication system originally known for its role in regulating digestive function and food intake. Every human being has a unique yet highly dynamic intestinal ecosystem that depends on complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors. Similarities in microbial composition and function in healthy individuals suggest a core microbiome that is necessary for the health of the host. Many diseases, ranging from metabolic (obesity and type 2 diabetes) to autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis) and neurodegenerative (Alzheimer’s disease) are now referred to as dysbiosis (also known as dysbacteriosis, a term for a microbial imbalance or maladjustment) on or in the body) and extensive research efforts have been invested in the development of treatment methods to achieve a healthy microbiome.

The effects of gut bacteria on our brain and body

Psychiatric and neurodevelopmental diseases, including major depression, autism spectrum disorder, and multiple sclerosis, are consistently associated with a condition of dysbiosis. Gut microbes are necessary for normal brain function, and the behavioral effects of gut bacteria are primarily mediated through their action on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, an important neuroendocrine system that regulates the response to mental and physical stressors . Chronic social stress (social disorder caused by aggressive roommates) and stress in early life (maternal separation) have been shown to change the diversity and composition of the gut microbiota in rodents.

Nutrient deficiency and brain fog

Not consuming real nutrients can be detrimental to our emotional, cognitive, and physical health. Malnutrition is not just a lack of food, it is also linked to the emptying of our bodies on well-balanced meals.

When we deny our bodies healthy calories and nutrients, we starve our brains. Our reaction times become slower, our short-term memories are not as sharp, our attention spans shorten, and we become tired, distracted, and irritable, which can affect our personal and professional lives and affect our moods, relationships, and work processes. In addition to the emotional and mental debris, we can also damage our bodies from depriving ourselves of nutrients or filling plates with empty calories. Diabetes, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, anemia, and tooth decay are all directly related to poor diet.

It is possible to be deficient in almost any nutrient, and unfortunately children, menstruating women, pregnant women, older adults, vegetarians, and vegans seem to be at the highest risk for multiple deficiencies.

Simple Steps to Feed Your Brain

Eating a healthy diet can improve cognitive function. Here are a few ways to get started.

1. Enjoy your food.

Eating should not only nourish our bodies and sharpen our minds, but also bring us joy. When we enjoy our food, dopamine is released in our brain, which gives us a feeling of pleasure. Nourishing our bodies, from shopping for groceries to researching recipes to cooking our meals and enjoying our meals alone or with others should be a process that we enjoy. While cooking in the kitchen, listen to music or podcasts, pour yourself a glass of wine and have fun!

2. Eat the rainbow.

Imagine if you could have any color of the rainbow on your plate: red tomatoes, green spinach, purple potatoes, brown rice, yellow egg yolks, etc. Okay, maybe I’ll stretch it a bit, but you get the point? When trying to eat an abundance of colors on our plate, we do our best to hit all of the food groups and have a meal full of vitamins and minerals. When we have a plate full of colorful vegetables, meat, and grains, we are nourishing our body and mind as best we can. Try to get as colorful a plate of whole foods as possible!

3. Daily multivitamins are OK.

Trying to meet your daily needs for all vitamins and minerals can be an incredible challenge that can become stressful. Most of us fail to meet our daily nutritional needs, and as such, most of us need to take a multivitamin and additional supplements on a daily basis, and that’s fine.

4. Listen to your body.

Some days I just want a huge chicken burrito (no cheese). It may be the most fatty, high-carb, lard-filled food I can get my hands on, but some days I have to listen to my body and give in to my cravings. I order takeaway here and there and occasionally indulge in burritos and candy. There is nothing wrong with indulging in cravings and “nourishing the soul”, but we need to be aware of this in order not to fall into a pattern of bad eating habits.

5. Limit emotional eating.

There is nothing better after a stressful day or an emotional experience than sitting on the couch, sipping deep into a glass of ice and pouring a glass of wine. Feeding our emotions with food is okay to some extent, but it can be a dangerous descent. If we continually use food as a coping mechanism or emotional crutch, we can easily develop a bad relationship with food and our bodies that may lead us to develop an eating disorder.

6. Eating is a social connection.

Eating out is one of the best ways to bring strangers and friends together. Sitting at the table and eating together is an international form of solidarity. Invite friends to help you cook dinner. Try to share more meals with friends and neighbors and you will be surprised how your relationships will grow.

7. Allow the food to show your creative side.

Cooking can be seen as a tedious task for many, but in reality cooking can be fun and therapeutic. It can allow you to use your creative side and break away from the stressful events of the day. Plan your recipes ahead of time, prepare meals, and invest in a slow cooker when you’re short on time. Don’t let your busy schedule or stressful workload stop you from planning and preparing nutritious meals that can nourish your mind and body

8. Be adventurous.

When you do grocery shopping, you are buying fruits or vegetables that you have never tried before. Cook a new recipe, use new ingredients, and try cooking fish or chicken with different spices.

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