A healthy body is never the same without a healthy mind.
And vice versa.
We all know about the mind-body connection. We know how mental stress causes physical illness (think BP issues, digestive & nervous disorders, palpitations, dizzyness, headaches etc. to name the most obvious).
There are other posts on this blog to discuss how emotional trauma affects our biology.
This post, however, is about HOW THE BODY AFFECTS THE MIND.
Yes, disturbances in physical health has a HUGE effect on mental and emotional wellness.
Of course, when one is unwell, one can hardly expect optimal mental performance.
But beyond the obvious, here is some more information on the gut-brain connection.
YOUR DIET AFFECTS YOUR MOOD & MENTAL HEALTH
Food triggers a host of hormonal and neurotransmitter reactions in the body.
Most of us have heard of the ‘happy hormones’ – serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. These are triggered by the neurotransmitter(brain chemical) GABA, which releases stress and anxiety, improves breathing, regulates heart rate and blood pressure and heals insomnia.
And we have also heard of the stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline – which have biochemical reactions opposite to the happy hormones.
THE FOOD YOU CONSUME HAS THE CAPACITY TO ACTIVATE ALL THESE HORMONES AND NEUROTRANSMITTERS. Therefore, with each bite you take, you are either generating bio-chemical reactions that can have an unbelievably massive effect on your mood and mindset.
Long-term eating habits can habituate you to certain biochemicals flooding your brain and nervous system – either keeping you predominantly happy, or sad, or stressed… and over time, you come to believe that the emotional reactions triggered by these biochemicals are simply your nature/ character, while in fact, IT’S NOT. Shockingly, it could just be your body’s reaction to the food you consume.
No matter what life throws at you, you can either approach it positively or negatively. A healthy mindset will most certainly help you make the most of life, instead of quailing under difficulties. And what if I told you, that your diet can influence your ‘mindset’ by about 60% ?! Just understand the implications!
Here’s how food affects your biology:
- Inflammation-causing foods lead to oxidative stress – can lead to aches and pains in the body and brain-fog.
- Hormonal imbalances (think PMS etc)
- Thyroid and insulin dysfunction
- Gut dysbiosis – gut flora dysfunction where the good bacteria are wiped out and replaced by unfriendly bacteria/yeast that produce seriously harmful neurotoxins
- Psychosocial neuroplasticity – feelings of loneliness, anger, guilt, depression, lack of meaning and purpose in life, feelings of failure and low self-esteem etc.
- Metabolic ineptitude and mitochondrial dysfunction – producing very low energy and fatigue
- Trigger disease genes – epigenetics states that if you are carrying the gene for a genetic disorder from your ancestors such as cancer, diabetes, depression, psychological illness etc. – these are triggered ON by poor food choices that create poor biochemical reactions, whereas good lifestyle choices can actually TURN OFF the disease gene.
Every bite you consume has the capacity to reprogram the software of your body.
Here are some foods which can truly make a difference in your emotional health and mental performance.
- Foods rich in B-Vitamins – whole grains, lean meat (fish is the best)
- PROBIOTICS – The GUT-BRAIN AXIS is the neural communication system between your gut and brain, connected by the vagus nerve. Your gut-microbiome and the neurochemicals they produce have a DIRECT effect on your brain and mood. Many disorders such as anxiety, depression, autism, and schizophrenia are straightforwardly triggered by poor gut microbiome. It is ESSENTIAL to keep your gut flora happy! Sources:
- Fermented Indian foods such as idlis and dosas
- yogurt (organic, in limited quantities. Dairy has a lot of drawbacks. )
- apple cider vinegar
- kombucha tea
- fermented vegetables
- Farm-fresh fruits and vegetables consumed with skin after a gentle wash
- Flavonoids (phytonutrients containing GABA) – onions, seeds & nuts, berries, citrus fruits, apples, pears, most vegetables, herbs & spices like saffron and turmeric which have a wonderful effect on inflammation and neuroplasticity, black tea, green tea, cocoa, red wine, chamomile and passionflower.
- Omega-3 : Fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts
- Magnesium-rich foods (to ease inflammation, anxiety, insomnia, bad memory, and concentration) – avocado, dark chocolate, banana, almonds, spinach, artichokes, basil, coriander, green vegetables
Incorporating these foods into your meals and snacks can alter your emotional reactions and mental performance completely – leaving you a different and better person.
Remember, good nutrition is not isolated to physical wellness, but affect your mental game and emotional well-being just as much. In other words, it’s not just body confidence and aesthetics that your nutrition influences, but also your brain function, energy, thought process, decision-making abilities and good moods – which rule every professional and personal aspect of your life.