Diet and the Microbiome: How Our Food Choices Affect Our Mood
Have you ever felt irritable, tired, lacking in energy or foggy after eating? I anticipate that you answered yes to this! We’ve all been tempted by the allure of our favorite indulgences, even if we know they’ll leave us feeling drained like a flat tyre!
Many years ago I realised that both wheat and dairy had a big impact on my mood. Still to this day, if I have too much of those, I have what I call a “food hangover” the next day. I can feel moody, irritable and tired which can really impact my productivity. It was only through trial and error (and seeing a nutritional specialist) that I discovered the link between my food and mood. When I eliminate and reduce those foods, I have a much clearer head and more energy for the day ahead. However for someone else, their body can handle those foods differently and they’re not affected. Being aware of how our body responds to certain foods is super important for overall mental health and wellbeing and the good news is that it’s fully within our control.
Here’s the science
Our digestive system is home to trillions of microorganisms collectively known as the microbiome. These tiny organisms play a crucial role in maintaining our overall health, including our immune system, metabolism, and mood regulation. Recent research has shown that our diet plays a significant role in shaping the composition of our microbiome, with certain foods promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and others causing harm.
The microbiome is a complex ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that live in our gut. These microbes are involved in a variety of biological processes, including digestion, nutrient absorption, and the synthesis of vitamins and other essential compounds. They also interact with our immune system, helping to regulate inflammation and protect us from harmful pathogens.
The food we eat has a direct impact on the composition of our microbiome. For example, a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the gut (dysbiosis), while a diet rich in fibre, fruits, and vegetables promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria (probiotic).
One study found that people who consume a diet rich in plant-based foods have a more diverse and stable microbiome than those who consume a more processed diet. Another study showed that a high-fat diet can disrupt the balance of gut microbes and lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, which can contribute to a range of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and even mental health issues. Of course not everyone can afford the luxury of constant fresh foods and vegetables each day, but a good rule of thumb is adding a few plants into your day to keep things ticking over.
Food and Mood
So taking all the above into consideration and to summarise:
- What we eat has an impact on our mental wellbeing due to the bacteria in our stomach
- Try to incorporate some plants into your day if you’re on a budget
- Be aware that if you eat too many highly processed foods, this will impact your emotional equilibrium as your tummy needs to be healthy to regulate your mood.
- Check in daily or weekly to monitor how you’re nourishing your stomach and overall mental health.
- A healthy gut protects against stress and reduces the risk of depression and anxiety disorders, in addition to illness and disease.