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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Kelley

Gut - Brain Connection

Are the foods you are eating making your mental health worse?

Dr Uma Naidoo a leader in Nutritional Psychology, shares the connection between our diet and its affects on our mind.

My First Thoughts:

A light bulb has clicked on for me. Uma Naidoo's book Your Brain on Food, has been like a revelation for me. In my own life a decade ago I got diagnosed with food sensitivity to dairy, eggs, beans, nuts, and melon. I had struggled with ADD as a child. As an adult I struggled with mood swings that almost looked like rapid cycling bi-polar. Ups and downs in the same day. Also, I was constantly sick with upper respiratory illnesses. Yet, once I removed all these foods from my diet and took time to heal my gut, I found that I was on a much more even keel. The mood swings went completely away. My over all health improved from a cold at least once a month to maybe one or two a year. I knew that this made a big change in my own life.

Brain -Gut Research

Uma tells us in her book that the last 20 years, and especially the last 10 years has seen an explosion in research on the microbiome which is the bacteria species in your gut and its impact on the brain. This is cutting edge research rapidly changing our understanding of the connection between a healthy gut and good cognitive (thinking) function. The gut makes the chemicals that the brain needs to function well. If your gut is under attach it can't do it's job. The typical American diet is filled with foods and preservatives that are causing inflammation and damage to the gut. Therefore impacting conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, dementia, and many other conditions.

Food as Nutrients

Uma does a great job of correlating the research on what we know nutritionally about food and its impact on the body. She uses this research to recognize which foods are negatively impacting brain health and which foods overall contribute to brain health. Then she breaks it down into specifics like what to eat and not eat if you have a particular struggle like Anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, OCD, Autism, or Parkinson's disease, Etc. She goes beyond just recommending the Mediterranean diet, but looks also at how to adapt foods for cultural preferences for taste and texture.

Foods That Make You Sad

The very foods that we crave when we feel sad are often ones that make us feel better in the short run but leave us crashing and worse off in the long run. Sugar, fried foods, alcohol, high starch and dairy combinations (pizza, pasta, and baked goods) actually at a macro level increase inflammation in the body and the brain. These poor food choices can trap you in a cycle of feeling sad, which can lead to overeating and skipping meals. Making the problems even worse by decrease serotonin and other regulating chemicals in the brain. Which also leads to a huge impact on the gut overgrowing harmful bacteria and starving out good bacteria.

Gut Health

Learn to feed your gut with the right kinds of food. From probiotics (the good and bad of a supplement), to the right kinds of yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and many others. Enough choices out there for picky eaters and people with food sensitivity like me! She also discusses which foods interact well together such as adding certain spices for boosting gut and brain health. Definitely check out the section on research on artificial sweeteners. Why hasn't the food and drug administration banned those yet?

The Final Score

This book has really made me stop and think about my approach to counseling. Uma is in favor of understanding food and its impact on people while also using traditional counseling methods like talk therapy and even EMDR (which I use) to help treat trauma. Her section on PTSD was fascinating. I hope in the coming year to begin taking classes in the area of Nutritional Psychology as an added benefit to my clients.

Purchase or Library Links

Here is the link to the book on Amazon:

Also Available at North Central Regional Library

Also available on Libby through King County Library

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