How to eat for good mood and mental wellbeing – Part 1

Food as information for gene expression

Your food talks to your genes. Your food delivers information to your body. When you eat a beige processed food diet, you are giving scrambled information that your body doesn’t understand. That information is like shouting to, or bullying your genes. This misinformation can cause genes to be switched on that increase inflammation and the risk of disease.

When you eat a real food, minimally processed, healthy diet that is lower in refined carbohydrates, you are sending correct and useful information to your body and genes in a package that allows the body to do all the necessary functions in the way they are designed to be done. That information also keeps those illness and inflammation genes switched off.

A Norwegian study showed just that! Albeit small, the study showed how a diet with 65% carbohydrates – pretty typical for a modern Western diet – caused a number of genes to work overtime. These genes were those that cause inflammation in the body and are associated with development of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, dementia, and type 2 diabetes. We also know from extensive research that inflammation is at the root of many mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

Treat and feed your gut bugs well

Your gut is not Las Vegas. What happens in the gut, does not stay in the gut.

~ Alessio Fasano

This is a famous quote by Alessio Fasano, medical doctor, pediatric gastroenterologist and gut researcher.

What does it mean?

It means that the gut constantly communicates with the rest of your body, including the brain, and anything can slip through the crucial barrier that is your intestinal lining if things are not right in the gut.

Your gut is your digestive tract and within it resides a complex ecosystem of trillions of microbes, both beneficial and harmful. When you eat, your digestive system breaks down the food so the nutrients can be absorbed and utilised by the body. Any foods that the human digestion can’t break down (fibres and plant chemicals, for instance) are digested by the gut microbes that, as a result, produce various amazing anti-inflammatory, communication or other beneficial molecules that support optimal health.

They also keep the intestinal lining, i.e. the barrier between the outside world and the inside of your body (bloodstream), intact so that harmful things are kept away from your blood circulation. When this barrier function is compromised, your gut may become “leaky”. A leaky gut has been linked to many systemic conditions including mental health issues, through neuro-inflammation and potentially also through a leaky brain. So, to support optimal mental health, we need to have optimal gut health.

Here’s a (non-exclusive) list of factors that influence your gut health:

  • Diet
  • Stress
  • Sleep
  • Alcohol
  • Exercise
  • Nature/Environment
  • Mindset
  • Medications (particularly antibiotics and acid-blocking drugs)
  • Toxin exposure
  • Mode of delivery (vaginal/cesarean) and breast-feeding

As you can see, there are many factors affecting your gut, which means you can feel reassured that there’s always something that you can do to make a difference, however small a change it is! You don’t have to change everything from the get-go. Just making small changes (or just one small change) in any of the areas above can make a big difference in your gut health, your mental health and your overall health.

So, just focus on one small change at a time to keep your gut, and the gut microbes living in it, happy and healthy so that you can also feel happy and healthy yourself!

How to eat for good mood and mental wellbeing – Part 2: Out Now!


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Main photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash