I think it’s reasonably common knowledge that how we feel emotionally can affect our gut— we know stress can cause ulcers, and anxiety can kill your appetite (or lead you to binge). But something I haven’t properly appreciated is that this gut-brain connection is a two-way street; what you eat has a direct impact on your emotional landscape.
This excerpt from a recent Harvard Medical School article explains it well:
The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach's juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That's because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected.
This mood-food connection led me down a rabbit hole of nutritional psychiatry, and the growing field of research exploring the bi-directional relationship between digestion and emotion.
Inflammation has a big impact on brain function. If you’re eating a diet full of vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory foods, those nutrients will fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, nourishing your mental health.
What I did not fully realise before doing this deep dive was that about 95% of our serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, and mood, is produced in the gastrointestinal tract.
According to Dr. Eva Selhub, the production of serotonin is heavily impacted by the billions of ‘good’ bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome.
Those good bacteria fight toxins, limit inflammation, and activate neural pathways between your gut and your brain.
So, making sure you get enough probiotics and healthy, whole foods not only helps digestion, but it shapes your emotional resilience and mental health.
We’ve got a really solid probiotic blend developed by nutritional experts here at anatomē, which I’ve only come to appreciate more after my reading. I think tonight, I’ll complement that with a hearty, colourful dish and a side of kimchi (fermented and naturally probiotic), knowing that I’m truly eating for joy.