“Food and mood” is gaining attention in the mental health field. There is considerable increase in research between psychiatric disorders and diet.
Nutritional psychiatry means using food and food supplements as alternative treatments for mental health disorders.
Your brain is on 24/7, taking care of movement, breathing, heartbeat, sleep, senses and millions of daily decisions. Your brain requires a constant supply of fuel which comes from the foods you eat. Your brain functions best on premium fuel, which includes a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, lean meats, limiting processed foods and sugar.
We may think of our emotions as solely related to the functioning of our brain or our central nervous system. The functioning of our gastrointestinal tract also affects our emotions via production of serotonin, gut microbiome, and constant communication between the gut and brain through our vagus nerve. A person’s intestinal distress can be the cause or result of anxiety, stress or depression. This is because the brain and gastrointestinal system are intimately connected.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter referred to as the “feel good” chemical. It helps regulate sleep, appetite, moods and pain. Almost 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin production is influenced by the “good” bacteria in your intestinal microbiome. Adequate presence of “good” bacteria is affected by the quality of your diet. “Good” bacteria improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food affecting health.
Many medications used to treat anxiety and depression target increasing the level of serotonin in your brain. Research indicates consuming a “premium fuel” diet also supports increased serotonin production, leading to improvement in mood and sleep plus many other factors. This connection between quality of diet — good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, serotonin production, and mood enhancement is considered nutritional psychiatry.