In a recent Wall Street Journal article Elizabeth Bernstein cited studies that have shown that a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and other lean protein can help fight depression. Nutritionists and dieticians have observed that certain foods can also help a much broader range of mental health conditions. Much of this is old news.
However, as noted by Ms. Bernstein, more recent developments in the field of nutritional psychiatry have centered on two-way connections between the gut and the brain that have a profound impact on our moods and behaviors. The pathway between the gut and the brain is the vagus nerve which allows this communication and is affected by both good and bad bacteria in the gut microbiome–our intestines. When we are in chronic stress the gut microbiome may be disrupted, bad bacteria overtaking the good, causing inflammation in the brain and affecting our mood and behavior. These bacterial imbalances and resulting inflammation can be corrected by changes in the way we eat, leading to improved mental health. It is important to feed the good bacteria.
Ms. Bernstein uses a mnemonic, Brain Foods, to remind us of a healthy and gut-friendly practice:
B is for Berries, which give you fiber and anti-oxidents
R is the rainbow of colors of fruits and vegetables which provide a diversity of fiber and nutrients
A is for anti-oxidents, which get rid of damaging compounds made in the body
I is for include, remember to include lean protein
N is for nuts, a good source of nutrients
F is for fiber-rich and fermented foods
O is for omega-3 fatty acid rich foods, such as fatty fish, which also have an inflammatory affect
O is for healthy oil, such as olive oil which has an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties
D is for dairy which adds good bacteria to your gut
S is for spices because they have excellent brain benefits
And add a pinch of turmeric from time to time. Good for the gut microbial system.