That sip of coffee you just had or frozen dessert you are planning tonight or a broccoli in your fork are the future feelings your brain will return you sooner or later. What you eat is what you are is an old wise saying. Food we eat does not only influence the physical health, but they are building block of your feelings, behavior, and mental health too. It nourishes mind as well. The same way it has potential to create illnesses in mind just as in body.
Gut and brain affair : Hunger is killed by sadness, worry, anxiety and other negative emotions in many people. On the other hand, few find solace in food(most of the times excess and unnecessary). Why does this happen with digestive system only? Because human gut is also known as second brain in body. Whatever your mind, and brain feels reflects on gut too. The same way any abnormality in the gut and food intake will affect the emotional health. Feeling of happiness and sadness can be result of food. Gut indeed controls the mental health. Serotonin is the key hormone that calms our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts entire body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells, to communicate with each other. It also helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion. Do not get surprised, if I say Serotonin is secreted more in gut than in brain or anywhere in the body. So, it is very important for gut to remain healthy. Here comes the right food for healthy gut. Ancient health science Ayurveda has called food as prime reason for health as well as illnesses. It also uses food as medicine for physical and mental disorders. In fact the first effect of food is mentioned on mind and later the physical body is considered.
Gut microbiome are the bunch of microorganism who actually are thousands times more in numbers than our own body cells and genes. We are more than human. We are a colony feeding these trillions of microorganisms. In turn they involve in our most important metabolic activities digestion, nutrient absorption, hormone synthesis , immune building and including the nervous system functions. More diverse these organisms are, more sound is immunity and gut brain axis. What we eat decides the health of these tiny lives. Richer the gut microbes, healthier will be the person. What you eat decides the mood of these superheroes. Good fats, fibers, micronutrient and diverse property food is their genuine demand. Unfortunately modern era is witnessing the most unhealthy food trends like fast food, RTE, processed, preserved and genetically modified. We are going away from what is natural, simple and healthy. Our nutritional habits are harming our gut microbiome which is called as Dysbiosis (imbalance in gut acteria). Dysbiosis is common reason to start the pathologies related to the physical and mental illnesses. Psychobiome are the expert microbes involving in complex Psychological activities in body and mind. Nurturing them is itself a part of prevention and treatment. Nutritional psychiatry no wonder is emerging branch of science which needs serious attention.
Brain is composed of 60% fat : When the whole world was blaming the fats as bad and was following the low-fat food trends , the brain was silently weeping. Human brain is mostly made of polyunsaturated fat, let us say good fat. People who eat food less in good fat suffers more mental illnesses( mood swings, anxiety, depression, memory issues) than the one who eats it ample. Understand which fat is good and which is bad. Saturated fat like vegetable oil, margarine, salted butter, lard (pork, beef), heated and reused fat are examples of bad fat (saturated Omega 6). But fat forms like Cow ghee, olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, fish oil are some of the good fat(unsaturated omega3) names. Brain needs it for soundness of emotion, cognition, and psychological activities.
Vitamins and mental health : Many mental illnesses are associated with deficiencies of vitamin and minerals like Vit C,A,B ,folic acid ,iron , Zinc and Magnesium etc. These nutrients are crucial role player in normal function of Central Nervous System. Regeneration of neurons , synthesis of hormones, proper nerve conduction, healing and recovering cellular inflammation are few of their functions. If diet doesn’t fulfill the need of these nutrients, it does have significant effects on mental health. Depression , dementia, and many other psychological mood disorders show satisfactory outcome when this nutrient need is satisfied.
Properties of food: Light -heavy , Dry-unctuous , cold-hot, sticky-smooth, fresh-stale are some of the 20 properties of food that Ayurveda describes. Properties of food are important just like nutritional values. The mere calculative calorie fulfillment is never enough. Food form, cooking methods ,quantity , body type of consumer also has impact.
Fast food and mood disorders: Whole mankind is thriving on fast food as they run in daily rat race against time. But we human must pay toll for this fast-track lane which is nothing but bypass way to Nutrition and health. Almost all the RTE(Ready to Eat), processed, preserved and fast junk food have very fewer nutritional properties, heavy chemicals, and preservatives. The cooking process is unhealthy. All these are favorable to disturb your gut health. Lack of proper nutrition leads to malnourishment of nerve cells, impairment in hormonal synthesis and in turn imbalanced cognitive and emotional health. Fast food is well known to create food addictions(thanks to artificial flavors, colors , MSG,DSG salt and sugar) which in turn causes ill nutrition and the vicious cycle never ends. Ayurveda categorizes these food types in Virudhhanna(incompatible diet). Ayurveda doctors always give stress on diet habits to identify diet mistakes and rectify them.
Food medicine : Ayurveda probably the first documented literature of health science is still known for its holistic approach towards health and treatment. Diet and nutrition play major role in the treatment. For mental health, wise use of food as medicine is very interesting and fruitful when it comes to prognosis. Food, which is according to body type, season, appetite etc are food etiquettes. Three types of food Satwik Rajasik and Tamasik are just an example which signifies the mental personalities and their food preferences. This three-property theory can be wisely used as food medicine. Early education to avoid food mistakes(Tamas Aahara) and adapting the favorable food (Satwik Aahara) can prevent many psychological illnesses caused by malnutrition of brain. Pathya recipes (wholesome food recipes) , Diet according to body constitution help keep Tridosha at balanced state in mind and body. Other factors responsible for psychological diseases may not be in control but when you take control of diet and nutrition many symptoms in mental diseases get reduced. Medicated ghee is one the example of food medicine or nutraceutical.
Mindful eating can contribute to mental wellness as well as prevent
Food habits not compatible with mental and physical health if practiced more often for longer period are potent enough to create imbalance in Body-Mind Doshas. Not only nutritious but also mindful eating is a new mantra to unlock mysteries of mind. Our sole goal is to feed nutritious to our brain and not the depression.