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How is your Digestion Related to your Mental Health?

Did you know that what happens in your stomach has an impact on your mind and vice versa? Here is all the information you need to know about the relationship between your digestion and your mental health.

Woman pointing to her stomach

Many times we are not aware of it, but the relationship between the brain and the body is more important than it seems. Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: ¿Cómo se relaciona tu digestión con tu salud mental?

Many times we are not aware of it, but the relationship between the brain and the body is more important than it seems. If you've ever heard the phrase "healthy mind, healthy body" it refers specifically to this: if your body is in good condition, possibly your mind too. And the same thing happens the other way around!

For many years, this relationship was not widely studied by the sciences. However, in an article created by Dr. Eva Selhub, known as "Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain in Food," from the Harvard Health Blog, a connection between diet and effects at the brain level is beginning to be perceived.

More specifically, this research proposed that a diet containing a high degree of refined sugar was capable of causing impaired brain function . It could even have negative effects on mood, as it could induce depressive states in people.

This situation is explained by the microbiome, which is nothing other than all the microorganisms present in the intestine . Some gut bacteria have strong connections to the brain, which is why they are thought to influence mental health.

The feeling of falling in love is perfect to illustrate these cases. There appear the famous "butterflies in the stomach", since the digestive tract connects to the brain to indicate your satisfaction with that situation. Conversely, when we are worried or sad our stomach "closes". For example, some states of anxiety or nervousness can have a direct impact on the digestive system of the person, who may experience discomfort in the intestinal system.

Thus, diet has a direct impact on emotional states, so there are foods that inflame the digestive state and, in turn, this has negative consequences on the brain. For example, some ultra-processed products that do not contain micronutrients (minerals and vitamins) can cause irritability and mental instability, since the intestine claims those elements that are lacking in the diet from the brain.

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This could happen to you if you follow the so-called "western diet" that involves eating a wide variety of fried products, refined cereals, and sugary products. A diet with this kind of food can increase anxiety and depression, since it generates the situation of leaky gut and this negatively influences the mood.

Conversely, some diets can be healthy for the brain. A clear example occurs with the Mediterranean diet, which is based on a vast majority of food based on vegetables, fruits and cereals. An eating plan like this will offer you anti-inflammatory powers, which can be helpful in reducing the likelihood of depressive disorders.

In these cases, it is advisable to eat fresh fruit, vegetables, breads, legumes, nuts and olive oil. In addition, it may be important to include cheeses, yogurts, fish and white meat to the diet. The intake of red meat should be reduced and can be accompanied by up to 4 eggs per week.

Finally, it is also key that you take care of your mental health to avoid stomach problems. In case you suffer from a period of anxiety or have depressive symptoms, you will surely observe changes at the intestinal level. For example, it is common to have heartburn, movements in the intestines or general discomfort.

In those cases, digestive problems are a symptom that directly affects your body. The best thing is that you can have an appointment with a therapist, so you can tell what your problems are. Even on these occasions, a professional CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) orientation may be advisable, which will give you tools to avoid this discomfort.

You already know: take care of your mind and your body so that you have a much more pleasant life.