Increasingly, researchers are finding stronger links between diet and brain health.
It’s time to start feeding your brain.
For years research on healthy eating has focused primarily on physical health and the link between diet, weight, and chronic disease. But the emerging field of nutritional psychiatry studies how foods can make us feel.
“Many people think about food in terms of their waistlines, but it also impacts our mental health,” said Dr. Uma Naidoo, a Harvard psychiatrist and the director of nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It’s a missing part of the conversation.”
The connection between the stomach and the brain is strong, and it starts in the womb. The gut and brain originate from the same cells in the embryo, Dr. Naidoo said. One of the main ways the brain and gut remain connected is through the vagus nerve, a two-way chemical messaging system that explains why stress can trigger feelings of anxiety in your mind and butterflies in your stomach.
Food can also influence the state of your microbiome, and some species of gut microbes have been linked to higher rates of depression. Even the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates mood, has a strong gut connection. Only 5 percent of your body’s serotonin is made in the brain; the rest is made, stored, and active in the gut, said Dr. Naidoo, author of the new book “This is Your Brain on Food.”