I think that at the beginning of a New Year it is always a good idea to go back to the basics. Many of us decide to have a New Year’s resolution. You might at the moment be doing something like ‘Sober January’. Going back to basics for me and in terms of wellbeing means looking at our physical wellbeing and how that effects our mental health.
This month I will share a little bit about the psychology of eating and some fascinating facts around food and mood. I have been interested in the connection between food, mood and wellbeing for a long time, because I strongly believe that YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. However, the truth about this simple statement is much more complex than what you might think. It’s not just a simple equation of healthy food in = health and wellbeing! But of course it is a fundamental aspect to eat healthy food to be well.
Over the last decade or maybe two it has become more and more apparent that our guts are the cradle of some very important things. For example our autoimmune system heavily depends on our guts being well. Some of the neurotransmitters that regulate our mood are getting produced almost entirely in our guts. For example 95% of serotonin, which is THE neurotransmitter for feeling positive and happy, gets produced in your guts.
So what does it take to have healthy guts?
You might have heard of your gut biome? Your gut biome is the community of bacteria in your guts that is responsible for how well your guts work. We are in a symbiosis with these small beings and without them we could not survive at all. The fascinating fact is that we have more bacteria in our guts than cells in our entire body. And like with every natural community you will have friends and ones in there. And like with all living beings it is those who you feed who will grow. If your gut is dominated by bacteria that do not mean you well what happens is that they produce neurotransmitters that tell your brain you urgently need to eat this doughnut, or some more nachos, or go and get yourself chips for dinner… So, if your biome is out of balance you might have a lot of cravings for unhealthy food, you might have constipation or the runs, or both. You might feel bloated a lot, get stomach upsets and cramps. Or you just feel low in mood, or energy. You might be moody or you get easily angry, or upset. If you had treatment with antibiotics your whole gut biome will have been destroyed and the sad truth is that the bad bacteria find a foothold much faster than the good ones. Here are a few things to help your pals in the gut to thrive. Eat fermented foods like Sauerkraut, plain yoghurts or kefir. If you had antibiotics take some probiotics to kickstart a healthy community in your guts and take the wind out of the sails of the not so friendly critters. Make sure you eat complex carbs, roughage (i.e. dietary fibre) and a lot of good protein.
If you feel under the weather you want to eat foods that help your guts to produce the neurotransmitters that will help you feel better: serotonin and dopamine. Here are foods for each of them:
Serotonin: Sweet potatoes, hummus, apples and pears, peaches, blueberries, bananas, oranges or tangerines, grapes, figs, mangoes and pineapples.
Dopamine: Beans – lima beans and lentils; Meat – lamb, chicken, turkey and beef; Fish, eggs, nuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds, broccoli, spinach and protein powders.
And finally, think about how you eat, where you eat and why you eat. To help your body to get the most out of the food you put into it it is soooo important to eat with your mind on eating. Bring your senses and your awareness to what you are eating. Be fully present with your food. Enjoy the ‘task’ of eating rather than squeeze it in between one thing and another. We digest a lot better when we savour what we eat. Do not do anything else whilst eating (e.g. reading, watch TV, or be on social media). Chew! The more you chew the easier it is for the body to get at all those nutrients that you need and want. Notice when you eat just because something happen to be there (that bar of chocolate, or the piece of cheese). Or you eat because you were told to finish your plate. Or you eat because something upset you. In none of theses cases does your body need the food you eat. See if you can maybe pause and ask yourself, if you really need to eat ‘this’ at the moment. Now eating in this way is not easy, because we all have a lot of unconscious stuff going on when it comes to eating. The best way to help yourself with becoming more conscious around your eating habits is by practicing Mindfulness.
Join me! My next Mindfulness course will start mid February.
For more information and to book go here.
May you thrive in life!