Conscientious Eating: Mental Health, Inflammation and the Brain

Conscientious Eating: Mental Health, Inflammation and the Brain
January 24, 2021 No Comments Uncategorized drparkspbh

The quality of our food, and how we eat it,  exerts critical effects on both mind and body and how well we age. The  Vagus nerve,  Splanchnic & mesenteric  nerves, and cortisol   allow the mind/brain to influence or control things in the gut, and also influence how we think and feel. Our immune systems are largely housed in the gut and the interplay between the gut and the brain is complex and very important.  This relationship is bidirectional; not only does the mind effect the gut, but the gut can also communicate its state of calm or alarm to the nervous system, and it is thought that the vagus nerve is a primary conduit of information for this process.

Inflammation stems from many sources, including, our lifestyle:

Sugar, particularly in the form of fructose and sucrose, spikes insulin and triggers release of inflammatory cytokines.

Chemicals: Pesticides and environmental pollution from industrial waste stimulate our immune systems and disrupt optimal production of energy on a cellular level.

Pathogens. Notably herbicides, gluten grains, and genetically modified foods, promote intestinal permeability, and changes in our intestinal flora.

Stress represents the ultimate link between hormones and inflammation, because stress, whether it’s psychological or physiological, triggers the release of cortisol into the circulation.

Mental Health

Pathogenic bacteria can cause anxiety, and  possibly other mood disorders, increased  sensitivity to pain, and cognitive impairment.

 Many nutrients can help inhibit stress.  “Stress” hormones (such as cortisol,   epinephrine,  norepinephrine) are released through activation of the sympathetic nervous system. When these responses are not turned off they contribute to chronic  disease and can affect the regulation of functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, body  temperature, hunger, weight, sleep/wake cycle.   

How can diet affect mental health?   By controlling inflammation (anti‐ inflammatory foods, pre‐ and probiotics).  By ensuring optimum nutrition for the  immune system and brain.   A balanced diet will protect against deficiencies in monoamines (dopamine, norepinephrine & serotonin).  Amino acids are implicated in mood disorders, and deficiencies can cause impairments in brain function (and other health problems).

Other important nutrients: GABA and  choline.  Gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) is the most  prevalent inhibitory neurotransmitter, and is  important for both gut and brain function. Choline is necessary for synthesis of the  neurotransmitter Acetyl Choline, which is a  critical component of the autonomic nervous  system, skeletal motor system, and brain  systems involved in arousal, learning and  memory. 

Healthy Foods: Foods rich in tryptophan and  tyrosine includes‐ milk & milk products, meat, fish,  cheese, egg whites, tofu ; Fruits (apples, bananas, blueberries,  strawberries,  avocados, pineapple, and  peaches; Vegetables (broccoli, spinach, mustard greens, asparagus,  kelp, eggplant, winter squash, green peas, onions,

tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms,  cucumbers, potatoes, seaweed); Nuts and seeds ( Walnuts, peanuts, cashews, sesame, almonds, pistachios, chestnuts,  flax, pumpkin,  sunflower seeds, beans). Stress increases preference for sweet and high fat foods and stress increases ghrelin which which increases appetite. 

Where Do We Begin to Heal?

  • Exercise – Regular exercise
  • Meditation – The effects of stimulating the relaxation nervous system can be far-reaching.  Enhanced genomic expression of anti-inflammatory genes and suppression of inflammatory ones was demonstrated in this study.
  • Diet –a diet that controls for glycemic fluctuations through elimination of refined carbs and grains, and through high levels of natural fats to push the body to relearn how to use fats for fuel.  This is the brain’s preferred source. 
  • Strategic supplementation – Natural anti-inflammatories like polyunsaturated fats (evening primrose oil and fish oil), curcumin (the active component of turmeric), and probiotics to name a few, can help promote a synergy of beneficial effects from the above interventions.

Concientious Eating, Mental Health and the Brain presented by Lisa Goehler, PhD, 2019, Institute for Brain Potential.

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