How is it that a food can affect our brain. How we think, learn and concentrate? Have you ever had a delicious meal that fuelled your creative thinking and clarity of thought. Or experienced bloating & lethargy after dinner leaving you to an evening on the couch.
There can be a real chemical explanation for these varied food-brain reactions.
With the emerging research into neurotransmitters & gut microbiome there is a broader understanding of the complexities of our digestive system. How gut health is paramount to overall health, including that of the brain.
Let’s take an extreme example to drive home a point. Celiac Disease. An autoimmune condition where the immune system wrecks havoc on the small intestine. Historically, it was thought that celiac disease only created digestive symptoms — diarrhea and constipation. Patients who presented to their doctor with digestive problems and a family history of Celiac Disease, were the only few that got tested. We are now understanding that celiac disease can manifest in varied ways even where symptoms are only in the brain or only in the skin, without digestive effect. With this greater awareness of the manifestations of Celiac Disease, we are increasing our catch, those that we test.
The brain can be affected by gluten, even in those that do not have Celiac disease. It is worth exploring gluten sensitivity if you suffer from a neurological illness of unknown origin. These diseases can include
ADD/ADHD, Depression, Schizophrenia, Learning Disability
Beyond gluten sensitivity is overall digestive health. Digestion is impacted by enzymes, gut microbiome and the parasympathetic nervous system. If any of these are out of whack, absorption of nutrients & the effect food has on our mental health will be altered.
And then there are the brain foods. These are the foods that feed and nourish the brain. As the brain is primarily made of fat -- these fatty foods are my top contenders:
Avocado. Walnuts. Wild Salmon. Cacao/chocolate. Turkey. Almonds
Turn your meals into brain food by:
- Taking time to enjoy your meal. Refrain from eating on the go.
- Making meal times a ritual for family & connection.
- Putting love into the meal preparation
- Ruling out Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity
- Taking a probiotic or eat fermented foods to improve on your gut microbiome.
- Enhancing your digestive juices via chewing, aperitif, or digestive enzymes.
Here’s to making food become our medicine for better mental health. Bon appetit.
Hadjivassiliou, M MD Gluten Sensitivity As A Neurological Illness. JNNP 2002;72;560-563.
Hoggan R. Smarten up! How Gluten Grains Impede Learning and Behaviour. 2003