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Have you ever had the feeling of butterflies in your stomach when you’re excited, or that stomach-dropping, gut-wrenching feeling when you’ve received bad news? Have you ever been told to trust your gut when confronted with an important decision?
It’s no coincidence that all of the above emotions reveal an obvious connection between our mood and our gut. Since the dawn of time, the way we feel emotionally has had an undeniable link with the state of our insides, and recent research is helping to untangle exactly how and why this link exists.
There is growing evidence to suggest that improving the diets of people suffering from depression can improve their condition. That means by eating healthier foods like fresh fruit, veggies, nuts or whole grains and less unhealthy foods like processed meats, fried food or sweets can actually improve our mood. Initial studies have also shown that maintaining a healthy diet can even prevent the onset of depression.
But how does this work? Scientists have been working hard to uncover the secrets of gut health and its connection with the brain, and are starting to understand that a healthy diet gives us important nutrients which can have a huge influence on the chemistry of our brain.
A healthy diet also determines our microbiota, which is the collection of tiny living organisms that live within our gut and help digest our food. Our diet also influences our immune system function, the expression of our genes and even the size of certain parts of our brain responsible for mental wellbeing.
So next time you’re faced with a tough decision between healthy and unhealthy options, choose the option that will help elevate your mood and nourish you from the inside out.
In other words, trust your gut.
Co-host of the ABC TV series ‘Ask the Doctor’, author of 30 scientific papers and ‘The Doctor’s Diet’ (a cookbook based on science), Dr Sandro Demaio is an Aussie medical doctor and global expert on non-communicable diseases.
For more articles by Dr Sandro Demaio, check out The Check Up’s dedicated section.