Did you know your emotions are directly affected by the food you eat?
The food we eat is extremely important for our bodies. While many of us often think about how our diets might make us gain weight or affect our insulin or our cholesterol, but what isn’t such a common thought is how it affects our emotions.
Ya, that’s right. Our emotions.
I am NO dietician so please consult someone who really knows what they’re talking about as you want to make lifestyle changes. But I am a human so I think that gives me enough street cred to plant some seeds, or maybe make you outrageously curious about how you are feeding your emotions.
While, again, I am not a dietician, I am by heart & by training an academic who nerds out in research. What I’ve found is there are a lot of variables that impact our emotions. Like neural activity, the molecular world, & our environments (Barrett et al., 2007).
And yes, ANOTHER big player in our emotions is our gastrointestinal system, aka THE GUT.
So what do emotions have to do with the gut?
As a fellow human who eats cuisine from the modern food production systems, this is a crucial topic to spotlight for people dealing with stress, frustration, and anxiety.
In making the Taylored Coaching workshop “Rebranding your triggers”, I started exploring how we develop certain emotional responses to specific uncomfortable and frustrating stimuli. In my research for the workshop, I stumbled on the gut’s powerful role in emotion development. What I found?
Well the gut is highly responsible for our body’s chemistry (Barrett et al., 2007). It produces many of our “happy brain” chemicals like serotonin which is a key “natural mood stabiliser” (Scaccia, 2020).
Serotonin helps regulate anxiety, reduce depression, heal wounds, and manage your body’s sleep clock. And 95% of serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract (Selhub, 2020). When we don’t eat foods that replenish our “happy” chemicals, we set the stage for emotional states like anxiety and depression to thrive.
But then… our whole modern food systems sound like they are stirring up a lot of sh*t if we are trying to FEEL good.
Thinking on the level of the solution…..
Eat the Rainbow
You already know this, but eating diets full of processed foods and sugars weighs us down both figuratively and literally.
Now, eating the rainbow, that’s another story. Crafting diets full of “clean” and colourful foods like fruits and veggies is where it’s at. When we send more of this good-good in our body, we have a lot more energy to translate into rest and healing, and into high-performance and ambitious undertakings (Moretti, 2021).
Though let’s be real, it takes real commitment to step away from the easy, tasty, and uber addictive grub. I get it, been there, done that, got the t shirt long and short sleeve.
For you recovering sugar addicts
My name is Taylor and I’m a recovering sugar addict. Going a day without sugar disrupted my entire ability to focus, so I would hunt down anything. A desperate soul. There was one point when I was living in France eating hot cocoa mix dry from the box (I know so desperate it’s sad). Now, I’m learning to adapt to a new diet. A rainbow diet.
Ultimately, eating habits address much more than the physical level of our experience. It’s not just gaining and losing weight, lowering and increasing cholesterol, insulin, estrogen. Rather, they are ALSO connected to our cognitive and emotional experiences.
Turning that around, if we want to change our cognitive and emotional experiences, we must also align our eating habits with the work we are doing on ourselves.
Forget dressing for the job you want. Eat for the emotions you want.
A beautiful resource on how to eat for your best gut health:
The Whole-Body Guide to Gut Health by Heidi Moretti
Barrett, Lisa & Mesquita, Batja & Ochsner, Kevin & Gross, James. (2007). The Experience of Emotion. Annual Review of Psychology. 58. 373-403. 10.1146/annurev.psych.58.110405.085709.
Moretti, H. (2021). The whole-body guide to gut health. Rockridge Press.
Scaccia, A. (2020). Serotonin: Functions, Normal Range, Side Effects, and More. Retrieved 16 December 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin
Selhub, E. (2020). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Retrieved 16 December 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626