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  • Writer's pictureVidhya SK

The relationship between your mood and your food

Whether it is seeking comfort food when we feel low, feeling groggy and down after a greasy meal, or feeling energised and bright after eating regularly and nutritionally throughout your day, it is invariably clear that there might be a relationship between what we eat and how good we feel.


Psychologists are starting to confirm the impact of a nutritional diet and mental health in young people. Jacka and colleagues (1) found that those who had balanced diets tended to have better mental health. They also found any improvements in diet quality was related to improvements in mental wellbeing as well. Ansari and group (2) found similar results among university students. These are two studies amongst plenty, proposing that the link between food and mood seems to be backed up by science!


So how exactly does our food intake affect our mood? Youth mental health experts Firth and colleagues (3) put forward two reasons: Fluctuations in our blood glucose, and, the relationship between the brain and the gut. Let's explore these in detail.


Fluctuations in our blood glucose

Firstly, Firth and his team suggest that eating a-lot of food containing processed carbohydrates, might increase the risk of depression and anxiety, through the repeated and rapid increases and decreases in glucose levels in your blood. This can cause a 'glycemic load' in your blood, which could trigger the release of hormones that can affect your mood, such as cortisol (3). This release of hormones consequentially lead to changes in your anxiety levels and irritability (4).


The relationship between the brain and the gut

Secondly, Firth and his team suggest that our diet affects our gut microbiome, that interact with our brain. The gut microbiome is a broad name for the bustling community of trillions of organisms such as bacteria, living in your gut. A study by Noble and colleagues (5) showed that a diet low in fibre, and high in saturated fats, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, could have a negative impact on this community of organisms.


A disruption in the gut microbiome can have an effect on the neurones and hormones that help our the brain's mood regulation abilities. Kelly and colleagues (6) have shown an association between individuals with Major Depressive Disorder, and alterations of the gut microbiome. These associations suggest that luckily, you have the power to possibly navigate the interactions between your brain and your gut, through being mindful about what you eat. For example, A recent study by Liu and colleagues (7) showed that consuming probiotics (think- Yoghurt or Kimchi), which can be said to target gut microbiome, could reduce depressive symptoms. Furthermore, a reduction of processed foods have been shown to have an effect on depressive symptoms (8).


It seems that a balanced diet could play a small part in your mood! Make sure to find out more about what a balanced diet might look like here, and consult your GP before making major dietary changes or if you are experiencing mood difficulties.


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