Food and Anxiety, short-chain fatty acids

Mediterranean Diet

Food and anxiety, what’s the connection?

Many years ago, I suffered from undiagnosed anxiety and depression. I survived this period on cigarettes and coffee and lots of junk food and takeaways. I couldn’t be bothered to cook or eat well and saw junk food as some kind of reward for getting through my day. Little did I know that eating this crap was fueling my condition.

Around 90% of the neurotransmitter serotonin (the happy molecule) is made in the gut and serves the brain through the gut-brain axis and other neurotransmitters. Therefore, what you eat plays a major role in how you feel. The bacteria in our gut love fiber. Fiber is nondigestible and is fermented by our microbiome to produce short-chain fatty acids, which are the main energy source for colon cells. They also play a major role in the gut-brain connection, help create neurotransmitters, aid the immune system and reduce inflammation.

Low levels of short-chain fatty acids are associated with poor health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

There have been numerous studies on how the Mediterranean diet can alleviate depression and anxiety. Don’t be confused into thinking that pizza and lasagna from the local Italian restaurant constitutes a Mediterranean diet; it doesn’t. A real Mediterranean diet consists of mainly fruit and vegetables, no processed foods, seasonal fish, occasional chicken, minimal red meat in small amounts, plenty of olive oil and low to moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt.

During the healing process, I suggest the removal of all wheat products from the diet. This includes bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, pizza, biscuits and cake. The reason being that wheat is both pro-inflammatory and has a high sugar content.

It is important to note that meat is only consumed 2-3 times per week and many meals consist only of vegetables. Also, make sure you have plenty of freshwaters, but don’t drink with meals as this dilutes your stomach acid.

Include magnesium-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and are rich in B vitamins, as are nuts. Also include probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and miso and of course, yogurt.

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