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Post: The world of nutritional psychiatry: how could food help your mental health?

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The world of nutritional psychiatry: how could food help your mental health?

Scientists are beginning to think what you eat — and when you eat it — could have lasting effects on mental wellbeing

ILLUSTRATIONS BY ROB FLOWERS FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE Does what you eat affect your mood? Obviously, devouring a bowl of chocolate ice cream or sinking your teeth into a thick slice of lavishly buttered toast feels good in the moment, but can your diet provide more than a quick hit of happiness? Could your food — and how you eat it — have lasting effects on your mental wellbeing? Scientists are beginning to think so.

This is a relatively new area of research known as “nutritional psychiatry” and is part of the reason experts now refer to the gut as our “second brain”.

There are more than 100 trillion microbes — bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms — living inside our intestines, in an ecosystem that’s referred to as the gut microbiome. These minuscule critters play a critical role in everything from helping your immune system to function correctly, to whether we develop certain allergies. That means our gut health can have a big impact on our physical health.

But mounting evidence shows your gut microbes could affect your mental health too. How? Well, the gut and the brain are in communication with each other via something called the gut-brain axis. This communication runs both ways — and scientists believe that, in the same way that nerves before a big event can make your stomach squirm, what you eat can […]

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