By Nazia Islam, LPC-S, RPT
The euphemism “You are what you eat” was coined in 1826 by famous French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillant Savarin. He wrote “‘Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es’’, which translates to ‘Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are ‘” (Tzamelli,2013). More recently science and research have caught up with this concept. Research over the last 15 years suggests that there is a relationship between dietary habits and mental health. “Both cross sectional and longitudinal studies have that the more one eats a Western or highly processed diet, the more one is at risk for a developing psychiatric symptoms, such as depression and anxiety” (Tzamelli, 2013).
“Trust your gut” is another commonly used euphemism to describe what science now calls “The Brian- Gut connection.” “The Brian Gut connection” describes how nerves in particular, the vagus nerve connects the brain to the gut. The vagus is the longest nerve in the body and communicates about digestion to the brain along with regulating other vital organs. Any viruses or bacteria living in the gut microbiome can affect the communication from the brain to the gut. Therefore, there is a correlation between mental health problems and gastrointestinal symptoms. Conversely, symptoms of depression and anxiety can change gut health due to stress hormones secreted into the gut biome.
So how do we address these long-used euphemisms to improve our health? Experts are recommending the “The Mediterranean Diet.” The Mediterranean Diet gets its name from the diet that is being followed in the Mediterranean region i.e Greece and Italy. The diet mainly consists of plant-based food such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. Proteins such as fish and poultry are eaten in moderation and red meat is eaten only occasionally. Another important component of the Mediterranean diet is using olive oil as fat instead of butter or vegetable oil. It can be overwhelming and difficult to come up with ideas on how to prepare meals. Below is a sample chart for a week of the Mediterranean diet from Dorismarket.com.
Although inherently society in some form has been aware that there is a food and mind connection, science is now proving the importance of a healthy diet for mental well-being. The next time you have a stressful day, be mindful of what you are putting in your mouth. Here are of resources to help you get started:
- Dr. Mark Hyman’s podcast “The Doctor Farmacy”
- Tumeric and Saffron Blog
- The Wells Blog at New York Times
- Eat Your books
Cell Press. (2013, February 13). Appetite and The Brain; you are what you eat [Editorial]. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism. https://www.cell.com/trends/endocrinology-metabolism/pdf/S1043-2760(12)00220-2.pdf
DorisMarket (2017, February 7). Mediterranean Diet Part II. Doris Italian Market and Bakery. https://dorismarket.com/uncategorized/mediterranean-diet-part-ii/
Fitness 4Mind4Body: The Gut-Brain Connection (n.d). Mental Health of America, Retrieved February 4, 2022 from https://mhanational.org/fitness-4mind4body-gut-brain-connection
Owen, Lauren and Corfe, Bernard (2017) The role of diet and nutrition on mental health and wellbeing. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society . pp. 1-2
The Origins of Trust your Gut. (2013, October 13). Greatness of You Starts Here. Retrieved Feb 5, 2022 from https://www.gr8ness.com/origins-of-trust-your-gut/