Is Food to Blame for Your Anxiety and Depression?

We often hear about food in the context of physical health—eating for a strong heart, healthy weight, and glowing skin. But what about the other impacts of food, like how it makes us feel emotionally and mentally? The growing field of nutritional psychiatry is shedding light on this profound connection, and it’s something I’m personally really excited about.

On today’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, I’m excited to talk to Dr. Uma Naidoo about the connection between food and mood and how what we eat impacts everything from anxiety and depression to ADHD and more. Dr. Naidoo and I start our conversation by exploring the limitations of how we diagnose mental health conditions, and she shares the two pivotal moments in her life and career that led her to understand that what we eat has a significant effect on our mental health. Together, we explore what is driving today’s high rates of anxiety and how food has been overlooked as both a driver and a cure to this issue. We dive into how the microbes in your gut can influence your mood and the connection between neuroinflammation and the incidences of aggression, division, and polarization that are happening society-wide at rates never before seen.

Dr. Naido explains that medicine may have had the wrong idea when it comes to understanding the link between anxiety and conditions such as irritable bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and autoimmune issues. She suggests that any factor that upsets gut or immune health is likely to upset mental health, too. We know that 70-80% of our immune cells reside in our gut, so it’s no surprise that the health of our gut and our immune system are intricately tied.

An estimated 93% of U.S. adults struggle with poor metabolic health, meaning they have excess abdominal fat, elevated triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, elevated fasting blood sugar, or high blood pressure. It is associated with insulin resistance, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. But, the problems associated with poor metabolic health go beyond physical health.

Dr. Naidoo and I talk about the connection between metabolic conditions and mental health, which she calls “metabolic psychiatry.” Finally, Dr. Naidoo tells us what vitamins and minerals can help reduce anxiety, as well as her tips for putting together what she calls a “low anxiety plate.” I hope you’ll tune in to this important conversation.

 

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