HYDERABAD: Stocking up on chips, instant noodles and drinks as a part of the lockdown prep has become the new normal. As a result, a lot of us end up binging on ‘something spicy’ followed by ‘something sweet’ and it goes on till 3 am. While we are most certainly talking about pandemic pounds and the impact of lockdowns on mental health, there is one link that we are missing out on — gut health. An unhealthy gut can cause stress, anxiety, depression and mood swings.
Dr Kiran Peddi, consulting gastroenterologist at Yashoda Hospital, says: “The digestive tract is called the second brain for a reason. Our gut health most certainly impacts our mental health and vice versa. For example, irritable bowel syndrome is linked to anxiety and stress.” The digestive tract in our body contains billions of bacteria among which there are useful and harmful ones.
The imbalance between the good and bad bacteria is called Dysbiosis, which can affect both digestion and our mental health. Good bacteria produce neurotransmitters that have positive effects on the brain and keep it functioning well. “When a person consumes unhealthy food in high quantities, dysbiosis occurs in our gut, resulting in an alteration in the neurotransmitters produced. This leads to anxiety and depression,” he says.
Nutritional psychiatry is a relatively new branch of medicine but there is enough evidence to prove that a healthy diet can improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. “The risk of depression increases by 80 per cent in malnourished children as opposed to healthy kids, while the risk of ADHD just doubles up in malnourished children.
Research also proves that Omega-3 Fatty Acids help people with mood swings. Notice how low blood sugar levels in people suffering from diabetes cause an irritating mood. In the same way, a troubled gut can send signals to the brain indicating a problem that can cause anxiety and depression. People dealing with anxiety and depression should avoid foods that are fried, high in sugar and fats,” Dr B Kranthi Kiran, a neuropsychiatrist in Hyderabad, says.
The bottom line is ‘too much of anything isn’t good for your health’ — be it coffee or chocolate which are usually helpful when taken in moderate amounts. Dr Bharat Kumar Nara, a senior consultant in surgical gastroenterology, says avoiding processed foods, foods high in sugar and artificial sweeteners, smoking, and excessive consumption of alcohol is the first step. “Avoid taking antibiotics unnecessarily because it damages the gut microbiome and can lead to antibiotic resistance,” he says.
Jackfruit and Java Plum are in season, swap your chips with a fruit bowl and you can get started on your journey towards a healthier body and mind.
Warning signs of an unhealthy gut
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive gas
- Weight gain
- Bad breath
How to improve your gut health
- Eat your meals on time
- Eat whole foods
- Try to include foods that are rich in antioxidants
- Consume fermented foods and probiotic foods like yoghurt
- Avoid smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol
- Get adequate sleep and exercise regularly