The Link Between Food and Mental Health

By Samantha Lippiatt.

Can we eat ourselves happy? Nutrition affects our energy levels, bone health, and overall wellbeing, so what role does it play in our mental health? Read on to discover how food and mental health go hand in hand.


The Gut-Brain Axis:


Your gut and mind are intuitively and physically connected, communicating via signals. Neurotransmitters send messages to your digestive system as a prompt to begin an activity. Before you’ve had a chance to chew your food, your stomach acids starts working away to break the food down.


The role psychological factors play in influencing bowel disorders is the subject of ongoing research. A study published by The Journal of Physiology looks at the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain. This particular study discovered that normal gut function, optimum immunity, and a balanced microbiota resulted in normal behaviour and nociception.


On the other hand, gut dysfunction, inflammation and tissue damage altered behaviour and increased pain perception.


Enteric Nervous System:


Jay Pasricha MD from John Hopkins medicine studied the complex enteric nervous system comprised of 100 million nerves lining your gastrointestinal tract. Although the ENS system isn’t responsible for ‘thinking’ as such, it plays a huge role in communicating information to the brain.


We’ve established the compelling connection between our gastrointestinal tract and brain. But, what can we do to optimise our gut health with the proper nutrition?


Anti-inflammatory foods:


Studies show that inflammation caused by high fat, high sugar, and processed foods may be directly linked to mood disorders, as reported by The Chopra Center. Here is a list of anti-inflammatory foods to include in your diet:



  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Fish rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids such as salmon or sardines
  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
  • Fruits rich in antioxidants such as blueberries, strawberries, and cherries
  • Nuts





Essential Fatty Acids:


As the name suggests, omega 3 essential fatty acids are a vital nutrient for optimum wellbeing that our body cannot naturally synthesize. In particular, DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is a component of Omega 3’s that is directly linked to brain health. The subject of many pieces of research, DHA plays a crucial role in the treatment of ADHD in children.


For overall wellbeing, Healthline recommends consuming fatty fish at least twice a week.


Turmeric for depression:


A compound in turmeric called curcumin, responsible for its bright yellow colour, is a powerful free radical fighter protecting the body from oxidative stress. Inflammation, a known precursor to depression, if managed by anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric, can go a long way in reducing symptoms.


Used for centuries as part of the ancient Indian practice called Ayurveda, turmeric has a vast capacity of health-promoting properties and is an effective and proven natural remedy.


It is more than likely already sitting in your kitchen cabinet!


“Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.” - T. Collin Campbell.



About Samantha Lippiatt:


Samantha is an entrepreneur, healthy lifestyle advocate and co-founder of Australia’s first specialty wellness travel company Health and Fitness Travel. Samantha has an unbridled enthusiasm for all things travel, health and fitness and is committed to providing healthy holidays options that not only enhance but change lives. Samantha’s goal is to bring wellness tourism into mainstream acceptance in Australia and showcase that taking care of yourself can be both a very enjoyable and rewarding experience.


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