Emotional Eating and the Gut-Brain Connection

How to Feed Your Brain and Gut to Reduce Emotional Eating


You know that you can have gastrointestinal symptoms when you’re stressed or nervous. We’ve all experienced that.

But, you may have also heard about the "gut-brain connection." That your gastrointestinal system, lovingly called the "gut," not only talks to your brain (yes, talks "to" your brain) but is kind of its own brain (a "second brain").

And that it may influence your actual brain.


If there was ever a call for "digestive health," this is it!

Yes, it's true. Your gut is considered your "second brain."




There is no denying it anymore.

And because of the new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it's no wonder what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain.

I find it amazing (but not too surprising).


What exactly is the "gut-brain connection."

Well, it’s very complex, and to be honest, we’re still learning lots about it!

There seem to be multiple things working together. Things like:

● The vagus nerve that links the gut directly to the brain;

● The “enteric nervous system” (A.K.A. “second brain") that helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain;

● The massive amount of neurotransmitters produced by the gut;

● The huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, but can travel throughout the body; and,

● The interactions and messages sent by the gut microbes.


This is complex. And amazing, if you ask me.

I’ll briefly touch on these areas, and end off with a delicious recipe (of course!)

Vagus nerve

There is a nerve that runs directly from the gut to the brain.

And after reading this so far, you’ll probably get a sense of which direction 90% of the transmission is…

Not from your brain to your gut (which is what we used to think), but from your gut up to your brain!


The enteric nervous system and neurotransmitters

Would you believe me if I told you that the gut has more nerves than your spinal cord?

I knew you would!

And that's why it's referred to as the "second brain."

And, if you think about it, controlling the complex process of digestion (i.e. digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the flow of food, etc.) should probably be done pretty "smartly"...don't you think?

And guess how these nerves speak to each other, and to other cells? By chemical messengers called "neurotransmitters."

In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our mood are made in the gut! e.g. a whopping 95% of serotonin is made in your gut, not in your brain!


The immune system of the gut

Because eating and drinking is a huge portal where disease-causing critters can get into your body, it makes total sense that much of our defense system would be located there too, right? Seventy-five percent of our immune system is in our gut!

And you know that the immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere, right?

Well, if they’re “activated” by something in the gut, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body. Including the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.


Gut microbes

Your friendly neighborhood gut residents. You have billions of those little guys happily living in your gut. And they do amazing things like help you digest certain foods, make certain vitamins, and even help regulate inflammation!

But more and more evidence is showing that changes in your gut microbiota can impact your mood, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.


How do these all work together for brain health?

The honest answer to how these things all work together is that we really don't know just yet. More and more studies are being done to learn more.

But one thing is becoming clear. A healthy gut goes hand-in-hand with a healthy brain!

So, how do you feed your brain?

Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone.



But two things that you many consider eating more of are fiber and omega-3 fats. Fiber (in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds) help to feed your awesome gut microbes. And omega-3 fats (in fatty fish, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp) are well-known inflammation-lowering brain boosters.



5 Nourishing Foods to Soothe Gut Issues (there are some recipes at the bottom too!)


1. Organic Bone Broth

  • Strengthens the Digestive System and supports immune function

  • Contains collagen (main structural protein in the body) which helps seal/strengthen the lining of the digestive tract Contains gelatin (the breakdown of collagen)

  • protects and seals the lining of the digestive tract, breaks down proteins, nourishes a 'Leaky Gut' and improves nutrient absorption A source of antioxidants, the building blocks of protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals


2. Salmon

  • A rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and support the Immune System (housed in your Digestive Tract)

  • They help combat stress and support blood sugar balance, help with nutrient delivery to cells and weight management

  • Salmon is also a source of Vitamin D (did you know it's a common nutrient deficiency in the case of gastrointestinal issues and over 50% of the general propulation is deficient in vitamin D?)


3. Beetroots



Beetroots are a valuable source of fiber and feed the good bacteria of the gut and support liver function

They help bulk up the stool for elimination

They are also a rich source of antioxidant nutrients and help combat damage to cells/tissue in the body

(Expect your bowel movements to have a red tint to them the day following!!! This is totally normal)




4. Ginger

Ginger is high in anti-inflammatory and an anti-nauseant property and supports the emptying of the stomach and movement through the intestinal tract

It also helps reduce abdominal cramping and gas



5. Coconut Yogurt

It has great antibacterial and antiviral properties and provides some probiotic (good) bacteria for intestinal tract function

They taste great too!






Looking for personalized strategies and guidance to help you stop overeating, binge eating, yo-yo dieting and emotional eating?

>>www.nutripsych.co.uk/strategy-package




Recipe (Gut food fibre, Brain food omega-3)


Blueberry, beet Hemp Overnight Oats

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 chopped beet

1 cup oats (gluten-free)

1 cup coconut dairy alternative

1 tablespoon chia seeds

2 tablespoons hemp seeds

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 banana, sliced

¼ cup chopped walnuts

1. Blend blueberries in the food processor until smooth.

2. Mix blueberries, oats, almond milk, chia seeds, hemp seeds in a bowl with a lid. Let set in fridge overnight.

3. Split into two bowls and top with cinnamon, banana, and walnuts.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Your gut microbes love to eat the fiber in the blueberries, oats, seeds, and nuts. Meanwhile, your brain loves the omega-3 fats in the seeds and nuts.




Blueberry Beet Chia Pudding


Ingredients

1 Beet (medium, peeled, chopped into bite-sized pieces)

3 cups Unsweetened Almond Milk

1 cup Coconut dairy alternative

1 cup Blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 tsp Cinnamon

2 tbsps Maple Syrup

1 cup Chia Seeds


Directions

1. Place the chopped beet pieces in a small steamer basket and steam for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Let cool for a few minutes.

2. Add the steamed beet pieces to a blender with the almond milk, coconut milk, blueberries, cinnamon and maple syrup. Blend until smooth.

*Be sure to allow some air to escape through the lid of your blender if it's not an already-vented blender, so that any residual heat can escape and not cause a safety hazard.

3. Pour the beet mixture into a bowl and whisk in the chia seeds. Let stand for 15 minutes to thicken slightly, then divide between jars/containers. Refrigerate for about 3 hours, or overnight if needed, until set.

4. Remove chia pudding from fridge.

5. Add desired toppings and enjoy!


Notes

  • Buy canned beets to save time. Make sure they are not pickled!

  • Topping Ideas: Fresh berries, sliced kiwi, unsweetened/shredded coconut, hemp seeds, slivered almonds, raw pumpkin seeds or bee pollen.



Plantain Fritters with Coconut Yogurt

Ingredients

2 Plantain (unripe, peeled and sliced)

1/4 cup Coconut Oil (organic, unrefined, melted)

1/2 tsp Sea Salt

1/2 cup Unsweetened Coconut Yogurt (plain)

1 tbsp Dried Chives (or fresh)


Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Add the plantain, coconut oil and sea salt to a food processor or blender. Blend into a thick puree.

3. Use a spoon to scoop the batter onto the baking sheet and spread out to approximately two inches wide and a half-inch thick.

4. Bake until the fritters begin to brown around edges, about 15-20 minutes.

Serve with coconut yogurt and chives. Enjoy!



Looking for personalized strategies and guidance to help you stop overeating, binge eating, yo-yo dieting and emotional eating?

>>www.nutripsych.co.uk/strategy-package


References:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-probiotics

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/fix-gut-fix-health

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

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