Your diet affects your mental health in a significant way and your brain is probably the best and the worst gadget you will ever own. 

It runs 24 hours, obeys every command and even swears for you and scolds itself when it doesn't! But the same gadget that does your every bidding can also turn on you and wreck your life if you aren't careful. Mental health is not just treating yourself but also this gadget right. As all gadgets, this one too runs on fuel. It obviously misbehaves when the fuel is bad quality or not adequate. Just FYI we are talking about food as fuel for your brain. 

Recent studies have shown how much food impacts your mood, physical well-being and ultimately mental health. Research has shown that the risk of depression increases about 80% when you compare teens with the lowest-quality diet to those who eat a higher-quality, whole-foods diet. The risk of attention-deficit disorder (ADD) doubles. 

Felice Jacka, President of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research remarks "A healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety.” There is also interest in the possible role food allergies may play in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, she says.

But why does food affect your brain this drastically? Here's breaking it down for you.

1. WTF is Serotonin and how it affects your brain    

 You feel queasy when you are nervous because that's your brain affecting your gut similarly your gut affects your brain. 

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. About 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gut and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells or neurons. It makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions

2. The "Good" Bacteria

The function of these neurons and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin is influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome. These bacteria protect the lining of your intestines and ensure they provide a strong barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria. They limit inflammation and improve how you absorb nutrients from your food. They also activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain.

So a bad diet can affect the way your Bacteria and neutrons function ultimately affecting the way your brain functions. 

3. Your diet is crucial for brain developmen

Roxanne Sukol, MD, preventive medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute says "When we eat real food that nourishes us, it becomes the protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue, and neurotransmitters that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body.

4. Your diet puts the brain into grow mode

Certain nutrients and dietary patterns are linked to changes in a brain protein that helps increase connections between brain cells. A diet rich in nutrients like omega-3s and zinc boosts levels of this substance.

On the other hand, a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars has a very potent negative impact on brain proteins. Some research hints that a high-sugar diet worsens schizophrenia symptoms, too.

5. Stay away from "Trick food"

Some foods are perfect at temporarily promoting the neurotransmitter that we lack and, as we crave and then consume them, they ‘trick’ us into feeling better, for a while.

Substances like chocolate, coffee or sugar-rich products encourage the brain to down-regulate. Down-regulation is the brain’s instinctive mechanism for achieving homeostasis -- a balanced state with the perfect amount of neurotransmitters. 

When an excess of substance leads to a flood in neurotransmitters (for example, adrenaline triggered by a strong coffee), the brain’s receptors respond by ‘closing down’ until the excess is metabolized away. This can create a vicious circle. The brain down-regulates in response to certain substances, which in turn prompt the individual to increase their intake of those substances to get the release of the neurotransmitter that their brain is lacking. This is one reason why people sometimes crave certain products.

Diet hence plays a major role when it comes to one's mental health. You can check out how what you eat is affecting your mental health and how you can improve your mental health by eating healthy right here!   

Remember to mind the stomach as much as you mind the mind!