Intestinal Connection to Depression

July 31, 2021

What goes in our gut may affect what goes on in our brain. Research has found that people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) also have increased rates of depression. So if you or someone you love are experiencing anxiety, depression, low moods, chronic stress, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, or other digestive or mental health issues this show is for you! Join Dar and Leah as they discuss the gut/brain connection and what you can do about.

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LEAH: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Today, we are taking a deep dive into the connection of our intestinal health to our mental health. And more specifically, we're going to be looking at the gut health and how it's connected to our depression and our anxiety. So think about that for just a moment that what goes on in our gut may affect what's going on in our brain. So I'm Leah Kleinschrodt and I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with Nutritional Weight and Wellness. This topic is near and dear to me. Before I changed my eating habits, I had anxiety. And actually during that time, I had probably more anxiety than I actually realized. So I can tell you not only from a professional point of view, but from a personal point of view, that your food choices really truly do make a difference when it comes to your mental health.

DARLENE: I know we're going to hear your story, Leah, later on the show.


LEAH: Yep, absolutely.


DARLENE: That’s great.


LEAH: Absolutely. It's always, it's nice to tie into some of that personal experience and help people just kind of make some of those connections. Yeah. So you heard her voice. Joining me this morning in studio is Darlene Kvist, who's the founder of Nutritional Weight and Wellness. And she was the one who started up Dishing Up Nutrition on the radio show and later on became a podcast. And that was 17 years ago.


DARLENE: 17 years ago. That was when I was still young.


LEAH: Well, we could argue about that, but, but 17 years ago, even like, and that's 17 years every weekend talking about a new nutrition topic every single week. So there is a ton of free information out there just floating around through Dishing Up Nutrition, through our website or through our podcasts that listeners can really access still. So if you're a longtime listener, you may have noticed some of these topics of depression and anxiety; they, they come up quite often actually. And I think this is partly because of the commonality or the frequency of mental health struggles, especially these days, but also because Dar really understands the food and nutrition connection to our mental health, to depression and anxiety. And she really wants anyone and everyone who is struggling with these issues to benefit, to hear this message and to actually benefit from eating a brain healthy diet of real food. So she really truly very strongly believes in the food connection to good mental health.


DARLENE: Thank you, Leah.


LEAH: Yes, you're welcome.


DARLENE: Actually today, Leah and I, we want to help you make that gut connection to your moods. I mean, you know, that's a little bit of an interesting concept about your gut connection to your moods. So we're going to help you understand how your gut microbiome may influence your moods. And remember, Leah, let's talk a little bit about, let's explain what the microbiome is a little bit, you know, it's, you know, I think of it as all the bacteria that you have in your whole digestive system. Does that make sense?


LEAH: Yep.


DARLENE: Okay. So I think people understand that. Sometimes you may have thought, you know, I have a gut feeling about something. Well, that's probably true. Perhaps the gut connection to your moods is the same as having a gut feeling about something. So we are all connected.


LEAH: Yes, absolutely. Yes. So that gut microbiome, like you said, it's that collection of both good and bad bacteria that lives throughout our whole entire digestive track. And on previous shows, because we've, here's another topic, the gut health is another topic that we have covered numerous, numerous times on past shows. We've talked about how those microbes are connected to lots of different things that people may experience. So things like just general inflammation, but things also like pain. The foods we choose, the way we eat, our eating behaviors in general, specific food cravings, our moods, anxiety, depression, which is our topic today. And I don't know, maybe this is a question that just dietitians wonder, but I, I've asked this myself too, of, you know, for the listeners out there, have you ever noticed that IBS or which is irritable bowel syndrome or any other kind of digestive issues, how often do those tend to co-exist with anxiety and oftentimes depression?


DARLENE: Very good question.


LEAH: Yes.


DARLENE: So, you know, it's really a two-way street. Your gut bugs talk to your brain to influence emotions, and at the same time, your emotions and the neurotransmitters used by your brain have a profound effect on your gut. So when there is a breakdown of the good communication between the gut and the brain, that's when depression and anxiety slips in. That's interesting, isn't it?


LEAH: Yeah. Super interesting; something that, you know, you don't get taught that in high school. And, you know, the first time I ever started hearing about like whisperings about this stuff was actually in my graduate nutrition program. So it's not, you know, maybe nowadays it's a little more widely disseminated message out there, but it didn't used to be even five or 10 years ago.


DARLENE: Exactly. Yes.


LEAH: So in your gut, so let's, let's break it back down into the gut again. So in your gut you have more than a hundred trillion microbes.


DARLENE: That's amazing.


LEAH: Yeah. So yes, you heard that right; a hundred trillion, like it's hard to wrap your brain around that number. So which means that there are more bugs in your gut than you actually have cells in your body. So if you can kind of even make that comparison, it, maybe it helps a little bit. So we've got a hundred trillion microbes, over a thousand different species of those microbes and over a hundred different strains of those microbes that live in our gut. So ideally we're supposed to have a lot of different kinds of bugs, a lot of diversity in our gut. In this day and age, unfortunately in our everyday life, we get exposed to various things that decrease that diversity in our gut. So even things like stress; feeling stressed out.


DARLENE: So you mean that affects our diversity, our gut diversity, or how many different gut bugs we have.


LEAH: Yep. Absolutely.


DARLENE: Put it in simple terms for me.


LEAH: Yup. Yup, absolutely. Yes. So even stress, when we're under a lot of stress that can really start to decrease some of that diversity in the gut. We are often exposed to lots of different chemicals in our everyday life, whether that's things that we put on our body, things that get into our foods or the food system, the things that in the air that we breathe.


DARLENE: Yes, right now. The things that are that's in the air must be affecting a lot of things besides just our lungs.


LEAH: Right. Absolutely.


DARLENE: Interesting.


LEAH: Yup; medications that we take. So things like antibiotics are kind of an obvious one when we talk about the gut and so many different toxins. So all of these things can really play a role in the diversity in our microbiome or of those gut bugs. And oftentimes these things are more detrimental to our gut bugs. We see a decrease in that diversity. And when we don't have quite as many or quite the diversity of those gut bugs, then we are a little more susceptible to getting like illnesses or infections.


DARLENE: Okay. So, you know, as listeners, you may be wondering, “Why do we need these gut bugs” or perhaps you're thinking, “What exactly is the diversity of the microbiome?” Actually, these gut bugs are key for us to develop a good strong immune system. And in addition, our gut bugs help us have normal bowel moments. And that seems to be an issue for a lot of people these days. And they aid in the digestion or the breakdown of foods into vitamins and into minerals. So when we eat something, we need those gut bugs to help break down their food. So we get some minerals and the vitamins from those. So the real question for this show is how do our gut bugs contribute to depression and anxiety? Now you've listened to Leah explain things. So, you know, she's got the answer this morning.


LEAH: Oh boy, the pressure's on. Yeah, well, yeah, that is so like one of those million dollar questions is okay, what is that real connection between our microbiome and depression and anxiety. And we'll, we'll kind of start to answer that before we go to break here. So we know that probiotics, so we've mentioned that term many times before on the show. Probiotics, that's our good bacteria like bifidobacteria; that's a common one we talk about.


DARLENE: My favorite.


LEAH: So we have the probiotics and then we've got harmful infectious bacteria. And all of these things can really have an effect on our brain and an effect on our emotions. So what happens is when we actually get good gut bugs in whether we eat fermented foods or take a good bacteria like bifidobacteria, in our clients, we do notice that this tends to decrease their cravings, decrease sugar cravings, and increase their energy and increase their moods. So we're going to have to put a pin in that thought for just a couple minutes.




LEAH: So we're at our first break and you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. So today we're discussing how your intestinal health is connected to your mental health. And researchers have found that people who have irritable bowel syndrome or IBS have also increased rates of depression. So today we, you are going to learn about the gut/brain connection, and we will be talking about what you can do to foster a stronger signal between the two. And we'll be right back.




DARLENE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. I am happy to announce that our $10 class special is back for the whole month of August. Now we have about 15 different classes and they're about an hour in length and you can take any of those for $10. You know, I think a great class to take during this heat spell is Why Drink More Water? That's the name of it. So, or you might like the Gut Reaction: Restore Digestive Health Through Nutrition. So all of these classes are on special and they're prerecorded. So you can take them whenever it is convenient for you. So just to sign up, you can call our office at (651) 699-3438. So I have another request. I have a question for every one of their listeners: Have you ever said, “I would like to work for a company that believes in eating really healthy and being healthy?” So if that sounds like you, Nutritional Weight and wellness is hiring and we'd love to talk to you. So, you know, you can go to to find out more about it, or just call 651-699-3438. Ask for Laurie. She'll be happy to help you.


LEAH: Absolutely. Yeah. I'll put a plug in for that as well. Like I started, I started with Nutritional Weight and Wellness back in 2014 and I worked the front desk coming in. That was my first position with Nutritional Weight and Wellness. And it was at that point part-time, but it was perfect. So I was going to graduate school, but it also really allowed me to start that learning process. And actually really, even that started to kind of flip my, my own personal philosophy around food. Just the more I learned from the more I worked here at Nutritional Weight and Wellness really changed my view on food and how food can be such a healing element for so many of our chronic illnesses and things like that. So it really is a wonderful position, a wonderful place to again, do a lot of learning, foster your own health and, and help others get better.


DARLENE: And, you know, we're pretty laid back and we like to help people and you know, so…


LEAH: Absolutely. So before we went to break, we were just kind of introducing this concept of how do our gut bugs connect with anxiety and depression. And I was starting to explain that in our classes, whether you take the Weight and Wellness series or whether you take Nutrition for Weight Loss, or you're even listening to some of those $10 classes that you mentioned there Dar, that what we have found is when our clients get that good bacteria, those probiotics in through either fermented foods, things like sauerkraut or kimchi or yogurt, or they take a good quality probiotic, oftentimes that probiotic will include something like bifidobacteria; that when they start to feed those good gut bugs, they really start to notice a difference in their moods, in their anxiety, in their sugar cravings, in their energy levels. And so many other things. So even just getting a little dose of some good probiotics, a couple of times a day, like before a meal, it decreases anxiety and supports good moods.


DARLENE: So as you're listening and you're saying, you might ask, “How can a probiotic, you know, like Bifido, reduce anxiety and depression?” You know, most people think they have to take an antidepressant. And here we're saying a probiotic. And so you just think, how does this work? So bifidobacteria helps to digest, and I mentioned this before. It helps to digest or break down the food you've eaten and it especially helps to break down like meat and that, or fish. And that breaks it down into amino acids, which in turn makes our neurotransmitters. That's magical. It also makes our B vitamins, especially B12, which is very critical for energy. And that's kind of that sense of wellbeing.


LEAH: Yep.


DARLENE: So again, we start with food, we have a probiotic and it digests these into things that we can use in our body.


LEAH: Yeah. So, so how about let's do a quick example. So bifidobacteria helps you digest or break down. Maybe you had a couple of eggs this morning for breakfast. Maybe you've maybe been up and already going for your day, or maybe if you think back to last night, maybe you had a piece of steak or you had a chicken breast or something like that. That bifidobacteria is one of the many bacteria that's responsible for helping you break down those proteins, which makes the amino acid, tryptophan. All right. So most people have heard that, heard that term tryptophan; turkey is one of our main proteins as well. But what tryptophan does, especially is it makes our, one of our neurotransmitters called serotonin. And I call serotonin our happy or like kind of our chill pill happy-go-lucky type of neurotransmitter. And who doesn't want to feel like that?


DARLENE: That's right. Exactly. So if you get a gut infection from a bad bacteria or yeast or a parasite…


LEAH: Okay, hold on. How do you get a gut infection?


DARLENE: That's a good question. How do you? What happens?


LEAH: Yeah. Well, I, you know, oftentimes when I'm sitting down in, well sitting down on Zoom with clients, I'll, I'll ask them, you know, when they think their gut stuff started or maybe when their depression started or when their mental health issues started. And I'll ask them specifically, did you ever experienced like an episode of food poisoning? Did you travel somewhere and either eat something that was in the food or got, you know, some kind of bacteria in the water? You know, was there an episode like that that may have kickstarted things? Sometimes, sometimes they get a story like that, like, oh yeah; there was this one event that kick started that for me.


DARLENE: I went through that line at the salad bar line.


LEAH: Yep. Yup. And sometimes, sometimes it's something that kind of comes on a little more gradually. And oftentimes I'll find like sometimes it's just a poor diet, like too many of those processed carbohydrates or too much sugar for too long starts to decrease the, the diversity of the gut and makes you more susceptible to actually getting an infection or getting an overgrowth of bad bacteria in there.


DARLENE: So when you have that, then what happens, it affects how much tryptophan you have. And we have kind of like a storage tank of tryptophan. Well, what happens is if you don't have the good diversity and the good bacteria, then you're not breaking down and making more tryptophan and then you'll have low serotonin and then you can have depression and anxiety and insomnia.


LEAH: Yes.


DARLENE: So bad bacteria really stops the production of serotonin. And you know, think about that. What happened in your life that may have caused that, you know?


LEAH: Yep. Yeah. And I mean, yeah, it may sound a little off the wall, or it may sound like maybe a message that you haven't heard before, but those, that bad gut bacteria are just like, again, too many of these bad gut bugs versus the amount of good gut bugs. These bad bacteria also have the ability to produce a lot of neurotransmitters or metabolites or kind of byproducts that can have negative actions on our brains and our thoughts. So in our Weight and Wellness classes, we do teach about how that bad bacteria, oftentimes they're the ones that are craving the breads, the sugars, the pastas; those carbohydrates for many people. So it's those bad bacteria that are really craving those more processed foods.


DARLENE: And I think a lot of people have heard this, that our gut is called our second brain because it's connected to our nervous system. And it has really a big impact on our brain function. Here's a good question for you. And I think just generally, you know, I love to ask questions. Is our gut the second brain or is it really our first brain? I learned something really interesting that, you know, it's and I thought it was really intriguing. It's, as a fetus, you know, go way back as a fetus. Our gut based nervous system is actually developed before our actual brain. So it makes total sense that our entire digestive system has a major impact on our moods and emotions.


LEAH: I think that's, I didn't know that until we were actually preparing the script for today. So that's really interesting.




LEAH: And I do have to stop you right there, Dar, because we do have to take our second break here this morning. So you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. And if you're dairy sensitive and looking for a good tasting protein powder that is dairy free, I recommend our Nutrikey Paleo Protein powder. It's on sale; 15% off for the month of August; in addition to some of our other protein powders, our whey protein powder and our Key Fruits and Greens. So you can order them online or you can give us a call at (651) 699-3438. And we'll be back.




DARLENE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. We all know that during this very, very hot weather, it is important for everyone to stay hydrated. So, you know, sometimes we drink water and drink water and drink water, and then we say, I want a different flavor. So here are a couple of ideas: add a half a scoop of your favorite Key Greens and Fruits to an eight ounce glass of water. And it's, this kind of tastes like a Kool-Aid, but it's full of antioxidants and it contains no sugar. So what I like is the blackberry tangerine flavor, because it's sweetened with monk fruit. You know, my grandchildren, when they were in town, they mixed the chocolate Key Greens and Fruits with organic whole milk. And it made a great tasting chocolate milk.


LEAH: I've seen that done plenty of times.




LEAH: Yeah. My favorite, my personal favorite is the pink lemonade mixed into water. I mean, lemonade is such as a summer type of treat anyways. And so that one, I love, love, love in water. And I'll just throw that out to our listeners too, that actually you can buy little individual packets of these Key Fruits and Greens. If you just wanted to try a couple of different flavors they’re fairly affordable if you just buy the little individual packets as opposed to buying the big containers right out of the gate. So it's a great way to just try things out. And then there's another fun drink that I've recommended for some of my clients. And some of them really love it actually is, there is a root beer flavored liquid stevia product out there. I believe the brand name is SweetLeaf. If you add a couple drops of that into a glass of mineral water, then you add a little ice, sometimes that's just enough again, to shake things up, give you a different flavor. And for some of my clients who are really working to drop either, whether it's their, whether it's the regular soda or the diet soda, just getting, getting them switched over to the stevia, a little bit better option that won't affect their blood sugar is really a game changer for them.


DARLENE: I add six drops.


LEAH: Six drops, exactly six drops.


DARLENE: Yeah, exactly. Each person you get, get to know exactly how much you want.


LEAH: Yeah, exactly. And I always recommend people like start low and then you can always add more because, well, either you have to add more water if you add too much or like, so you have to try to adjust it some other way.




LEAH: So in order to order, if you wanted to try either the SweetLeaf stevia drops, or if you wanted to try the Key Fruits and Greens, check out our website, or you can give us a call at (651) 699-3438.


DARLENE: So Leah, before we went on break, we were talking about bad bacteria and how it influences, can possibly influence how your neurotransmitters are working and ultimately effects depression and anxiety. So let's keep talking a little bit more about that, you know.


LEAH: Yep. Yeah. I just wanted to go back to the statement that you made right before we went to break. That was something that I didn't even know until we had, until we were preparing for the show that actually as, as a little tiny baby, as a fetus, when you're developing in mom's womb that your gut based nervous system. So all those neurons and everything in your gut actually develops before the actual brain.


DARLENE: Isn’t that amazing.


LEAH: Yeah. And so again, like, then that begs the question. Okay. Well, which, which brain is the true first brain then? Is it our gut or is it what we think about typically as our brain? Yeah. So I just wanted to reiterate that statement. I thought that was super fascinating. Yeah. So if you have a family member, or if you personally are struggling with depression or anxiety, you know, maybe now you're asking this question of how do I improve my intestinal health or my intestinal microbiome to help my body naturally produce more neurotransmitters? Maybe you're just looking for a different option as opposed to getting on an antidepressant. Maybe you're just thinking, okay, how do I help my body do naturally what it wants to do? And we know that many people who struggle with depression or anxiety do turn to antidepressants. And there's a time and a place for those absolutely. But here's some, just a couple of numbers: There's been a 64% increase in the use of antidepressants between the years of 1999 and 2014. So only in a 15 year span. So that's a pretty big jump. And almost 20% or about one out of every five older adults took an antidepressant last month. And women are twice as likely to experience depression or are twice as likely to take antidepressants as men. And I think that's a common thing we see with our clients too, is like, it's, it does tend to strike, or women tend to be on some of these medications a little more often than men.


DARLENE: That's kind of interesting. That is one out of five older adults. So I would throw myself into that category and that's kind of amazing, isn't it? So again, you'd go back and ask the question, how can you improve your gut microbiome so you have less anxiety and less depression? Taking a probiotic is one of the best ways to make sure that you have the beneficial mood boosting bacteria in your gut. You know, just think about mood-boosting bacteria.


LEAH: It is almost a tongue twister.


DARLENE: We believe when you have sufficient good bacteria, you'll crowd out the bad bacteria. You know, when I'm working with clients, I often suggest to start with one or two or three Bifido bacterias and do that before meals, you know, two or three times a day. And then it at bedtime add a different probiotic called Acidophilus. And that helps to kind of balance out everything. You know, bifidobacteria is the main probiotic or good bacteria in the small intestinal track. And that's where we break down and get all of our vitamins and minerals. And acidophilus is found mainly in the stomach and in the large intestinal tract. So you got to a little bit of both.


LEAH: Yep, absolutely. And I mean, if you think about way back centuries ago, even millennia ago, different cultures have naturally in one way, shape or form been adding these foods with probiotics or good bacteria into their diets for as long as we can remember; some of these old traditions are starting to become popular again.


DARLENE: Yes they are.


LEAH: So one example is sauerkraut. You know, it's a traditional food in Germany. And Germans, you know, nowadays even eat two to three tablespoons of sauerkraut with, you know, maybe it's two meals a day. Maybe it's even just one meal a day to support good digestion. And so sauerkraut is that fermented cabbage that gives us that good probiotic and is really tasty on a piece of meat actually. Now Koreans will eat kimchi with every meal for good digestion. And kimchi, I kind of describe it, it's kind of like sauerkraut, but it has a little bit, usually a little bit more of a kind of a spicy kick or has a little more spice to it. So for some, for some of us, that's a good thing. For those of us that maybe have a little more Minnesota palette, maybe you stick with the sauerkraut.


DARLENE: I'll stay with the sauerkraut.


LEAH: Yeah. Yup. In Japan now there might be things like miso or natto. Those are traditional Japanese foods made from fermented soybeans. And those also support good digestion. Now I don't personally have experience with natto or what it tastes like, but it's often, what I understand is that it's often served as a breakfast food in Japan.


DARLENE: So you've, you've kind of set up your digestive system for the day.


LEAH: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, and then, you know, maybe a couple of things that, that Americans are a little more accustomed to, or most people are familiar with; things like yogurt or kefir. Both of these are fermented milk based products. So these are ways, these are all different ways that we can start adding in those, those good bacteria to our meals or in between meals even, and just getting some of that good bacteria into our guts every single day.


DARLENE: You know, I think one of the things that it's a big habit for some people now is making their own fermented vegetables, and adding those. So there's lots of different ways to do this.


LEAH: Yep, absolutely. And so you add those probiotics, whether, you know, for some people they just want to stick with the fermented foods or they're willing to do the sauerkraut every day, or they're willing to do a good dose of, you know, unsweetened and full fat yogurt every single day. And then there's other people that kind of like that ease or convenience of a supplemental probiotic. And sometimes too, we even need to go high with probiotics as well. So sometimes we need to get people there by doing a, by doing a probiotic supplement, at least in the short term, but just trying to get as much of that good bacteria into our guts as possible is one of the key ways that we can maintain a good functioning digestive system, which in turn helps us have a good functioning brain.


DARLENE: So, you know, let's look at a couple of other things, some other things that support digestive and, you know, a couple of other supplements, you know, collagen. And everybody's been hearing about collagen. Well, here's another thing that you do. You don't a lot of people do collagen for their knees.


LEAH: Yep.


DARLENE: But it also is, in it has healing amino acids that heals the lining of the intestinal track. And we're always looking at how you can kind of reinforce those barriers between your gut and your bloodstream. And so that's what collagen does. And, you know, it's one of the things that helps us prevent having a leaky gut. And we've heard that term used a lot. Well, you know, so adding one or two scoops of collagen is really a great way to support that intestinal lining.


LEAH: Yep, absolutely. And here's another example where like, hey, if you are someone who wants to do it again more, maybe more of the food route, that's where good quality homemade bone broth comes into play.




LEAH: But again, some people either like it, it's kind of a turnoff to make bone broth or…


DARLENE: They just don't have time.


LEAH: They don't have time or whatever the case may be. So we've got two options. You can make some good homemade bone broth and drink that every day and or use that in your soups. Or you can have a good quality collagen powder, like our Key Collagen powder.


DARLENE: Right, exactly.


LEAH: Now, for some people it's helpful or beneficial to add some kind of broad spectrum Key Digestive Enzymes. So we may have, we may have clients take one or two Key Digestive Enzymes with each meal, which gives you kind of those enzymes. It gives you a little kind of extra stomach acid and it gives you some pancreatic enzymes to really efficiently break down your food so that you can reap all those nutrients out of the foods that you can.


DARLENE: You know, Leah, one of the things that I've noticed is because I tend to work with people that are a little bit older and lots of times they're on a lot of medications and sometimes that interferes with digestion, but I have had them add a couple of Key Digestive Enzymes with their meds and actually then they don't have digestive problems.


LEAH: Yeah. That's, that's really helpful. So before we continue on, we do have to take our third and final break for the morning.




LEAH: So you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. And in the month of September, our popular Nutrition for Weight Loss program is back and in person, at least at the moment. So all six of our locations: Maple Grove, Wayzata, Eagan, St. Paul, North Oaks and our brand new Woodbury office will be open for in-house classes. We will still be taking some precautions, limiting the number of people that can be in each classroom. And so we can have the appropriate kind of distancing. And we do request that you wear a mask, but if this is something that you're interested in or that you've been holding your breath now for a while to get back into the classroom, you can sign up online at or give us a call at (651) 699-3438. And we will be happy to get you registered. And we'll be right back.




DARLENE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. We're also besides our in-person Nutrition for Weight Loss classes, we're still offering our Zoom classes, our Nutrition for Weight Loss Zoom classes, and that's for people who live far away or for people… I mean, if you're living in Australia, it's a little hard to get to our in-person classes. So, you know, and also some people just, it it's, it saves time. You don't have to drive. So, so we have two classes in September; September 22nd, and that starts at 6:30 and September 24th. And that starts at noon. And really people can experience great results, whether you're doing in-person Nutrition for Weight Loss or the Zoom format. And just call 651-699-3438, or you can go online and figure out which one works best for you. They work.


LEAH: They do.




LEAH: Yes.


DARLENE: So we were talking about okay, food and mental health. And, so here's my belief. What you're eating is without a doubt the most critical factor in having good mental health.


LEAH: That's a powerful statement.


DARLENE: It is. So here's some, a way to do it. Build your meals around eating real food. And when you're putting together a meal plan for yourself, ask yourself this question: What protein have I decided that I'm going to have for this meal? Am I going to have salmon? Am I going to have chicken, turkey, beef, pork, cottage cheese? What is it? Then think what vegetables will I eat? And these are really, vegetables are carbohydrates.


LEAH: Yeah.


DARLENE: Healthy ones. Maybe it's broccoli or Brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes, or maybe just do a big salad with lots of vegetables.


LEAH: Yeah. You won't have to turn on the oven then to make any food.


DARLENE: Right. But then we know we need healthy fat, natural fats, such as olive oil or butter, coconut oil, avocados, olives, nuts. So again make a meal of real food that tastes great to you. And don't worry about whether somebody else is going to like it or not. You need to like it. And then every three to four hours you need to eat, you know, so that you're not experiencing low blood sugar. And I think the number one reason that people have anxiety is that their blood sugar drops. And that's from skipping meals often.


LEAH: Yup. Or not striking that balance with making sure you have enough protein at a meal, and you have some of those fats in there, you know, coming, I know I was raised more in that low fat era. And when you don't have some of those other balancing elements to a meal, you're absolutely your blood sugars start to tank very quickly after a meal. So for good mental health and better digestion, you know, Dar had mentioned the foods that we want to be eating. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention some of the things that maybe you got to watch out for, and some of these landmines that tend to be out there in our food system; things like those refined oils. So the big ones being soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil. Those are probably the big kind of the big four; sugar, added sugars, artificial sweeteners, gluten, processed foods in general. I mean, that kind of covers the blanket, the blanket of all of those, because these are all pro-inflammatory and they create digestive upset. And these are the types of foods that do decrease that diversity in our gut bacteria.


DARLENE: So it basically, when that happens and you're not making your neurotransmitters or your vitamins.


LEAH: Right.


DARLENE: So Leah, you have a personal story about how changing your diet helped you eliminate anxiety. So share with listeners your story.


LEAH: Yeah. Well, and I'll, I'll caveat that too and say, I don't think I could say I've eliminated anxiety, but I understand a lot more where my anxiety comes from and I can manage it a heck of a lot better than I used to.


DARLENE: I mean, I think that's a good point.


LEAH: Yeah. It's, it's, you know, like a lot of things with our own health, it's, it's always an ongoing process and ongoing journey. And sometimes these things don't necessarily like disappear completely, but we have the tools that we need to control it and to make good decisions most of the time.


DARLENE: And then ultimately to, to feel good about what we're doing.


LEAH: Yes.


DARLENE: That sense of wellbeing that we know we're doing everything possible.


LEAH: Yeah. And it gives you that confidence yeah, that you have other tools at your disposal. So, I mean, I think back, and I can remember, I think I was, oh, I had more anxious tendencies as a child. I remember if I didn't want to go to dance class or if I didn't want to do something, I would complain that my stomach hurt or like that my stomach was upset. So here's that gut/brain connection showing up again. And so I remember that, so that was as young as, you know, somewhere around five or six years old and things like that. And I did at certain times in my life where my anxiety kind of would pick up a little bit too. I remember like middle school was another time that my anxiety would tick up. And like middle college, like sophomore year of college, I saw another increase in my anxiety and, you know, I still functioned fairly well. Like I studied well. I was focused. And so some of that nervous energy really was, was well driven. But I think too, I also, I can recognize now that I would, you know, kind of get bent out of shape really easily if routines were broken or, you know, things didn't quite go the way that I had thought or I had planned and, and that would create more anxiety. And so here's, again, let's bring it to when I was actually started working front desk at Nutritional Weight and Wellness. And I learned about the concept of balancing blood sugar. And like you said, Dar, I, I truly believe that as well, that actually balanced blood sugars are one of the biggest tools that we have to combat anxiety. So I think, you know, especially, especially in college when I was eating more like low fat, more processed foods, not eating often enough to fuel my body, more often than not, I was hitting low blood sugars throughout the day and that was causing more anxiety. And so once I kind of committed, and I remember this, I just said one day, like, let's just try eating every three hours for the next couple of weeks. Like, let's try it for three weeks. Let's try it for a month. And I cannot tell you the difference that that made even in just those few weeks of just how much actually my cravings got a lot better. My energy was a lot more steady, but I realized that my anxiety was so much more stable or so much more under control than it was. So that was huge. And I also, I remember too, I think I had, I know, especially in college, like I started having some gut disruption, like I think I really had more of that IBS type of profile and more on the loose end of things. So I actually worked hard through eating real food and actually doing some probiotics and doing some food eliminations and things like that. That actually I noticed too when I, when my gut felt a lot better, again, my anxiety felt a lot better too.


DARLENE: That’s really interesting.


LEAH: Yeah. So for me, I think it was twofold. It was that blood sugar balance and really working on my gut that helped again, it helped me, it helped give me the tools to recognize that these are the big players in my anxiety and I have control of these things so I can make adjustments when I need to. And it's not perfect all the time. I still get episodes of anxiety here and there, but I have tools and I can kind of trace back where I might have misstepped or where things might've gotten a little off balance.


DARLENE: Well, you know, we do get busy sometimes, and it's hard to get that meal in every three hours or that blood sugar balancing meal.


LEAH: Yep.


DARLENE: And so things happen, you know, I, I think Leah was, as we were thinking about eating and the people, all the young people that seem to have so much anxiety right now, you know, I think if, if they made appointments with you or one of the other nutritionists and learned a different style of eating.


LEAH: Yeah.


DARLENE: Kind of move away from that convenience fast food, and really think in terms of cooking or sitting down and really eating a balanced meal at least three times a day.


LEAH: Right; yeah. Sometimes that's where we start with people, right, is making sure you get even the three square meals in per day.


DARLENE: Right. You know, I think as we, you know, when I was kind of putting together the show, you know, I often pull some of my, some of my favorite books off my bookshelf. And I started to kind of think, you know, what might help people understand this concept? What might be a good book for them to look at? And here's one that might be good for you. This is, this is the book. This is the name of it: This is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More. And it helps looking at eating foods that are good or bad that contribute to our brain health. You know, I think there are so many different things in this book that I think a lot of people could just say, oh, I make this connection with this; even the part about learning that we as a fetus, when, where we develop our gut nervous system before we do our brain nervous system.


LEAH: Absolutely. No, I think that's, I think a great place to just end our show with that book recommendation. Again, if you go and just even Google This is Your Brain on Food, you're probably going to come up with that book and with the right title. And so thanks for being in studio with me this morning Dar.


DARLENE: We didn’t really have a plan this morning but we just, we'll have to do another show.


LEAH: We'll have to do show. Yes. So our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet powerful message that eating real food is life changing. So thank you for listening this morning and remember to stay hydrated.

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