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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tamara C. Hill

You are what you eat

I know... silly childhood meme before memes were a thing - but it is true! The food we eat becomes us, it fuels or depletes us and it indeed impacts our mental health. Here is a little information as to how food interacts with our bodies and what you can do to "eat what you want to become."

When food enters the mouth and passes through the digestive system, it sends a multitude of interacting signals to the brain, loaded with sensory, nutritive, and other information. The data is processed and transmitted back and forth via the longest cranial nerve in the body, the vagus nerve. It runs all the way from the brain stem to part of the colon. The vagus nerve does work in sending information about taste, texture, how to swallow, signals to the lungs and heart as well as information about specific qualities within the entire digestive tract.

Given the fact that the vagus nerve is the longest nerve, it is constantly in communication with multiple parts of the body. The food within the digestive system directly impacts our chemistry in the gut and the chemistry in turn affects the cellular structure. The cells within our body also communicate with each other, and if these cells are inflamed or ruptured, it can increase hormones related to stress response within our entire body.

In a nutshell - food can elicit stress response in the body -- Or it can heal it. We won't turn into an avocado, or pizza... but food will directly turn into a mood or energy level. Because stress response impacts all of the important functions of our bodies.

So... what to do about it?

People ask me what my diet is or if i have any restrictions - and although i have tendencies, i also am not strict to those rules. i listen to my body and try to eat what i crave (within moral reason!) If i want a pizza, i eat it, but i am not eating pizza everyday. That is the thing, i noticed that if i was not getting variety or eating too much of a particular item, it impacted my mood and energy levels. i make changes to my diet when i am not feeling my absolute best. i try not to eat red meats too often, i cut A LOT of dairy out of my diet, if i do eat meat i want to ensure that the animal was treated well and ate well in his lifetime, etc... but these are things that have worked for me and my lifestyle.

Through my own research and quick internet search , i found a few foods that help reduce cellular inflammation and foods that typically increase inflammation - again - this is just the tip of the iceberg.

My encouragement is to get to know yourself and play around with it a little. We get into eating habits and patterns, but try to break those habits. Start small. Make one change at a time and have fun with it. Everything does not need to happen at once. Try journaling or logging the changes so you can track progress and hold yourself accountable. Also remember that this is not a hard fast rule and it is healthy to be kind and flexible with yourself.

be well.

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