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As our knowledge of the body and mind increases, the way we as a society go about things changes as well. This is true for all things, especially so for our bodies and fitness. Exercise and how it impacts us has been scientifically studied, analyzed, and discussed to determine the effect of movement on the body. 

From this research, we have learned of the importance of nutrition on our physical health. It is widely known that fast food, junk food, sodas and all things sugary are part of a poor diet and can lead to many different illnesses and diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity. However, it is far less known that what we eat also impacts our emotional well-being and mental health. How we can separate our brains from the rest of our body is quite astounding; why wouldn’t we think the two are related?

But how?

Many are surprised to learn that there is a strong relationship between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, GI. So much so, that the gastrointestinal tract is also commonly called the body’s “second brain.” 

This second brain, or GI, holds billions of different bacteria, good and bad, that influence the production of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, that carry information from the stomach to the brain. So when we eat food that is full of sugar, for example, we hinder the brain’s ability to focus, maintain an overall happier outlook, and minimize mood fluctuations. 

Studies have shown the impact of gut health and overall health. When people take probiotics (supplements of good gut bacteria), studies show improved anxiety levels, perceptions of stress, and overall mental outlook. 

Dr. Drew Ramsey, psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University is a pioneer in the field of nutritional psychiatry, which attempts to learn about the impact of nutrition on mental health and the brain. 

According to Dr. Ramsey, a poor diet is a significant factor contributing to the epidemic of depression. Depression is also the most common disability for Americans aged 15 to 44, according to a report by the World Health Organization. 

While the information, and this field of study, is still relatively new, several studies have shown a correlation between eating fresh fruits and vegetables with happiness and an overall increase in mental health.

It all starts with slowing down and being mindful. Take note of your body and how what you eat makes you feel. Not all change has to happen at once, and it is essential to remember that the impact of that change can also take time.