Uma Naidoo is a nutritional psychiatrist and author of the new book “This is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, PTSD, ADHD, Anxiety, OCD and More.” Dr. Naidoo, who is the founder and director of the Nutritional & Lifestyle Psychiatry clinic at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, specializes in helping people cope with mental illness through nutritional strategies.
I spoke with Dr. Naidoo about how our diet can help us handle the emotional challenges of the pandemic.
Why is it important to pay attention to our food right now?
When people have chronic stress, their gut microbiome gets out of whack and inflammation sets in. This leads to inflammation in their brain. In addition, when there is disruption in the gut—when the bad bacteria overtake the good—the whole line of communication between the gut and brain breaks down. It’s like static on a telephone line.
Food can fix this imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut.
Can food replace medicine, such as antidepressants?
It cannot. I still prescribe medicine for people who are seriously ill.
How can food help with stress or anxiety?
When you are in a state of anxiety, your body is in a fight-or-flight mode. This impacts your hormones. Cortisol, the stress hormone, goes up. Food can help you boost feel-good hormones and decrease cortisol.
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