Myth: Your mind and body are separate.
For both your stomach’s sake, and for your emotional well-being, I’ll have to kindly ask you to very slowly put down that fourth candy bar. It is common knowledge in the nutritional world that excess sugar harms the body both physically and mentally, but let me present to you the chemical proof:
One of our vital neurotransmitters which regulates our mood, serotonin, is produced right alongside the neurons that manage our digestion – in our gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin’s neighbor neurons also have a hand in our mental health, after they have, of course, finished dealing with the fruits, vegetables, and chocolate bars passing through our system.Things go awry when the sustenance we choose works against us.
According to Eva Selhub MD of Harvard Health Publishing, certain foods just don’t do it for us the way natural sugars do. Processed sugar can actually cause extreme inflammation and debilitate most of the neurons in our gastrointestinal tract, which means not only our digestive system weakens, but the production of sufficient serotonin and our neurons’ ability to cope with stress and mood swings take a substantial hit as well.
Cue a stress-induced reach for that chocolate bar. Our bodies let us know when we need nutrients, but low emotional wellness can also trigger a craving that we don’t actually need, says Jennifer Kromberg PsyD of Psychology Today. An argument at work, unhealthy fasting or dieting, or the promise of a reward after writing a proposal when nothing else seems to be going quite right in our lives, are all dangerous paths that can lead to the understandable desire for quick and easy processed sugar.
I think of it as a cyclical process. If we are having these unhealthy cravings, there’s a high chance our serotonin levels are already too low, and unhealthy foods are going to make matters worse. When we reach for that candy bar, we are potentially doing what has damaged our serotonin production and contributed to our dissatisfaction in the first place. Selhub mentions that those who take regular probiotics not only have the advantage of beneficial bacteria to fight off toxins in our food, but have also clearly exhibited positive turns in mental health.
If we want to feel physically stronger, deal effectively with outside stressors, and whittle down problematic cravings, then a balanced diet is the key to both a healthier and scientifically-proven-to-be happier life.
Your gastrointestinal tract and your mental health are better off without that devious fourth candy bar anyway. Personally, I trust apples.