The power of gut-brain connection: food, mood and microbes

By Rachel White

Rachel is a registered dietitian who graduated in 2016 from Kings College London. She works part time in the NHS working with oncology patients, but has worked across a number of medical specialties including intensive care, surgery and respiratory. She also runs her own company Rachel White Nutrition providing sports nutrition advice to athletes. Rachel joined Nutritank as Lead Dietitian in March 2021 to help promote evidence based nutrition for medics and support the wider team with this mission. She believes that increased nutrition training for Doctors and medical students will not only enhance the care provided to their patients but also improve collaborations with dietitians and registered nutritionists. In her free time you will often find Rachel trail running – preferably running up some hills, cycling or baking cakes.

In a recent #MedEd Webinar, ‘The power of gut-brain connection: food, mood and microbes,’  Dr Emily Leeming delved deep into the relationship between what we eat, our gut bacteria and our mood. This webinar covered the function of the gut microbiome and that it is constantly evolving its ecosystem throughout the lifespan.

Dr Emily discusses the latest evidence and research on the gut microbiome and that in relation to food and mood, this still lies within mice and human-association studies. Dr Emily explains the complex relationship between the brain and the gut microbiome and discusses evidence behind serotonin production and how this may be linked to our guts and the foods that we eat. In terms of mood, she also speaks about the differences in the gut microbiome of individuals living with depression, and those who experience stress. Dr Emily also discusses the evidence behind different dietary patterns and their correlation with the gut microbiome as well as and how following a certain diet may increase one’s risk of depression. Dr Emily stresses the importance of diversity of foods in the diet and that the most important food group in terms of the gut microbiome is fibre. The evidence relating to the consumption of prebiotics, omega-3, fermented foods, and probiotics are discussed alongside the link to better gut health and potentially better mood. Dr Emily talks about why 30 plant foods a week may not be appropriate for everyone, as well as the importance of seeing foods as multicomponent as eating food is meant to also make us happy, remembering that dark chocolate is full of polyphenols!

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