Mind-body connection: How mental health influences eating habits and vice versa | Health - Hindustan Times
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Mind-body connection: How mental health influences eating habits and vice versa

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Jul 07, 2024 09:12 PM IST

From anxiety to appetite: Here's how the connection between our mental health/stress/emotional state shapes nutrition/diet/eating habits and vice versa

Mental health considerably impacts eating habits, with stress, anxiety and depression often triggering unhealthy patterns such as emotional eating or loss of appetite. Conversely, diet and nutrition play an important role in mental well-being, as certain nutrients can affect mood regulation and cognitive function.

Mind-body connection: How mental health influences eating habits and vice versa (Image by Freepik)
Mind-body connection: How mental health influences eating habits and vice versa (Image by Freepik)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Gorav Gupta, Psychiatrist and Co- Founder at EMONEEDS, explained, “Inadequate levels of crucial nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins have been correlated with an increased likelihood of experiencing depression and anxiety. Additionally, irregular eating behaviors like binge eating or strict dietary restrictions can worsen existing mental health conditions or contribute to the onset of new ones. This establishes a reciprocal relationship between mental well-being and dietary choices, where each aspect impacts and perpetuates the other.”

He elaborated, “Addressing this intricate interplay requires a holistic approach that considers both psychological and physiological factors. Integrative interventions, including therapy, mindfulness practices, and nutrition counseling, aim to foster a balanced relationship between mind and body, promoting not only physical health but also emotional well-being. By recognizing and nurturing this connection, individuals can cultivate healthier eating habits and improve their overall mental health.”

Nitasha Singh Bali, Clinical Psychologist at LISSUN, opined, “The mind-body connection resembles a dance between two partners, where the mind leads with emotions and thoughts, and the body responds with physical sensations and actions. Like a skilled dancer guides their partner through intricate movements, the mind influences our emotional states and behaviors, shaping our responses to stress, anxiety, and other stimuli. In turn, our physical well-being, represented by the body reflects these mental states, with tensions easing in moments of calm and tightening in times of distress.”

According to her, nutrition acts as the music to this dance, setting the tone for our overall health and vitality. Nitasha Singh Bali said, “The mind-body connection is an intricate relationship between mental and physical health where each influences the other profoundly. This interplay can be witnessed by looking at our eating habits and mental health. In this interplay, our emotional states govern what we eat and conversely, what we eat can have an impact on our mental well-being.”

She asserted, “Eating habits are strongly influenced by mental health. Anxiety, depression and even stressful situations can lead to both overeating and undereating. For instance, the tendency to crave certain foods in stressful situations acts as a coping mechanism for the underlying emotional turbulence. In depression, loss of appetite is commonly observed. It is also essential to recognize that individuals may also experience the opposite, wherein there may be excessive eating. Similarly, our dietary choices can influence our mental health.”

The mental health expert revealed, “The food we ingest is the fuel that our brain receives and if the diet is high in sugar or other processed and refined food and low in nutrients, it can lead to nutrient deficiency which increases the susceptibility towards mental health disorders. Even though it was overlooked for quite some time, emerging research is shedding light on the brain-gut connection and its pivotal role in preserving mental well-being. The link between our mental health and dietary choices reinstates the inseparable link that exists between our psychological and physiological health. By making clean choices and being mindful of our choices, well-being can be preserved.”

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