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It’s fair to assume that we’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” And I think most people know not to take it literally – you’re not going to turn into a carrot after eating a carrot, or even after eating several. So how can we translate this?

While I can’t say for certain what the person who coined the phrase meant, I can offer an interpretation of it. I think he or she may have been referring to the mental and emotional effects food can have on the body. Have you ever been irritable, overreactive, or tired for a reason you couldn’t pinpoint? Maybe you proceed to have a snack/meal, and suddenly, the initial problem that seemed like an immovable boulder became just a bump in the road? If so, you’re not alone, and research consistently links nutrition to improved mental and emotional health; in fact, this relatively new field of study is called Nutritional Psychiatry.

Researchers of Nutritional Psychiatry reveal that 95% of serotonin, the hormone responsible for our feelings of happiness, is found in our gut. So, the saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?” can actually be applied to everyone, and is a saying that we should all take literally.

What your body is telling you

Simply put, when we eat the food our body craves, we feel satisfied, allowing us move on to our next task. The feelings that we experience after eating is regulated by serotonin. There is a signaling pathway that links your gut to your brain. When the food we eat arrives at our gut, serotonin is activated and sent along this pathway to our brain receptors. Once the brain has received the message, a response to the food eaten – satisfaction, nausea, bloating – is triggered… and felt in the body.

Very often, eating what we crave, also know as eating intuitively, triggers the most desirable response. Cravings are the body’s way of telling us that nutrients are missing. So, when a craving is answered, serotonin carries a message of satisfaction and contentment to the brain. Our brains can then focus on something other than food, hunger, or deprivation from certain foods.

Cravings are normal

This direct connection between our gut and our brain is quite literally felt at gut-level. Feeling anxious may present itself as nausea, depressive thoughts may lead to decreased appetite, nostalgia often causes specific food cravings that can bring you back to a time or place, and trying new foods and eating with other people may increase feelings of happiness.

So, listen to your body! Your cravings are normal and food is important! Enjoy it.

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