How Nutrition Impacts Digestive Health and Mental Wellbeing

a picture of fruits and vegetables in the shape of brain to highlight the effects of diet on mental wellbeing

Do you often have a mid-afternoon slump post-meal? Experience brain fog taking over often? Your diet might be the reason! While the impact of nutrition on digestive health is well-established, you might be surprised to know that nutrition also plays a major role in your mental wellbeing and mental health. Read on as this blog explores both aspects.

Table of Contents

  1. Diet Matters: Eat Well to Feel Well
  2. Sugar Crash: Affecting Mind and Body
  3. How to fuel your body? And boost your mood?
  4. Make Simple Swaps: 2 Helpful Tips
  5. Make it Easy: In 3 Easy Steps
  6. Reap the Rewards of Nourishing Your Body
  7. FAQs

Diet Matters: Eat Well to Feel Well

Imagine your brain – a tireless machine, running your entire body 24/7. Like any other high-performance machine, your brain needs the right fuel to keep going. This is where food and more specifically, nutrition come in. What you choose to eat directly affects your brain's structure, function, hormones and eventually your mood. But who has the time to think about altering the brain's structure or hormonal secretions when reaching for that snack? Busy lives often lead to unhealthy choices made out of habit, without giving much thought. This is why you should be aware, those tempting snacks might seem tasty, but they’re loaded with empty calories offering little in the way of real nourishment.

Empty calories are calories that come from foods and drinks with little to no nutritional value. They provide your body with energy, but not much else.

Here's a breakdown:

What are empty calories?
Low in nutrients Empty calories are low in essential vitamins, minerals and fibre
High in unhealthy ingredients Usually contain a lot of added sugars and artificial ingredients for enhancing craveability

Think of them as foods that fill you up with energy (calories) but don't necessarily provide your body the building blocks of essential nutrition that usually accompany calories. This includes minerals, vitamins, proteins and good fats, which the body needs to function well. Often these foods are also designed for craveability and not physical satiety, which means you keep going back for more. Often we term these types of food items as “junk food,” as they don’t provide much to the body by way of nutrition.

So junk food is not great for your physical health, but how does it work against your mental wellbeing? Well, do you remember serotonin, the feel good hormone? Turns out, around 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and the body needs balanced nutrition, especially vitamins to produce enough of this amongst other hormones.

Now ironically some foods try to instantly activate the pleasure centre of our brain, by increasing the action of dopamine, which leads to a short-term increase in pleasure chemicals such as endorphin. Sugar is one of those. So then if sugar helps you feel good, why should you bother with the balanced nutrition required to generate serotonin? Read on to find out the answer in the next section.

Sugar Crash: Affecting Both Mind and Body

Processed foods and sugary drinks might seem satisfying, but they can wreak havoc on your body and mind. Sugar's impact reaches far beyond just teeth cavities. Here's how it can disrupt both your gut and mental wellbeing:

Effects of Sugar on Digestive Health
Gut Imbalance
  • Excessive sugar feeds the "bad" bacteria in your gut while reducing the "good" ones needed for healthy digestion and immune function.
  • This imbalance can lead to digestive issues like bloating, gas, and even diarrhoea.
Leaky Gut
  • Sugar is suspected to contribute to "leaky gut," a condition where the gut lining becomes more permeable, allowing unwanted substances to pass into the bloodstream.
  • This can further irritate the digestive system and potentially trigger inflammation throughout the body. (Source)
Effects of Sugar on Mental Health
Blood Sugar Rollercoaster
  • Sugar spikes lead to short-term pleasure highs and crashes, affecting energy levels and mood.
  • This can lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
Brain Chemistry
  • Chronic sugar consumption might disrupt the production of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, which regulate mood and reward pathways.
  • This can increase the risk of depression and anxiety.

Pro tip: Go for healthier versions of sugar like dates, fruits, stevia or coconut sugar.

In short, your body needs nutrition, and processed food, especially the kind with unnaturally high sugar content may not be the best source of it. So then how should you fuel your body? A simple answer is – with balanced nutrition. But not everyone is a pro, so find a guide for balanced nutrition in the next section.

How to fuel your body? And boost your mood?

After all of this scary news, what’s the good news? Eating healthy doesn't have to be hard! Here's how to make smart food choices that can fuel your body and boost your mood:

  • Gut Happy, Brain Happy: A healthy gut is linked to a happy mind. That’s because our gut bacteria talk directly to our brain, letting it know what nutrients they need to thrive. And in response, the body also tells the gut what it needs to produce. Remember serotonin from the previous section? A healthy gut can help produce ample amounts of it. In order to make your gut happy, go for prebiotics and probiotics. Fibre acts like a prebiotic, feeding the good bacteria in your gut. Aim for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Probiotics are live bacteria found in fermented foods like yoghurt and kimchi. These can help replenish good gut bacteria.
  • Protein Power: Think of protein as a friend of your digestive system! Eggs, Greek yoghurt, nuts and lean meats keep you satisfied and help regulate your mood. And that’s because of essential amino acids. These are essential for the brain, but the body can’t produce them. Consuming protein from some external sources like whey becomes an essential for anyone who doesn’t have a high-protein diet. This includes most Indians with the protein gap being as high as 80%! To simplify your protein intake, consider adding super shakes and protein drinks to your diet.

Though this is a standard food advisory, of course, everyone has unique needs depending on their age, weight and especially gender. Women often don’t get balanced nutrition and this severely affects their physical and mental health.

Women and Nutrition

a woman holding a basket of nutritious fruits in her hands

Women are more susceptible to the effects of a poor diet due to a reproductive cycle that causes hormonal fluctuations monthly, such as the menstrual cycle, as well as otherwise through pregnancy and menopause. Prioritising a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients becomes even more crucial here.

Researchers at Deakin University studied the gut health of 213 pregnant women. They collected dietary information and gut microbiome samples, then followed the mothers and their children for two years. Interestingly, the children born to mothers with the most diverse gut bacteria during pregnancy exhibited fewer signs of depression, anxiety or withdrawal at age two.

This finding helps us understand the link between a woman’s gut health during pregnancy and the child's future emotional wellbeing.

There are many nutritional supplements for women formulated specifically for different needs which can help fill the gaps in the diet. Apart from filling these gaps, one can also make some small lifestyle and diet changes to improve overall health.

Make Simple Swaps: 2 Helpful Tips

Now that you know what’s wrong with your diet, you may want to make the changes, but it’s not always easy, right? Here are 2 small diet changes you can make for a big impact:

  • Ditch the Table Sugar: Swap refined sugar for natural sweeteners with low to 0 glycemic index like stevia and monk fruit or for more nutrient-rich sugar sources like dates. Dried dates can be used as a sugar replacement in baked goods, smoothies, energy bars or simply as a stand-alone snack or dessert. Apart from being nutrient-rich with fibre, potassium, magnesium, manganese, vitamin B6, and carotenoid and polyphenol antioxidants, dates also don’t impact blood sugar adversely. In fact, our super shakes use both dates and stevia as sweeteners.
  • Snack Attack? Skip sugary snacks and instead choose nutrition drinks, fruits or homemade snacks made with healthy ingredients. You can also look for protein drinks low in added sugar and artificial ingredients.

Make it Easy: In 3 Easy Steps

You know the problem. You know the solution. But how to implement the solution? Well, planning and preparation are key to sticking with a healthy diet:

  • Plan Ahead: Prep meals when you have time so healthy options are readily available on busy days.
  • Keep it Simple: Have a list of quick and easy meals you can whip up in just a few minutes.
  • Stock Up: Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy snacks for those days you're short on time.

Reap the Rewards of Nourishing Your Body

Now that you've seen the strong connection between nutrition and your digestive and mental health, it's time to take action! Remember, a healthy diet doesn't have to be restrictive or complicated.

Focus on making small, sustainable changes. Gradually replace processed foods with whole, less refined options. Explore the options like fruits, vegetables, protein drinks and whole grains. Don't be afraid to experiment with new recipes and find healthy meals you truly enjoy.

By prioritising good nutrition, you're investing in your overall well being. You'll experience better digestion, improved mental clarity, and a more positive outlook.


1. Is coconut sugar healthy?

Yes. Coconut sugar is less processed compared to table sugar and also contains some nutrients. Another benefit is that it doesn’t give you as sudden a sugar spike. However, it's still sugar, so moderation is the key.

2. Are protein shakes good for you?

Protein shakes can be a convenient way to get your daily dose of protein, especially for active individuals, those trying to manage weight, or anyone looking to boost their protein intake. Choose shakes that are low in added sugar and artificial ingredients.

3. Which is the best nutrition drink?

There are many delicious and nutritious options available. Look for super shakes packed with protein, fibre, essential vitamins and minerals, but low on sugar and calories. These can be perfect for breakfast and snacks.

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