Your brain on food

Dr. Shivani Vakilwala, Medical Officer

Food is the fuel that the car which is your brain needs to function adequately. Just as one cannot use trash to make a car work similarly our brain cannot work if we consume unhealthy food. For doctors eating right is quintessential because of the long work hours.

Remember those emergencies and casualty posting times where you had to rush because you were called in for a dressing or stitches and you were extremely hungry so you just popped in a sandwich or a samosa and gulped a coke. It seems the right thing to do at that time but those carbs are extremely injurious to one’s health especially at odd hours of the day.

A balanced meal is what is the key to a good mood and better focus. A healthy diet increases attention span and helps us doctors make better decisions clinically. If you are not eating right your brain is going to be unable to race those signals via the neurotransmitters and then the journey between the differential diagnosis and the final diagnosis is prolonged!

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Our daily meal consumption has a serious impact on our brain functioning. Heavy and unhealthy foods lead to post-meal brain fog and extreme levels of exhaustion which we in our profession cannot allow.

So what is it that one should eat? Of course, there are a lot of different diets but we as doctors do not usually get that time to follow a strict diet, what we can do is Substitution!

If you feel like munching in between rounds you can munch on nuts like almonds and pistachios and if you wish to have something spicy- eat roasted fox nuts with masala. Try avoiding packaged foods and instead get your homemade roti wraps for those quick lunches before you have to run for the hospital rounds. Bite on those scrumptious apples and your satiety centre in the hypothalamus won’t complain for a few hours.

The benefits of our greens and proteins are well known for physical health but a lot more importance needs to be given to its benefits on mental health. Sugar-laden and high-fat foods may seem extremely comforting but they increase our stress and anxiety.

A healthy diet means a happy gut and this communication occurs via the brain and this beautiful connection is called the Gut-Brain axis. Microbes in the gut produce neurotransmitters like Serotonin and Dopamine which uplift our emotions.

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Simple tips one needs to remember are –

  1. One should always remain hydrated.
  • Eat a lot of fiber-rich foods.
  • Home-cooked meals are the best.

We need more awareness regarding the relationship between food and mental health. Nutritional Psychiatry is a growing field of study which focuses on the use of food and supplements to provide essential nutrients as a part of an integrated or alternative treatment for Mental Health Disorders. More research and courses are needed in this field.



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