Amy Shapiro, Nutritionist and Founder of Real Nutrition, on Finding Foods that Help with Mental Health and Wellness, and the Importance of Prebiotics and Probiotics

“Symptoms of mental disorders can be helped by balancing blood sugar, limiting processed foods, watching caffeine and alcohol intake and eating plenty of plants. Again, it is all about being consistent. Many supplements such as magnesium and lemon balm can also help. Herbs are very powerful.
Anything with vitamin C (strawberries, red pepper, kiwi, citrus), omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, chia, flax, hemp), greens for lutein and nuts and seeds for healthy fats that will help your skin glow.”

Part III. Microbiome and Maintaining Skin Health: Prebiotics and Probiotics

“The skin microbiome is very site-specific. Think about the different textures of various places around your skin: above your cheeks, under your armpit, in the crease of your leg. Each of these sites have different properties: your face and scalp are oilier, your arms and legs are drier, and your feet and armpits are moister. As you might expect, because of these differing compositions, different sites on your skin have different microbiome community compositions. This has implications on disease, as skin ailments generally occur in site- specific manners: acne on the face, foot fungus on feet, eczema in arm and leg creases, etc.”

Part II. Microbiome and Mental Health: The Gut – Brain Axis

“eating foods with high levels of tryptophan or sweet and starchy carbohydrates boosts serotonin, the “contentment” neurotransmitter that curbs cravings, suppresses appetite, and leaves you feeling satisfied and full. Close to 60% and 90% of all your dopamine and serotonin respectively is produced in your gut, and microbes regulate levels of these mood-regulating neurotransmitter production.
Because of this gut-brain axis, neurotransmitter levels in the gut and brain mirror one another. A low level of neurotransmitters in the gut leads to constipation and indigestion, while a low level in the brain can manifest in depression. Conversely, an abundance of neurotransmitters in the gut leads to cramping and diarrhea, while an abundance in the brain can manifest in anxiety.”

Part I. Microbiome and Mealtime: Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Plant-Based Food

“Although the microbiome influences many diseases, particularly interesting is its implications on obesity, a conditioning affecting nearly 35% of adult Americans. In one study, obese mice were shown to have less diverse gut microbes than skinny mice. When gut microbes from obese mice were transplanted into the skinny mice, the skinny mice grew heavier and had more body fat. Furthermore, when microbial strains from skinny mice were transferred to the obese mice, these obese mice soon developed healthier weights. Researchers found that the microbiome of these obese mice were missing key gut bacterial strains integral for maintaining healthy metabolism that were present in the microbiomes of skinny mice.”