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Anti-Anxiety Food: Eat This, Not That

Clinical insights from Metagenics Institute LIVE event


Host: Deanna Minich, PhD

Guest: Ali Miller, RD

“One person’s superfood can be another’s kryptonite.” – Ali Miller, RD

In this discussion, Ali Miller, RD, and Deanna Minich, PhD explore all things food and mood. Their conversations provides an overview of the gut-brain axis and the role that the gut and microbiome play in mood.

Ali opens the discussion by describing her personal experience with anxiety. Her unexplained symptoms helped her realize the impact stress could have on the HPA-axis, and therefore on the entire body. This drove her to understand how to use food as medicine and the underlying mechanisms that contribute to a reactive mode of the regulatory system of the body.

Ali discusses how food choices contributed to the disruption in her own HPA-axis and reflects on the nutritional deficiencies and food sensitivities that may have triggered her first panic attack. She views food as medicine and highlights the importance of personalizing nutrition to achieve maximal benefits.

Next, Ali dives into the relationship between the microbiome and mood. The gut, often referred to as the second brain, contains more neurons than the central nervous system. The microbiome is comprised of several pounds of bacteria, and although a relatively small mass, it plays a significant role in many functions, including: the breakdown of food, nutrient & neurotransmitter synthesis, and a healthy immune response.

Two probiotics with significant research for their mood boosting capacities include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Specifically related to mood, a balanced microbiome helps produce serotonin and GABA. A dysbiotic gut, on the other hand, has been shown to promote higher levels of epinephrine which can create a base-level sensation of anxiety. Dr. Minich suggests, rather than seeing food as the culprit, we need to look at the gut first. A reaction to food may in fact be related to an imbalance in the gut and using a 5R Program may increase resilience to a wider variety of foods.

Ali further details the impact of stress. Chronic stress sterilizes the gut microbiome and also depletes glutamine, the primary fuel source for enterocytes, as well as hydrochloric acid, which impacts how we break down food.

Ali reveals her take on the “ideal” diet for mood and discusses the differences between nutrients from vegetarian and animal sources. Ali’s health improved when she transitioned from a vegetarian diet to a diet that includes animal products that are sustainably and ethically raised. Ali’s approach is based on ancestral principles and she emphasizes the importance of consuming “whole” animals, including bone broth, gelatin, and collagen, to ensure a well-balanced intake of micro- and macro-nutrients.

She also follows a low carbohydrate diet, to help balance blood sugar and positively influence stress response. Fats are also an important macronutrient, particularly for hormone production, that Ali emphasizes in diet early in life. She suggests combining fat and protein with carbohydrates to help reduce sugar spikes and promote satiety. Omega 3 fatty acids such as those found in fish oil, as well as medium chain triglycerides (MCT), are especially helpful for mood and brain health. This higher fat, lower carbohydrate approach can help support healthy mood through ketone production, which downregulate epinephrine and increase GABA.

In the closing minutes, Ali discusses her top three commonly recommended supplements for anxious patients. They include: magnesium glycinate, probiotic with a 50:50 blend of Lactoacidophilus:Bifidobacteria, and a good quality multivitamin with methylated form of folate that includes phytonutrients.

Ali encourages nourishing the body with gentle movement therapy, breath work, and nutrition as ways to increase resilience to stress.

This Metagenics Institute LIVE broadcast took place live October 21, 2019 on the Metagenics Institute Facebook page.



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