The Center for Mind-Body Medicine

The Hungry Brain

Are you concerned about your memory?  Do you feel irritable much of the time?  Is your stomach tied up in knots from chronic worry?  Or are you just “stuck” and don’t know which way to turn?

What you may not realize is that your brain is a “hungry” organ and depends on a constant supply of nutrients that influence your mind, mood, energy and vitality! Your emotional and mental health is closely linked to your nutritional status.  Food is a carrier of energy  or “prana” that delivers unique substances that influence the health of your brain and consequently, your mind and mood.

You also have a “second brain” that resides in your digestive tract, known as the enteric nervous system.  Ancient wisdom referred to the gut as the “honored middle”, the seat of intelligence.  Modern science now concurs and has revealed that there is an intricate two-way communication system between your central nervous system brain and your gut brain.

What does this mean to you in your everyday life?

Quite simply, every time you eat, you have an opportunity to influence this remarkable bi-directional neuronal network that produces mood and mind altering chemicals. Here are three “Food As Medicine” tips for nourishing your hungry brain:

  1. Mindful Eating, the 3/3 Guideline….Before you eat your next meal, take a moment to just look at your food.  Allow all your senses to be fully engaged including your sense of sight and smell.  Take 3 relaxing breaths before you eat…chew thoroughly, as the act of chewing ignites critical digestive factors.  While you’re eating, rest your hands at least 3 times and take a slow relaxing breath each time.  By integrating the skill of mindful eating, you will enjoy better digestion, essential for brain health.
  2. Whole Food Nourishment…Nature-made, whole foods provide the vital nourishment for necessary to support brain and digestive health.   Plant foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes) and consciously raised animal foods provide a synergistic supply of brain boosting nutrients, phyto-chemicals and fiber that influence mood, mind and memory.
  3. Culinary Medicine… Herbs and spices impart first class flavor to our plates and have multi-functional properties important for brain and digestive health.  So, whether it is turmeric, rosemary, ginger, oregano or dill, experiment with the aromatic deliciousness of different herbs and spices to perk up your mood and sharpen your mind.

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Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RDN, LDN

About Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RDN, LDN

Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RDN, LDN, is a leading educator, innovator and practitioner in the field of integrative medical nutrition. She has been the Education Director of Food As Medicine since the programs founding in 2001. She is co-author with Gerard Mullin, MD, of The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health and is a Senior Nutritionist at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and Dr. Mark Hyman’s Ultrawellness Center.

View all posts by Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RDN, LDN →

  • Natalie

    Great tips Kathie! I definitely think I could do a better job of mindful eating, and I like the idea of viewing the food as “prana”. Thinking of food in this way gives more motivation to make healthy choices.

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