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Author Katarina Todorovic
Katarina Todorovic
Created on Jul 12th, 2023
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Nourished Mind Nutrition 2023: Nutrition For Gut Health ​& Mental Health!

In the realm of nutrition and overall well-being, the connection between mental health and gut health has been increasingly recognized and explored. At the forefront of this intersection stands Erica Golden, RDN, LD, IFNCP, a registered dietitian nutritionist who possesses a profound passion for both mental health and gut health. As the founder of Nourished Mind Nutrition, Erica has dedicated her career to unraveling the intricate interplay between these two vital aspects of our lives. With her extensive knowledge and expertise, she seeks to empower individuals to nourish not only their bodies but also their minds, fostering holistic wellness. In this Delivery Rank’s interview, we delve into Erica Golden's insights and explore the transformative potential of optimizing both mental and gut health for overall well-being and vitality. 

How does the connection between nutrition, mental health, and gut health influence your approach to dietetics and nutrition counseling?

The gut-brain connection is a powerful modulator of health. I remember being in my dietetic internship when I first heard about researchers at Cork University in Ireland who were studying the impact of the gut microbiome on mental health. It sounded so incredible to me that I almost didn't think it seemed possible. Over the years, I've learned through research and experience how powerful this brain-gut connection can be - including the microbiome, but also including the power of nutrients (including amino acids, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols), inflammation of the gut and its linkage to inflammation of the brain, the role of the "brain within the gut" (also known as the enteric nervous system), the parasympathetic nervous system and the vagus nerve, and so much more. The gut-brain axis is remarkably complex, as well as remarkably resilient, and I teach all of my clients how to harness it in order to resolve symptoms and improve their lives.

What led you to focus specifically on the intersection of mental health and gut health in your practice?

I spent several years exploring various areas of the field of nutrition, but I kept coming back to mental health. I have always been passionate about the field, even long before I decided I wanted to be a dietitian. I love that this is an emerging area of nutrition and psychiatry research and that it has the potential to improve the lives of so many people. Nutrition care for mental and gut health doesn't carry the range of side effects that medication does, can work remarkably well right alongside psychotherapy, is incredibly cost-effective, and can improve not just mental health and gut health, but overall health and chronic disease risk, as well.

What are some common misconceptions or misunderstandings people have about the relationship between nutrition and mental health?

I like to think of nutrition as both an art and a science. What I mean by this is that while there is research to tell us the nutrients that are necessary for brain health, we don't eat nutrients. Eating should be enjoyable, mindful, and often, social. I put a great deal of emphasis on my clients' relationship with food and helping to reduce the stress and anxiety that often accompany the pressure they feel to eat "perfectly." Truthfully, there is no such thing as the perfect diet. We can find a lot of freedom and joy when we let go of food rules and unnecessary restrictions and learn to eat intuitively, mindfully, and with gratitude. 

In your experience, how does stress impact gut health, and what dietary strategies do you recommend to manage stress-related gut issues?

Stress is an incredibly potent trigger of gut symptoms for many of my patients, especially for individuals with IBS. Good stress management techniques, such as deep breathing, guided imagery, and mindful cooking and mindful eating are core parts of our work in resolving gut symptoms. Good gut hygiene is also important, such as implementing a morning routine to reduce constipation. Eating nutrient-dense foods, adequate protein, fiber, and fermented foods can help with production of neurotransmitters for sleep, calming, relaxation, and appropriate movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract. Sometimes elimination diets, such as the low-FODMAP diet, are temporarily helpful to find foods that trigger gut symptoms, but it's important to remember that the food itself is not the root problem in IBS, even if removing it or decreasing it from the diet helps to reduce symptoms - the problem lies with the gut-brain connection. So even while we're looking for symptom relief with dietary strategies.

How do you stay updated on the latest research and developments in the field of nutrition and mental health, and how does that inform your practice at Nourished Mind Nutrition?

I'm a research junkie, and I love to dig in deep on the topics I'm interested in! I strive to make my work with my patients as research-driven, as well as individualized, as possible. There's a lot we don't know yet in the field of nutrition, gut health, and mental health, and I'm excited to keep learning and to keep teaching! I'm excited about an upcoming continuing education book for clinicians working with patients with depression and anxiety. It will be available from Skelly Skills and should be available in September 2023. Additionally, individuals hoping to learn more about improving their mental health with nutrition can download my free ebook at nourishedmindnutrition.com!

If you would like to find out more about Nourished Mind Nutrition, visit https://www.nourishedmindnutrition.com/

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