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I Changed My Mind About Food to Eat During Grief. Here’s Why

Vegetables for Mediterranean Food

Our thought processes can be affected by what we eat. Many western diets include a lot of processed foods containing poor nutrients like refined sugar and carbohydrates. You might be asking yourself why you are reading about food in a blog post about The Moonlit Memory Walk - the answer is grieving.

Even though grieving is part of our Moonlit Memory Walk event, we don’t stop grieving after the event and wait another year to express our feelings. Grieving is a part of our daily lives and varies with every individual. As a result, I wanted to talk about an important tool, food, that can help with the grieving process. In this blog post, I’ll provide information that you can use to change your diet to help deal with grief or with a low mood.

How does the food we eat affect our brain?

Some foods negatively affect the microbiota (a collection of microorganisms) found in the Gut-Brain Axis (GBA). The GBA is a link between the brain and digestive system. Using the GBA, the gut communicates to the brain’s hippocampus which is responsible for producing 95% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that improves one’s mood. Without important nutrients like vitamins and antioxidants, the gut can be in an unbalanced state and an excess of bad bacteria may exist.

A study done at the University of Wisconsin by Michael Bailey found that the probiotics Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus rhamnose can reverse dysfunctional learning behaviors in anxious mice. Another study done by Mike Lyte, Ph.D., University of Texas Health Sciences, showed an increase in anxiety in mice who received a bacterium called Campylobacter jejuni. The results showed mice used more caution in exploring their environment, which was associated with anxiety.

Through these mentioned studies and others, gastroenterologists have reason to believe probiotics and antibiotics can help influence the chemistry in the brain. Western culture tends to use foods with refined nutrients which can add bad bacteria and alter the gut’s microbiome. These microorganisms affect us physiologically but also cause psychological damage to our brains.

What should you eat when grieving?

Vegetables and Fruits to buy for healthy eating

Nutrients from unprocessed food are a good way to start to improve your mental health. Nutrients associated with good bacteria can be found in lean meats and grain products. At the same time, it’s best to avoid nutrients with high amounts of refined sugars or carbs.

An example of food helping mental health can be found with the Mediterranean diet. This diet contains many grains that are believed to help balance the gut’s microbiome properly. Increases in the previously mentioned bacteria Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are seen with this diet - these are considered good bacteria to have in the gut. Eva Selhub explains in her blog that populations following a Mediterranean diet had 25 to 30% fewer cases of depression compared to other populations.

Having this knowledge, one can look at their diet and see what processed foods they eat and what nutrients they are getting. Bloodwork can show what your body is missing, which allows more specific choices to be made for one’s diet. Slowly you will reach proper microbe diversity without your body needs to regulate it. As a result, conditions like acid reflux and other disorders can be avoided, which will affect your mood.

This activity can also be applied to grieving, which is something very important to the Home Hospice Association team and the participants in the Moonlit Memory Walk.

The Moonlit Memory Virtual Walk takes place on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Now is the time to register, tell our community about who you want to remember and honor, raise money and receive great gifts. Visit and join us today.

Join us next time to read about how the Mid-Autumn Festival, which originated during the Tang Dynasty, relates to the modern Moonlit Memory Walk. Discover how ancient peoples used candles or lanterns to remember a loved one or recognize a deity.

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