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  • Writer's pictureDisha Kagdada

4 Ways to restore gut-health while overcoming emotional eating

Updated: Apr 9, 2022

EMOTIONAL EATING is defined as ‘Eating a large quantity of food in response to Internal cues that aren’t necessarily physical hunger.

It today's blog post, i will be sharing some insight into emotional eating, how it affects our gut health and what are some steps we can take to restore our gut health.

In most cases emotional eating isn’t about wanting to eat the food, it’s about how it makes you feel and what it allows you to escape from. If we don’t know how to recognise, accept and respond to our feelings then we can believe that we are powerless to change.

Often emotional eating happens in the form of binge eating, where you feel that you are out of control and are unable to stop eating even though you’re not hungry. If this happens you are likely to eat faster than normal and may hardly even taste the food- you’re just desperate to eat more and more.

Emotional eating is frequently done in 'secret' or when you eat alone. It is often tied to craving a certain kind of foods - sweet, salty, or fatty. After eating you may feel happy and satisfied, but it’s more likely that you may feel guilt or other negative emotions.

In most cases emotional eating isn’t about wanting to eat the food, it’s about how it makes you feel and what it allows you to escape from. If we don’t know how to recognise, accept and respond to our feelings then we can believe that we are powerless to change.


Now let’s look at how emotional eating affects our physical health or more importantly our gut health.

  • When emotional eating episodes occur we consume large quantities of the same kind of foods which includes either sugar, hydrogenated-fat or salt and very little fibre.

  • Our guts may become increasingly stressed with too much of the same kind of food and gut microbiome/the good bacteria may get impacted

  • These changes may cause changes in our hunger, desire, metabolism, and satiety upon eating.

  • This further contribute to Gut dysbiosis/Gut imbalance which can lead to a severe eating disorder, anxiety, and depression.

  • As a result of the gut imbalance a wide range of digestive disturbance symptoms occurs, including diarrhoea, cramping, constipation, bloating, and indigestion and lead to weight gain obesity.

Abnormal brain behaviours can reinforce abnormal gut bacteria and vice versa. These changes to the brain and gut often coexist and reinforce eating disorder behaviour. The link between food and our emotions becomes a problem when we try to self-medicate with food all the time, in large quantities and when we haven’t dealt with the emotions, issues and situations that are underlying our cravings to eat.

In my approach of working with clients who emotionally eat, the approach I use takes into account both mind and gut function. The first step is to identify the triggers, understand the relationship with food, and understand what brings up the emotional eating episodes. While that is being worked on, we slowly incorporate steps required to balance the gut microbiome.


Your gut microbiota can turn over in 3 days or so because bacteria have a short life cycle. What you eat changes the composition of your microbiota. So, if you can override your specific cravings, you can effectively rebuild your microbiota in just a few days. Of course, that goes both ways—the lure of Oreos should not be underestimated, and you can be right back to where you started in a flash, a victory of microbe over prudence.

Here are some tips to deal with your junk-food crazed microbes once you have managed to navigate the specific cravings:

1. Make sure that you’re really managing sleep. Any type of sleep deprivation is going to have a direct correlation with your bacteria in your gut. Sleeping in line with your body’s natural circadian rhythm is important for good sleep and a healthy gut. The gut microbiota has a circadian rhythm like we do. Our gut microbiota will fluctuate in terms of composition and abundance based on our rhythm of when we eat and sleep. If that circadian rhythm is disrupted, the bacteria get disrupted too.

2. Focus on de-stressing and scheduling relaxation: Taking time to totally de stress, whether that’s scheduling 15 minutes of relaxation, getting a massage, or setting time a side to meditate, do yoga or simply breathe is vital. Stress is one of the biggest inflammatory triggers in on your body and can significantly affect your gut bacteria.

3. Gentle Nutrition:

  • Focus on Nutrient density: A diversified, nutrient-dense diet provides substrates to a wide range of microbes that can support your health and prevent any one population from gaining too much ground. Many people find that their cravings subside substantially after adopting a nutrient-dense diet for several months. This is likely mediated by a shift in their gut and oral microbiota. Nutrient dense meals are whole foods meals which includes a good balance of grains, lentils, beans, lean meats, nuts and seeds, cold pressed oils, variety of vegetables and seasonal fruits.

  • Introduce PROBIOTIC/Fermented Foods - Consuming fermented foods in small amounts can help us inoculate our gut with good bacteria and improve its probiotic balance. Evidence indicates that our gut bacteria impact the brain, and fermented foods can help improve cognitive function, protect the brain and nervous system, improve mood, and help with symptoms of anxiety and depression which tend to alter eating behaviour.

  • Introduce PREBIOTIC foods. Prebiotic foods selectively feed certain beneficial microbes over others and have been shown to reduce waking cortisol and alter emotional processing (35), and induce satiety hormones (36). Try fermentable fiber in the form of foods like plantains, onions, garlic, and sweet potatoes, or consider supplementing with inulin or resistant starch.

4. Move well and then often.” If you needed another reason to exercise, try this. Exercise can change the composition of your gut microbiome. There are trillions of microscopic organisms in the gut that play a crucial role in our overall health and function of the body. In a study from the University of Illinois, researchers found that exercising for just six weeks could have an impact on the microbiome.

While your microbiome may change quickly with what you eat, there are no quick fixes or overnight miracle workers for a healthy gut. Instead, it’s about sticking to the small changes that add up.

Our microbiome is a mirror of our lifestyle. We need to enact healthy lifestyles over the long term if we are going to see that reflected in our microbiome.


It’s totally okay to eat for enjoyment, to make yourself happy and to overeat on occasions - for example, to eat your favourite chocolate at that time of the month or to eat cake at a birthday party even though you have already filled up at the buffet. Just choose mindfully and enjoy whatever it is that you are going to eat.

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