I have a patient who moved away and recently decided to see me for a holistic health visit. She is a woman in her early 70’s who had spent a good part of her adult life dealing with fibromyalgia. For the many years that I cared for her, I tried to impress on her the importance of a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet. It did not click with her until she moved away.

When I saw her, I was amazed. Not only had she lost 10 pounds, she looked amazing.   She had a healthy glow, and there was no vestige of pain. Her fibromyalgia went away ;with the refined carbohydrates she kicked out the door. She is truly well. She adopted a Mediterranean diet and is loving life.

We have known for a very long time that the Mediterranean style diet rich in lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil, reduces our risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, stroke, dementia and even Parkinson’s disease. The question is, why? Granted, the food is chock full of the good stuff, and is devoid of refined sugars. That is part of the story. What we are finding is that it all comes down to the fact that the diet keeps the tiny, healthy bacteria in our gut happy. A happy gut makes for a lean, healthy person.

Our gut hosts trillions of microorganisms that help boost our immunity and make certain vitamins. If we keep these bacteria alive and healthy we are healthy. More and more evidence is being uncovered that is connecting a variety of conditions with sick gut bacteria. These include anxiety, behavior and mood disorders, allergy and asthma, obesity, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel to name just a few.

A healthy gut is seen with those who keep to the Mediterranean diet, eat fermented foods, avoid antibiotics whenever possible, and avoid processed foods and refined sugars. A recent study done on college students at the College of William and Mary found that those students who scored high on a test looking at neuroticism did not manifest it if they were eating a diet rich in fermented foods.

There was a case report of a thin patient who was given a fecal transplant from a heavy patient and she started gaining weight and was unable to lose it. An animal study done on rats found that when a fat rat was given a fecal transplant from a skinny rat that it too became thin but also became anxious.

There is growing evidence to support the idea that gut health is essential for overall physical and mental health. The expression “you are what you eat” is proving to be true. It is never too late to change your eating and eating pattern to become a leaner, healthier you. There are some great Mediterranean style cookbooks out there. Buy one and get started now.