What is the connection between our belly and brain? It’s said what’s in our belly can be the cause of what goes on in our brains.

Our belly and brain are deeply connected – that too, through more than one mechanism. We use phrases such as, ‘butterflies in my stomach’ and ‘fire in the belly' to indicate our state of mind or emotions, and inadvertently make a connection between the belly and brains, even though just figuratively. Research tells us that, even though the belly and brains are distant from each other, they are constantly in communication. We see the signs and symptoms of this connection often but just don’t know the cause. For instance, someone who is dealing with chronic acidity is often found to be living a mentally stressful life. Anxiety and constipation are also often found to co-exist – it is not uncommon to see students suffering from an upset stomach or diarrhea right before exams.

Are all fermented foods, including curd and yoghurt, probiotic?

The current definition of probiotics by Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. Curd, yoghurt, and other fermented foods contain a wide variety of living bacteria that are beneficial to human health. But they do not qualify as probiotics. Fermented foods like these have an undefined, mixed microbial content. Therefore, it is wrong to generalise all yoghurts as probiotic. According to the definition set by an international panel of experts and that is universally accepted, it is important that a food item/product is standardised in terms of the strain of bacteria and contains the studied strain at a dose that can confer a health benefit for it to be called a ‘probiotic’. Not all fermented foods contain live cultures that meet the definition of probiotic.

What are your go-to favourite spices to make eating healthy more enjoyable, and how do you use them?

Our favourites are cumin, cinnamon, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and nutmeg. Cinnamon is one of our favourites to add to desserts like chia seed pudding or tea. We recommend it as it’s anti-inflammatory, has no calories, doesn’t raise insulin and has a dessert-like vibe! Our second favourite is garlic powder. This is also incredibly anti-inflammatory and boosts immune function, and you can use it in all your meals – meatballs, pasta or pizza. You can sprinkle it on everything as it has great flavour!