The Food-Mood Connection
Believe it or not, the term “gut-feeling” isn’t just a metaphor. The condition of your gut can actually affect your mood! While the brain is responsible for your emotions, your gut is connected to your brain through nerve connections, hormones, cytokines, neurotransmitters and certain metabolites that send messages. So the condition of your gut plays a significant role in the health of your brain and your mood.
What exactly is the gut-brain axis?
There is more and more research showing that if you struggle with gastrointestinal disorders you are also more likely to struggle with anxiety and/or depression. Why? The gut-brain connection.
It turns out, the gut and the brain have a close relationship. Super close. In fact, they even have their own communication system - hence, the “gut-brain axis”. Your gut sends messages to your brain with neurotransmitters that affect your mood, appetite, thoughts, emotions, and even sleep. But when your gut is stressed by everyday life, environmental toxins, or an unhealthy diet, it affects these messages.
What is the gut microbiome?
The gut microbiome is the sum total of all of the bacteria that live in your digestive tract. Good bacteria and not-so-good bacteria. Billions upon billions of them. In fact, they make up approximately 2-3 pounds of your body weight! And they perform important functions like fighting inflammation, helping to break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, and even helping to synthesize hormones like serotonin and dopamine - our happy hormones.
If we don’t maintain a healthy balance of the good bacteria over the bad, then those happy hormones don’t get made as efficiently. And that can spell trouble for our mood. Many of the neurotransmitters that have an effect on our mood are made right in our guts. Dopamine? An estimated 50% is made in our gut. Serotonin? An estimated 90% made in our gut.
A healthy gut means a happier life.
The right foods are healing, for both our bodies and our minds. Here are five things you can do to keep your gut healthy and your mind happy:
Giddy up on plants: Plants have the power to make us feel, well, giddy. In fact, there's a 30% reduction in the risk of major depression and anxiety disorders for people who regularly consume an abundance of plant-based foods.
Eat more fiber: High-fiber foods have prebiotic fibers that feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. Consider it the grass fertilizer to your lush green lawn.
Take a probiotic: Probiotic supplements can help you maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in your gut, improve digestion, reduce gas, bloating, and constipation, and support immune health. There are a lot of formulas out there - be sure to ask a qualified health professional (not the store clerk!) about what formulas are safe and effective. Here’s the one I take.
Relax: Try to avoid stressing your mind and your body. Stress can make it hard on the good bacteria in your gut to thrive.
Avoid unnecessary antibiotics: Sometimes you need them, but antibiotics can’t tell the difference between good and bad bacteria. Which means taking them can kill the healthy bacteria in your gut that are working to absorb nutrients.
Science is teaching us more and more every day about the gut-brain connection. As research continues to dig into the fascinating connections between our gut, brain, and body, the importance of healing from the inside-out is undeniable. With a healthy diet and a happy gut, we are able to rediscover the joy of feeling as great as we’re meant to - mind, body, and spirit.
I invite you to check out all of my favorite gut-friendly recipes in the NS Facebook community.
And if you want to take a deeper dive into your gut health, I’ve created wellness guides, ebooks, and online programs to help you build a healthy lifestyle that not only serves you, but one that you truly love. Click here to explore how you can take your health to the next level.
So, my friend – how do you keep your gut happy? Share with me in the comments below!