The Food-Mood Connection: everything you need to know about the Gut-Brain Axis
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 actually connected to your brain through nerve connections, hormones, cytokines, neurotransmitters and certain metabolites that send messages. So the health of your gut plays a significant role in the health of your brain and your mood.
What exactly is the gut-brain connection?
There is more and more research showing that if you struggle with gastrointestinal disorders you are also more likely to struggle with anxiousness and/or depressed mood. 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! Your gut sends messages to your brain with neurotransmitters that may affect your mood, appetite, thoughts, emotions, and even sleep. It also sends nutrients and fuels to your brain when your digestive system is healthy. But when your gut is stressed by everyday life or unhealthy diet, it affects the messages sent to your brain! This makes having a healthy balance in your gut important! And 90% of this communication is FROM the gut TO the brain! Hence, the “gut-brain connection”.
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. They actually make up about 2-3 pounds of your body weight! And they perform important functions like fighting inflammation, helping with the heavy load of digestion, and even helping to synthesize hormones (like serotonin and dopamine).
If we don’t maintain a healthy balance of the good bacteria over the bad, then those ‘happy hormones’ don’t get made. 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 guts. Serotonin? An estimated 90% made in our guts.
A happy gut means a happier life.
The right foods are healing, for both our bodies and our minds. There are a few things you can do to keep your gut healthy and yourself 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 plants.
Eat more fiber: High-fiber foods have prebiotic fibers that are good for the healthy bacteria in your gut. The bacteria in your gut in turn work to produce metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids that have been implicated in gastrointestinal functional, (neuro)immune regulation and host metabolism.
Take a probiotic: Probiotic supplements can help you maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in your gut. Those bacteria numbers play a huge role in your gut health. (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 usually can’t tell the difference between good and bad bacteria. So taking antibiotics can take away from 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.
So, my friend – how do you keep your gut happy? Share with me in the comments below!
I invite you to check out all of my favorite plant-based recipes in the NS Facebook community. Join me there and keep the good vibes rolling!
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