How healing your gut can improve your mood
This article was originally published on Health Wisdom Magazine Issue 5.
In modern society we don’t make the connection between what we eat and our overall health. When choosing food, we tend to go for convenience, price or taste instead of focusing on the specific needs of our bodies, our age or state of health.
We rarely stop to think and make the connection between our gut health, dietary habits and our mental health.
Looking back a few years, if someone had told me that I could improve my mood by changing my diet I would have been very skeptical. But surviving a stroke at the tender age of 36 left me with no other choice than to take charge of my own health. My perception of food and how the body works changed forever after attending nutrition school.
The human gut is like a magic factory; so many chemical reactions happening per second! It is quite amazing how all the systems work together in tandem to break down food, assimilate it and dispose of it. Some health gurus call it the “second brain”.
But exactly how is your gut health related to your mood? According to Psychology Today, several studies have proven that the intake of probiotics can be linked to a reduction of anxiety and depression. And even more studies are coming to light showing the direct link between the gut microbiome and the brain.
The evidence goes as far as showing that depressed people are missing particular kinds of microbes.
Can you imagine what it would be like to improve depression with new nutritional based therapies?
Your gut flora can also be affected by the following:
Excessive sugar intake
Lack of fiber in the diet
(Possibly) sleep deprivation
Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand with certain ailments of the digestive tract such as Celiac, Ulcerative Colitis, IBS or Chron’s disease.
By keeping your gut flora balanced, the good bacteria can help prevent infections and keep digesting fiber to produce vitamins.
It has been suggested that probiotic intake can also contribute to controlling allergy symptoms, reducing inflammation and improving our response to daily stresses.
9 Easy Ways To Improve Your Gut Health Today:
Include fermented foods in your diet, like Kimchi and Sauerkraut.
Eat yogurt and kefir. Even most lactose intolerant individuals can usually tolerate yogurt. There is also the option of having coconut yogurt or kefir.
Eat insoluble fibers that will feed your good bacteria. Foods like nuts, beans, cauliflower and potatoes are good sources of insoluble fiber.
Limit your sugar intake to no more than 1 – 1.5 ounces (approximately 25 – 40 grams) per day.
Stay hydrated. For women the recommended amount of water intake is about 11.5 cups per day.
Filter your water, at least your drinking water. By removing some of the contaminants from your drinking water, you are giving your gut flora a better chance to grow.
Take a human strain probiotic. These are extracted from the intestines of healthy humans that have never had antibiotics.
Limit your antibiotic use, have them only when absolutely necessary and take probiotics during your antibiotic treatment.
Be mindful of changes in your digestion. As we age our digestion slows down due to a reduction in stomach acids and other change
Need A Boost?
Have you ever heard of tryptophan? It is the precursor to serotonin; the happy mood stabilizing essential amino acid.
Even though serotonin is a neurotransmitter, scientists at Caltech believe that approximately 90% of our serotonin is produced in the intestine. Eating foods that contain tryptophan can help the body to produce more serotonin.
Foods rich in tryptophan include:
It is important to eat a variety of foods and rotate them. By alternating what you eat, you ensure you are giving your body the vitamins, minerals and amino acids it needs for optimal function.
I have personally experienced less infections, better mood, less anxiety and less severe allergies after incorporating probiotics into my diet. I saw it as a long – term health investment, and already I can see the returns on this investment.
“By alternating what you eat, you ensure you are giving your body the vitamins, minerals and amino acids it needs for optimal function.”