“Your gut and your emotions are a two-way street.”
– From the film Food Matters
I am sure you have experienced this interplay at some point in your life…butterflies before going out with your crush, uncomfortable bowels (read: diarrhea) before you had to give that uber-important presentation at work, upset stomach when you are feeling stressed or anxious…
This is our brain talking to our guts.
What research is finding is that this communication highway actually has two directions in which our gut health sends its own signals and affecting our brain and mental health.
The “Second” Brain
It’s likely you are familiar with our central nervous system, the one that is made up of our brain, spinal cord, and neural pathways. What is a little lesser known is the nervous system located in our gut. This connection of neurons and transmitters is called the enteric system and functions all the way from the esophagus and out the other side.
Because it is made up of similar neurotransmitters as the brain, it has been termed the “second brain.” Both the enteric nervous system and the brain of the central nervous system communicate back and forth, influencing both our gut health and our mental health as well.
The Gut & Mental Health Connection
As it turns out, inflammation may be driving the signaling or communication from the gut to the brain. Go figure… inflammation may truly be at the root of all disease.
Inflammation starting in the gut travels throughout the body promoting oxidative stress in tissues along the way. Inflammation doesn’t give two shits about the wake of destruction it leaves. In the tissues it reaches, it ultimately disrupts the very intricate and fragile processes that are taking place. In the brain specifically, inflammation completely changes what hormones are released. Instead of feel-good, calming hormones like serotonin and melatonin, other anxiety-producing chemicals, like quinolinolate, are released.
Science is even finding that depression may be a result of chronic inflammation – and the complex interplay between the gut, brain, and immune system – rather than a disease resulting from neurotransmitter deficiency. Research is finding that in individuals with depression, markers of inflammation (such as C-reactive protein and specific cytokines) are indeed significantly increased. So all those antidepressants that are being doled out like candy are not even truly addressing the root issue.
So there’s a good chance that your anxiety, irritability, brain fog, mood swings, and even depression are closely linked to the status of inflammation in your body.
6 Steps for Healing Your Mind through the Gut
So what can we do to lower inflammation and improve our moods and mental health??
- Start by lowering your sugar intake as it is one of the most pro-inflammatory substances we can put in our body.
- Identify underlying food sensitivities. Chronic exposure to foods sensitivities simply continues to add kindling to the flames.
- Incorporate in the good stuff. See the list below and consider supplementing with fish oil and curcumin (or turmeric), which are potent anti-inflammatories. Also, add in a probiotic to keep your gut ecosystem in check.
- Cut out the bad stuff. Highly processed foods and especially those containing trans fat and other manipulated oils are not doing you any favors. Also, packaged foods tend to also have added preservatives, colors, and sugar…all completely unnecessary.
- Get regular purposeful physical activity. Interval style training not only makes the most of your time but puts the right kind of stress on your body.
- Incorporate on-going stress management through meditation, yoga, or mindful walking into your weekly self-care.
Top Good Mood Foods
Incorporate these foods into your nutrition plan on weekly basis to keep those good mood vibes going all week long!
- Coconut oil
- Cold water fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or mackerel
- Bone broth
- Fermented veggies like sauerkraut and kimchi
- Antioxidant rich berries like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries
Please reach out with any questions or leave your comments below.
♥ Cheers to good health & happy minds! ♥
NOTE: Healing the gut and setting up a lifestyle to promote mental health and general well being isn’t always a walk in the park. But the good news is, you don’t have to do it alone! If you believe you suffer from gut issues that are leading to mood-related issues and need some help with your healing, please PLEASE reach out. I would so much rather we tackle this head on the right way than to have you suffer and struggle until potentially things get worse.
Click here to get in touch with me!
- Brogan, K., MD. (2016). A Mind of Your Own The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives. Harperwave.
- Challem, J., & Werbach, M. R. (2007). The food-mood solution: all-natural ways to banish anxiety, depression, anger, stress, overeating, and alcohol and drug problems – and feel good again. Hoboken: J. Wiley & Sons.
- The Gut-Brain Connection. (2016, Oct. & nov.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from http://www.clevelandclinic.org/
- From Gut to Brain: The Inflammation Connection. (2014, November 4). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from http://kellybroganmd.com/