Does What’s Going On In Your Gut Affect Your Mood And Vice Versa?
There is a bidirectional link between your gut and your brain. The human gut is lined with more than 100 million nerve cells, more than in the spinal cord or in the peripheral nervous system. Some scientists believe we have a second “brain” in our gut.
Think about a time where you have felt anxious or nervous and it gives you ‘butterflies’ in your stomach or certain stressful situations make you feel nauseous. That is evidence of what is going on in your mind affecting what is going on in your gut. Well, the same can be said in the opposite direction. Chemicals implicated in depression such as serotonin are produced in the gut. In fact, 90% of serotonin is produced in the digestive tract and not the brain. Scientists have found that gut bacteria create many other neurotransmitters such as GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid), dopamine and acetylcholine which are critical for the regulation of mood, anxiety, motivation and concentration.
Some scientists believe that having an unbalanced gut microbiome whereby there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria can result in or contribute to mood disorders such as anxiety, depression and other psychological & neurological problems such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The unbalanced microbiome can cause the immune system to overreact and contribute to inflammation of the GI tract, in turn leading to the development of disease, not only in your brain but throughout your body.
So...What Can You Do To Help Balance Your Gut Microbiome?
Take Probiotics and Eat Fermented Foods.
Some people choose to take a probiotic supplement or eat fermented foods that are a natural source of probiotics such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh or kefir.
Eat Prebiotic Fibre
Probiotics feed on nondigestible carbohydrates called prebiotics.
Prebiotic rich foods include asparagus, garlic, onions, whole grains, legumes, bananas, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, barley and oats.
Eat Less Sugar
Bad bacteria feed off sugar & sweeteners so cut out sugary drinks and snacks.
Studies suggest long term stress can have a negative effect on the gut microbiome including affecting digestion and what nutrients the intestines absorb. Stress can also make the intestinal barrier weaker and allow bad bacteria to enter the body.
Research shows regular exercise improves gut bacteria.
Get Enough Sleep
A study indicated that irregular sleeping habits had a negative effect on gut microbiome.
Eat Plant Based Foods
A plant-based diet gives fuel for your gut bacteria. A variety of whole grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables will increase the diversity of your gut microbiota.