Gut and Mind Connection By Sabine Rizk
Did you know that you have not one brain in your body, but two? Health expert Sabine Rizk, a clinical psychologist at the Human Relations Institute and Clinics (HRIC), will explain why your stomach is the second brain controlling your body and what it means for your mood to keep your intestines happy and healthy.
How Food Affects Your Mood
We’re going to dive into a quick and easy biology and chemistry lesson to better explain the process of food affecting your mood. We’re talking about more than the happy food dance you do after you’ve been starving all day. This is about the hidden mechanisms in your gut working overtime. Your gut contains tiny organisms called “microbiomes''. A person has about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in their digestive tract. While some microorganisms are harmful to our health, these ones are incredibly beneficial and even necessary to a healthy body.
Whenever the ‘bad’ bacteria outnumber the ‘good’ bacteria, this may affect your health negatively. You may suffer from digestive problems, bloating, gases, getting sick more often, and more. These bacteria play an essential role in your health. They protect the lining of your intestines and ensure they provide a strong barrier against toxins and "bad" bacteria; they limit inflammation; they improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food; and they activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain.
How does bad bacteria outweigh the good ones? The answer is simple: food quality. If you’re eating clean, wholefood, your stomach will be healthy and working correctly. However, a steady diet of junk food leads to an inflammation of the stomach lining which makes it hard to produce the happy hormones you need like dopamine and serotonin.
Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions. When neurotransmitter production is in good shape, your brain receives positive messages loud and clear. Your emotions will reflect it. When production goes wrong, so will your mood.
What Foods To Eat For Better Health
Food cannot fix all problems, but it can alleviate your mood! A recent study has suggested that a healthy and balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, helps keep inflammation of the stomach lining at bay, thus protecting against mild cases of depression. Another study outlined several foods listing antidepressant nutrients. Some of the foods containing these nutrients are oysters, mussels, salmon, watercress, spinach, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, and strawberries.
A few quick tips on what to eat for a good mood:
- Eat whole foods and avoid packaged or processed foods, which are high in unwanted food additives and preservatives that disrupt the healthy bacteria in the gut.
- Instead of vegetable or fruit juice, consider increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen fruits without added sugars/additives are a good choice too.
- Eat enough fiber and include whole grains and legumes in your diet.
- Include probiotic-rich foods such as plain yogurt without added sugars.
What Foods To Avoid
- Refined sugar: Simple sugars found in candy or soda can cause blood sugar levels to spike and drop, which could lead to bursts of energy followed by lethargy and possible depression. Fluctuations in blood sugar can also worsen many of the symptoms associated with anxiety.
- Foods high in trans fats: Eating foods high in trans fats like potato chips, pizza, and fast food are linked to decreasing serotonin levels. These foods affect our mental health by causing inflammation that could prevent the production of Omega-3 fatty acids that improve brain function and mental health.
- Caffeine: Too much coffee can leave you feeling shaky and anxious. If you suffer from anxiety, it could be a good idea to limit or cut out caffeine to lessen symptoms of hypertension. Try drinking caffeine-free herbal tea instead, which tends to have a soothing or relaxing effect.
- Alcohol: People often think of alcohol as a mood elevator, but it’s actually a depressant. More so, alcohol increases anxiety symptoms the morning after drinking, particularly after overindulging. Lastly, alcohol reduces the quality of our sleep.
- Highly processed foods: Limiting or avoiding convenient options like frozen dinners, instant ramen, and any products with added sugar or loads of sodium can boost your mood by increasing serotonin.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to the Mint Basil Market team or comment below.