Hippocrates — the ancient Greek father of medicine — once said that “all diseases begin in the gut.” He was probably right. There is a two-way conversation going on between your gut and your brain – and your overall health and mood depends on what is going on in both of those areas. How exactly does your gut health affect your moods?
The gut brain connection
Have you ever had “butterflies in the stomach” from public speaking, interviews or even asking someone out on a date? When this happens, your gut is responding to complex physical, psychological and emotional signals sent by your brain – “will they like me? Will they say yes? I feel embarrassed / rejected”. You will only consciously realise or process some of these signals – the rest are conveyed through the “brain-gut axis” of communication which operates your gut function and brain activity.
The “brain-gut axis” of communication is a complex relationship between the brain and the gut, where each ‘talks’ to each other not through language, but through hormones, nerves and neuron pathways. Our gastrointestinal tract is actually controlled by its own nervous system and is sometimes called “the second brain”. It has more nerves in it than your spinal cord!
New research is showing the connection may be more significant than we think. By understanding how gut brain health works, you can manage your moods and overall health more effectively.
Bacteria can make or break your mood
Have you ever been for a job interview and noticed how your gut is reacting? “Gut instinct” or anxiety might be playing havoc with your guts’ ‘microbiome community’, affected by anxious or nervous brain signals.
Did you know that your gut is home to an adult average of 2kgs of bacterial micro-organisms? These work to:
- supply vitamins and nutrients to your gut and body
- process or eliminate indigestible matter through the body, and
- protect and defend our system against non-benign bacteria or microbes.
Given that it is estimated to contain more than 1000 species and 7,000 different strains of bacteria, managing your gut microbes are essential for your brain and mental health.
The gut brain connection to anxiety & mental disorders
When a person experiences anxiety the gut is affected by its relationship with the brain, which can change the production of stomach acid through nerve signals sent to the gut.
Anxiety changes gut function and can lead to diarrhoea, bloating or excessive fullness. Over time, more serious disorders such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and severe indigestion can occur.
Jane Foster, a neuroscientist at McMaster University, found that the gut bacteria in mice “influence how the brain develops, particularly the regions that influence the stress response and conditions related to stress, such as anxiety and depression”.
Another study found that the microbiome influences the regulation of genes related to myelin, a material that forms a sheath around nerves in the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is linked to psychiatric disorders such as depression or schizophrenia. Reference here.
The Black Dog Institute of Australia reported research on the way which gut bacteria influenced gene activations that were important for brain function. Findings indicate that the important role of gut bacteria “may play a role in mental disorders”, “in the communication between gut and brain”.
“Increased knowledge of how human mental illnesses are linked to gut flora may lead to effective treatments. Clinical trials already show promising results, with many patients reporting improved mental health after high-dose treatments with probiotics or faecal transplant procedures that modify gut flora. Aside from mental health, a recent study of interest showed that thin and fat people have different gut bacteria. This may ultimately lead to weight-loss (or weight gain) programs.”
For more information, please visit the Black Dog website.
Most academic findings in the gut-brain health area are performed via animal studies, which reflect a scientific difficulty in translating findings across human gut systems. To replicate in humans, comparisons have usually been between healthy and unhealthy conditions, but it has proven difficult to find what is healthy or not in this area of our bodies: “As author Ed Yong wrote a few years back, there is no “normal” or “healthy” microbiome that one should aim for. “The microbiome is complex, varied, ever changing and context-dependent.””
There is little doubt, however, that changing your diet changes your gut health, which can send message from the gut to the brain to improve your health.
How gut health and food affect your moods
The food we eat directly contributes to the moods we experience. If you have ever experienced allergy or intolerance to particular foods, you will know exactly what is meant by this. If you haven’t, but are perhaps experiencing changeable gut or moods, pain or discomfort after eating, or secondary effect such as constipation, brain fog or other symptoms, then it may be time to review your diet.
Happy chemicals in food and gut
Many, many people eat for comfort or to raise their levels of feeling ‘happy’ – our global obesity issue in first world societies is proof of this. Many foods we eat to feel better (not for health) contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid present in selected food sources and supplements. Tryptophan is also a key ingredient of serotonin, the happy hormone that our body produces and also helps our sleep, appetite and impulse control.
Tryptophan and serotonin are responsible for feeling happy and conversely, low moods, anxiety and depression.
Approximately 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, which is why it is so important to maintain your gut health to feel happy, optimistic and healthy.
Food for a Happy Gut
There are many, many different foods that can be consumed for more optimal gut health and this is the subject of a much longer blog than this! However, if you stick to the following food groups and try to have some each day, your gut will start feeling happier and conversely, your brain and moods can have a chance of functioning more efficiently:
- Green leafy vegetables – kale, spinach, green beans
- Fermented foods – pickles, chutney, kimchi, sauerkraut
- Complex carbohydrates – fruits & vegetables, especially banana, pumpkin and pineapple
Avoiding foods that stress the body or make it anxious is also advisable: coffee, sugar, refined grains and transfats / overly processed foods. Using supplements also makes the absorption of food into the body more optimal.
Digestive enzymes can also eliminate some gut problems
Enzymes are proteins and are vital for all biochemical reactions that take place in the body. Without them the body wouldn’t be able to carry out it’s daily functions for digestion, skin & health. Enzymes can also eliminate candida and IBS. Supplementing the digestive system with Clinical Health’s Digestive N-Zyme Complex is beneficial and this may help in complete or near complete eradication of symptoms and perhaps possible causes of poor gut health.
Clinicals Health Digestive N-Zymes
These potent digestive enzymes supplement your body’s daily functions, skin & overall health. Practitioner-recommended, 120 capsules cost just RRP $49, a small investment into your daily health or that of your clients.
Listen to Hippocrates AND your gut…
Gut health can be as complex as a million microbes in your belly, or as simple as a Digestive N-zyme tablet each day, but with knowledge and awareness of the neural communication, foods and chemicals that contribute to your moods, why wouldn’t you want to make your gut health a priority?
Clinicals Health, suppliers of the Clinicals Health Digestive Enzymes, is here to provide support, information and effective product solutions for your inner health.