Gut Feeling: Your Mood Can Be a Reflection of Your Gut’s Health
Did you know that messages travel from the gut to brain as well, similar to how the brain sends messages to different organs? This explains why most of us ‘intuitively’ avoid food which made us sick, or even the place we found it in.
The enteric nervous system, which regulates our gut, is the second largest nerve centre in the body and is often called the “second brain”.
How Is Your Gut and Your Mood Linked?
Centre researchers are investigating how trillions of bacteria in the gut interact with the enteric nervous system, and ultimately the central nervous system.
“Increasing evidence is showing that bacteria in the gut and the by-products they produce, affect mood, cognition, and behaviour,” said Allan M. Goldstein, MD ’93, Marshall K Bartlett Professor of Surgery at HMS and chief of paediatric surgery at MGH.
On the other side of the coin, states of deep rest, induced by practices such as meditation and yoga, help relieve symptoms in some patients with IBS and inflammatory bowel disease, as noted in a study co-led by Braden Kuo, MD, MMSc ’04, co-executive director of the Center for Neurointestinal Health at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Tips to Maximize Gut’s Health (and in Turn Your Mood!)
“Did you know we are only 10 percent human? Ninety percent of our cells are nonhuman, microbial cells. Since our diet influences our microbes, it’s true: We really are what we eat.” – Meghan Jardine, MS, MBA, RD, LD, CDE, Associate Director of Diabetes Nutrition Education, Physicians Committee
Here are some tips to increase good bacteria in your gut:
- Fill Up on Fiber
High-fiber foods feed the healthy bacteria that help improve immune function, reduce inflammation and chronic disease.
- Pick Prebiotic-Rich Foods
Good sources include Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, raw dandelion greens, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, spinach, oats, whole wheat, beans, bananas, and soybeans.
- Try Probiotic Foods
Probiotics are live bacteria or yeasts found in fermented foods which improve your gut’s health. Healthy sources are sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and water kefir.
- Limit Fats
Avoid fried foods and use low-fat salad dressings, especially if you have diabetes or prediabetes.
- Avoid Animal Products
Red meat, high-fat dairy products, and fried foods all reduce the growth of healthy bacteria and enhance growth of “bad” bacteria linked to chronic disease.
- Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotics
Overuse of antibiotics can kill off healthy bacteria. 80% of antibiotics are actually used in animal agriculture, as estimated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- Reduce Stress and Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
Exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and practice meditation to relax yourself.
The gut-brain axis is a bi-directional integrated system. Essentially, it is important to start to understand the body holistically, rather than as different, individual parts treated like islands.
It might just be a good idea to not ignore your “gut feeling” anymore and actually start to follow it – it might be just as intelligent as your brain and trying to tell you something.
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information.
- Harvard Medical School, ‘The Gut and the Brain’, official website (accessed on 24th April, 2020)
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, ‘The Second Brain: Is the Gut Microbiota a Link Between Obesity and Central Nervous System Disorders?’, official website (accessed on 24th April, 2020)
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, ‘Gut Bacteria: Optimize Gut Health With a Plant-Based Diet’, official website (accessed on 24th April, 2020)
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