Did you know that our gut is also known as our second brain? Your intestines and brain are made from the same cluster of cells during fetal development. Some consider them best friends, making it hard to deny the fact that you can’t heal one without addressing the other.
One of the ways to describe the gut-brain connection is through chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are commonly referred to as the body’s chemical messengers. They send messages through the nervous system between neurons or from neurons to muscles. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and is also known as the “happy chemical,” it is involved in functions such as sleep, memory, appetite, mood and much more. 90% of serotonin is actually made in the gut and not the brain. Low mood, depression, anxiety and even autism have been linked to low levels of serotonin.
What you eat has a substantial impact on your mental health and how you feel. Food allergies, sensitivities and certain substances/chemicals can play a major role in our mental health. You may feel anxious, sluggish, experience brain fog or low mood after eating certain foods. When the underlying cause to some of these symptoms can be traced back to food sensitivities or intolerances, many individuals feel drastic changes in their mood and energy levels.
Our bodies are full of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes. The microbiome consists of these microbes that live in our bodies and contribute to our health and wellness.
Nourishing whole-foods feed the good bacteria in our microbiome and help us feel refreshed from the inside out. With that being said, unhealthy foods, that are processed and refined, feed the bad bacteria and actually destroy the health of our digestive system. Overgrowth of bad bacteria and inflammation in the gut can cause leaky gut syndrome or even gastrointestinal infections that may be overlooked. Symptoms associated with some of these conditions include, neuroinflammation, anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings, confusion, depression and feelings of paranoia. When our microbiome is thriving our headspace is more positive.
It is important to consider nutrition when working on our mental health due to the connection between what we eat and how we feel on an emotional and cognitive level. Below are some quick tips on how to improve mental health through nutrition.
Eat more fermented foods: Sauerkraut, pickles, miso, kimchi, coconut yogurt.
Feed the microbiome: Garlic, leeks, asparagus, onions, chicory root.
Add healthy fats (Omega 3 fatty acids): Avocados, nuts, seeds and fish.
Eat the rainbow: Colorful fruits and veggies.