The Gut-Brain Connection – Can Food Affect Your Mood?
What you eat affects your gut’s well being, and in turn, your gut influences your mind. Both human and animal studies have shown that chronic stress alters the bacterial population in the gut, particularly a decline in the Bifidobacterial species, which can lead to irritable bowel symptoms including bloating, wind, altered bowel habits, and pain.
Our brain also needs particular nutrients and vitamins to make chemicals to keep it functioning optimally. A deficiency in these nutrients, including omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B and D, folic acid and zinc can increase symptoms of mental illness. For example, folic acid is used to make the chemical serotonin, and a deficiency in serotonin is linked to symptoms of depression.
Having a healthy gut microbiome and including gut-friendly foods to help boost gut function may play a part in lowering stress and inflammation in the body, and therefore improve overall health.
The gut microbiome is an important factor to consider when evaluating your mood. Remember that what you eat affects how you feel, so eat a whole-food, minimally processed, varied diet, including fermentable fibres (prebiotics) such as vegetables, fruit and whole grains, and fermented foods (probiotics) such as yoghurt, sauerkraut and kimchi.
- Gina Horn, Dietitian