Have you ever wondered why you get butterflies in your stomach? Or thought about the reason you tend to go with your gut feeling? Or even feel nauseated when you are stressed? It’s because of the brain-gut connection and today I’ll share my favorite gut health hacks to improve your mood.
Over the past few years, medicine has been revolutionized by understanding the links between digestion, mood, health, and even the way that we think. Some of the same chemicals that work in our brain, also work in our gut! So it makes sense that our mood and our emotions impact our appetite and gut response. But how does improving gut health help our brain and emotions? Well, that’s exactly what this post is all about!
What happens to us when the gut is damaged?
When the gut is damaged, there are so many ways that it affects the rest of the body! It can impact our mood, our memory, our ability to fight disease, and our nutrition.
Mood and Mental health connection
Disruption in the bacteria of the gut (microbiome) have been shown to contribute to anxiety and depression. And you may have noticed that your bowel habits change when you are stressed, sad, or upset!
Memory and Brain health connection
Studies have linked certain disorders of the brain like Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease to a disruption in the gut microbiome. So just by changing the bacteria in our gut, we can change our memory and long-term brain function!
Immune system connection
The gut contains almost 70% of the body’s immune system. When the gut is damaged, there’s been shown to be an increase in autoimmune diseases and inflammatory conditions. This means that we are more likely to get sick!
Nutrition and Digestion connection
Altered gut health prevents the body from properly digesting food and absorbing nutrients and water to support every single function in our body. This can leave us feeling fatigued and sluggish even before blood work shows anything!
So why is improving gut health important?
When we don’t feel well, we don’t do well. We don’t perform well, we struggle with simple daily tasks, and we set ourselves up for illness. And it becomes a vicious cycle. Why?
Because when you don’t feel well, your body craves foods that will give us that instant “high.” One of the reasons that we turn to food as a way to cope with our emotions is because of our brain gut connection. You can leverage certain foods for gut health hacks because they trigger the “feel good” hormones in our brain including serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine. These hormones make us relaxed and chemically “happy.” But not all foods are created equally, because foods like chocolate, sugar, alcohol, and processed carbs can make you feel “good” but also cause inflammation in the gut and can damage it significantly over time.
You may have heard the term “leaky gut” and this refers to damage of gut lining. The basic idea is that the gut becomes damaged and allows particles that are considered waste or toxins to “escape” into the bloodstream. This in turn causes significant inflammation in our body and can make us feel awful!
How can I measure my own personal gut health?
Some easy ways to measure your gut health include monitoring what you eat, monitoring how you feel, and monitoring your bowel movements. Sexy, right?!
For me personally, I felt so much better after I did my food allergy testing.
This one simple test allowed me to find out which foods cause inflammation in my body. And anything that I can do to personalize my health is powerful! I used an easy at-home test and within 1 week had my results and interpretation emailed to me.
Of the 96 foods that I was tested for, 11 of them caused inflammation in my body. And the top 2 were egg whites and chicken! So while I thought that I was being healthy by eating protein rich foods, I was actually damaging my body. As soon as I made some changes in the foods that I ate, I noticed that I was able to sleep better, lose weight more easily, and had almost no back and joint pain even after exercising! And overall I just felt happier and more energetic.
I offer food sensitivity testing with functional medicine interpretation: 208 foods, 80 vitamin and minerals, even environmental toxins! CLICK HERE TO BOOK A FREE CONSULT
Gut health hacks using foods
Omega-3 fats increase good bacteria in the gut and have been shown to improve long-term brain health
Fermented foods such as Kiefer, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and yogurt improve both brain activity and healthy gut bacteria
High fiber foods have been shown to feed the good bacteria in your gut, and also reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
Foods that are rich in antioxidants such as cocoa, green tea, olive oil, and even coffee decrease inflammation in the gut and also improve cognition.
Other foods that have been shown to increase the “happy hormones” in your brain AND provide nutrition for your gut include:
- spicy foods, which may trigger endorphin release
- yogurt, beans, eggs, meats with low-fat content, and almonds, which are just a few foods linked to dopamine release
- foods high in tryptophan, which have been linked to increased serotonin levels
- foods containing probiotics, such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, which can influence the release of hormones
What are some Lifestyle changes that impact the brain-gut connection?
If you want to use more gut health hacks, focus on lifestyle changes. Things like managing stress, staying hydrated, improving sleep, and getting outside can greatly impact both mood AND gut health.
There are also certain supplements used as gut health hacks. Tyrosine because it is linked to dopamine production, green tea and green tea extract to stimulate dopamine and serotonin production, probiotics to boost serotonin production from the lining of the gut, and tryptophan which has also been shown to boost serotonin levels.
So there you have it! The 6 gut health hacks to improve your mood: food sensitivity testing, avoiding harmful triggers, incorporating gut-healthy foods, adding gut healthy supplements, getting quality sleep, and managing stress.
Please reach out with any questions! I would love to hear from you.