Managing Mood through Digestive Support

Managing Mood through Digestive Support

Author -  Good Health

The Gut-Brain Axis.jpg

The Gut-Brain Axis 

The tissue that lines the gastrointestinal tract is similar in structure to the blood brain barrier protecting the brain. And just as we can have a ‘leaky gut’ we can also have a ‘leaky brain’ where substances that should be unable to reach the brain, do. What this means is that both the gut lining and the blood brain barrier operate as communication channels for the whole body and therefore requires constant repair and maintenance.
The food which we eat can cause us to suffer from brain fog, and similarly, mental stress can upset the stomach, and increase gut permeability. It has been known for some time that there is a relationship between the gut and the brain, however recent research has showed that the signals are bidirectional. Poor diet has been linked to mood disorders as our diet influences inflammation, oxidation and provides the nutrients needed for the brain to maintain its shape and function. Obesity and type 2 diabetes is linked to depression, and irritable bowel syndrome is associated with both depression and anxiety. It is said that feelings of depression can slow the digestive system, whereas feelings of anxiety can enhance motility. Stress can also affect our digestion as stress reduces the release of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, taking blood away from the gut and to the brain for extra support. Therefore it is crucial that for good mental health and cognitive function, we are aware of what we are eating. 

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Probiotics and Prebiotics 

Research has found that due to the bidirectional gut-brain axis, bacteria that is found in the brain matches the bacteria found in the gut. Our gut bacteria have the ability to influence our thoughts, emotions, vitality and even which foods we crave. Taken orally, prebiotics and probiotics can alter the microbiome ecology, so that there is more beneficial bacteria and less harmful bacteria. Taking a prebiotic supplement can reduce cortisol, our stress hormone, as well as providing a nourishing environment for the bacteria to live in. Taking a probiotic supplement can directly influence our neurological health, and influence the structure of the blood brain barrier. Research has found that ingesting a probiotic supplement can help to reverse common symptoms found in autism, including stress perception, antisocial behaviour and gastrointestinal complaints. And animal studies have found that using faecal transfers containing bacteria results in normally anxious mice becoming non-anxious, and vice versa, this is one study to watch! 

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Fish Oils and Omega 3

Anti-inflammatory in nature, omega 3 fish oils help the lining of the gastrointestinal tract to heal. This not only helps with digestion, but the absorption of nutrients, many of which support mood management. Fish oils help to reduce bacterial and hormonal imbalances, and help to bring the gut back into balance which influences our everyday health and wellbeing. Fatty acids are a large part of the brain, and a healthy diet with a high omega-3 and low omega-6 ratio assists the function of the brain’s messenger system. Western countries tend to have a higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, due to the high intake of refined foods. Omega 3 is crucial to a healthy nervous system, as the anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce cell damage and stress activation. Depression rates are 10 times higher in countries with limited access to seafood, showing how important these foods are in the diet. If omega 3 from oily fish, nuts and seeds aren’t being consumed regularly, fish oil supplements containing EPA and DHA should be taken as a supplement.

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Vitamins and Minerals

Nutrient deficiencies can lead to poor mental health, therefore it is important to have a balanced, varied and nutrient dense diet. Research has shown that low levels of folate, b12, magnesium and zinc are linked to depression. One of the most important trace minerals for several areas of the brain is zinc, which helps with the growth of brain cells. Zinc reduces inflammation and helps to modulate systems involved that contribute to feelings of stress, depression and anxiety. Vitamin C is another nutrient that when depleted, can cause symptoms of depression. Vitamin C protects the brain, and can help to reduce stress, assist in the formation of healthy neurotransmitters and help the brain to function at its best.

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A note on Turmeric

The active component of turmeric, curcumin, has both mood supporting and brain function benefits. This helps to modulate the stress response, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. Curcumin’s influence on brain health has been shown to help with anxiety, depression, bipolar, autism and schizophrenia. As an antioxidant, turmeric supports the healthy production of both intestinal cells and brain cells, as well as their interlinking connections. This in turn helps to foster emotional resilience and general wellbeing for future support on a day to day basis. 

They say we are what we eat, and the foods we consume every day have a direct influence on our brain. It can be hard to make dietary changes at first, but even the smallest change can make a huge difference, and is something you can do to actively to support your health and wellbeing.


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