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Improve Your Gut Health For a Happier You

Improve Your Gut Health For a Happier You

Happiness begins with a positive mood. It is the foundation of achievement, the base of physical health and one of the top predictors of longevity. You may be able to directly impact your emotions and overall positivity, just by eating specific foods. But it’s not what you may think.

Mood Boosting Food Myths

You may have read that eating foods high in serotonin and tryptophan (an amino acid metabolized to produce serotonin) will boost your mood. Unfortunately, increased plasma serotonin does not translate to an increase in brain serotonin. Why? Plasma tryptophan and serotonin in the blood doesn’t easily pass the blood-brain barrier. Bottom line, eating foods high in serotonin or tryptophan, like bananas and turkey, won’t do much to boost your mood. 

How Your Gut Influences Your Mood

Your gastrointestinal tract is an incredible organ. It’s a place where food is broken down, nutrients are absorbed, waste is expelled and chemicals are processed. More than that, it houses hundreds of trillions of microscopic organisms that work day and night to preserve your health and well-being, controlling immune and endocrine functions.

Did you know your GI tract is smart? Scientifically, it’s called the enteric nervous system and has recently been coined, “the second brain.” Just like your brain, your GI tract uses neurotransmitters and surprisingly, 95% of your body’s serotonin is found there. Researchers are discovering more and more that fine-tuning the balance of beneficial and disease-causing bacteria can have profound effects on mood.  

The gut communicates via chemicals and immune cells to send messages to the brain, resulting in altered brain chemistry and emotion. Even during small bouts of stress, the ideal balance of bacteria is significantly altered. Your stomach is quite sensitive to emotions; quite often stress may trigger stomach pain and diarrhea. It’s not a surprise that over half of people who suffer with chronic GI disorders like irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have anxiety and depression. 

Feed your Second Brain for Better Moods

Keeping your gut healthy and balanced is the most effective way to boost your mood and keep a positive state of mind. The best way to foster your GI health is to eat foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics to keep beneficial bacteria plentiful and disease-causing microorganisms in check.

Prebiotics

First things first. It’s vital to feed your beneficial bacteria! Not to be confused with the probiotics themselves, prebiotics are technically food for probiotics. The non-digestible fiber in fruits, vegetables and grains like inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) travel to the colon to be fermented. The fermentation process, in turn, feeds and stimulates the growth of the beneficial bacteria. Natural food sources of prebiotics include chicory, garlic, onions, asparagus, corn, wheat, and bananas.

Probiotics

Probiotics are trending for good reason. Unless you’re really trying, your probiotic intake is likely lower than it should be. Aim to eat foods on this list daily. If your goal is to boost your mood, in addition to eating foods on this list, be sure to take a probiotic pill. Make sure that they contain a minimum of 10 billion CFU (colony-forming units) and have a good quality enteric coating. What kind of probiotics are most effective? Research has shown that specifically, Lactobacillus bacteria was successful in reducing anxiety in stressed out mice.

Anything fermented or made with bacteria will contain probiotics. Broken down by food groups, these foods contain a good deal of probiotics:

See Also

  • Dairy 
    • Yogurt, Fermented Probiotic Milk, Kefir, Fermented Cheese, Butter, Buttermilk, Sour Cream, Ricotta
  • Fruits & Vegetables 
    • Brined Olives, Sauerkraut, Pickles, Pickled Vegetables, Miso, Kimchi, Poi

  • Grains 
    • Sourdough Bread

  • Proteins 
    • Fermented Sausages, Fermented Fish, Tempeh

  • Beverages 
    • Kombucha Tea, Ginger Beer, Cultured Dairy Drinks, Wine, Beer

  • Other
    • Superfood Powders

Take charge of improving your mood naturally while enhancing your overall health. I wish you health and happiness!

About Jessa Nowak, MS, RDN

Jessa Nowak is a proud wife, mom and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist sharing credible nutrition information, fabulous, [mostly] healthy recipes and wellness guidance. For more articles by Jessa, please visit her blog, In Wealth & Health and connect via Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.

To learn more about the customized nutritional solutions that WellPath provides and how they can aid mental focus and emotional wellness, click here. 
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