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How Having a Healthy Gut Can Contribute To A Healthy Mind

Gut-Brain connection

Gut Microbiome Influence on Behavior

Have you ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience? It isn’t surprising that it has been accepted throughout human history that the gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion [1]. But it has taken modern science to show how our feelings and behavior are influenced by microbes found in the gut.

Around 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes live in a healthy gut and constantly communicate with your brain through secreted factors and along the gut-brain axis [2]. Studies show that gut microbiota can modulate the gut-brain axis via multiple mechanisms, including alterations in microbial composition or production of neuroactive metabolites (neurotransmitters). Our gut communicates with our brain by creating and consuming the body’s neurotransmitters. Consider the well-known “happy chemical” serotonin. We might expect that the brain is the center of serotonin production and activity; however, our gut is actually the source of over 90% of serotonin in the body [3]. Recent studies have shown that bacteria in your gut regulate production of serotonin by your own gut cells, and that low levels of serotonin have been implicated in mood disorders and memory problems [3, 4, 5]. There is obviously a connection between our brain and our gut, and there is constant communication between them through various signals. 

These kinds of links and reported disturbances of the gut microbiome (dysbiosis) in people suffering from stress, anxiety, depression and other mood problems have begun to shift the focus of research on mental disorders. The gut includes organs involved in digesting and processing the food. The lining of your gut is often called “the second brain” because of its numerous functions and an essential correlation to our nervous system [6, 7].

Does Poor Gut Health Contribute to Anxiety and Depression?

A growing number of links between gut and mood are compelling, but does the microbiome actually cause or regulate serious mood problems such as anxiety or depression? And can we intervene in this process, possibly even reducing the impact of these mood disorders? The best kind of study for determining causality is a randomized controlled trial, similar to those done to test the safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical therapies.

A recently published study uses this design to address the link between diet and symptoms of anxiety and depression in young adults with pre-existing moderate to higher mood disorder symptoms and typically poor diets. Results confirmed that young adults who ate a healthier diet for three weeks had fewer symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Their mental health significantly improved compared to matched controls who ate their regular diets during this research study, and retesting those who remained on an improved diet showed that benefits were retained when assessed again at three months [8].

Diet influences your behaviour

Diet influences your behaviour

 

Keep your gut microbiome balanced

Science is revealing how and why our gut influences our mood. The good news is that you can boost your mood with diet! You can influence your serotonin level by eating food rich in tryptophan. Some studies show that amino acid tryptophan, which increases serotonin in our body, is a good antidepressant [9]. In addition, having a good supply of carbohydrate energy throughout the day can help you maintain a balanced mood. Limiting foods that negatively affect your gut bacteria composition also helps. But it is essential to consume foods that lead to healthy and balanced gut microbiota which produce this “happy chemical” [3]. 

Although serotonin is an important player, communications between the brain and the gut depend on a wide array of mechanisms and many hundreds of species in your diverse gut microbiome. Modulating the balance of this microbial community is increasingly accepted as a primary means for treating a wide variety of mood disorders [10]. When considering ways to improve mood and mental function, we should bear in mind that our gut microbiome composition and function have much greater impacts than previously realized--and, that diet is an essential factor for regulating mood.

Probably the greatest worldwide epidemic of our time is obesity, which, like anxiety, depression, and other mood disturbances, is also characterized by specific alterations in the composition and function of the gut microbiome. So, is our gut microbiome a new path to prevent/treat obesity? Find out in our next blog post.

In the meantime, to maintain your overall well-being and mental health, you should discover what food is right for you! The easiest way of doing it is by testing your gut microbiome! Order Your Gut Health Today!

References:

[1]  Mayer, E. A. (2011). Gut feelings: the emerging biology of gut–brain communication. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 12(8), 453-466.

[2] Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of gastroenterology: quarterly publication of the Hellenic Society of Gastroenterology, 28(2), 203.

[3]  Yano, J. M., Yu, K., Donaldson, G. P., Shastri, G. G., Ann, P., Ma, L., ... & Hsiao, E. Y. (2015). Indigenous bacteria from the gut microbiota regulate host serotonin biosynthesis. Cell, 161(2), 264-276.

[4] Mawe, G. M., & Hoffman, J. M. (2013). Serotonin signalling in the gut—functions, dysfunctions and therapeutic targets. Nature reviews Gastroenterology & hepatology, 10(8), 473.

[5] Jenkins, T., Nguyen, J., Polglaze, K., & Bertrand, P. (2016). Influence of tryptophan and serotonin on mood and cognition with a possible role of the gut-brain axis. Nutrients, 8(1), 56.

[6]  Borre, Y. E., Moloney, R. D., Clarke, G., Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2014). The impact of microbiota on brain and behavior: mechanisms & therapeutic potential. In Microbial Endocrinology: The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis in Health and Disease (pp. 373-403). Springer, New York, NY. 

[7] Foster, J. A., Lyte, M., Meyer, E., & Cryan, J. F. (2015). Gut microbiota and brain function: an evolving field in neuroscience. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 19(5), pyv114.

[8] Francis, H. M., Stevenson, R. J., Chambers, J. R., Gupta, D., Newey, B., & Lim, C. K. (2019). A brief diet intervention can reduce symptoms of depression in young adults–A randomised controlled trial. PloS one, 14(10).

[9] Young, S. N. (2007). How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience: JPN, 32(6), 394.   

[10] Valles-Colomer, M., Falony, G., Darzi, Y., Tigchelaar, E. F., Wang, J., Tito, R. Y., ... & Claes, S. (2019). The neuroactive potential of the human gut microbiota in quality of life and depression. Nature microbiology, 4(4), 623. Link

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