There are a lot of factors in our life that affect our moods – work, personal life, food, family & friends, music, and so forth. But did you know that your gut also controls your mood? You’ve heard the terms and maybe even used some of them; “I have butterflies”, “go with your gut”, “I’m feeling uneasy in my stomach”. These terms are not a coincidence but have a reason behind it. You’d be surprised to know that the gut is very sensitive to your mood. Anger, happiness, anxiety – all of these emotions can trigger your gut!
So why do we get butterflies in our stomach?
This is associated with the body’s “fight or flight response”. When the senses in the brain are heightened due to potential threats, anxiety, or excitement, the brain increases awareness by raising heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. At the same time, the nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, which releases hormones including adrenaline (a hormone that transfers short-term impulses fast) and cortisol (a steroid that helps the body regulate its response to stress) that can turn the body tense which can also cause you to sweat and in return, perspiration helps cool the body. Along with all this, the stomach muscles become extra sensitive, causing the fluttery sensation.
We have more than one brain in our body! Scientists call the “enteric nervous system” (ENS) in your gut the second brain of the body. This system is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells that line from the gastrointestinal tract to the esophagus to the rectum 2 and links to the brain also known as the brain-gut axis. So when we feel an extreme emotion like nervousness or excitement the feeling also gets transmitted to the gut, causing butterflies in your stomach.1
Find out how your bowels can cause anxiety & depression.
While the ENS’s main function in your body is to control digestion from swallowing and releasing the enzymes to breaking down the food to controlling the blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption to elimination, it also communicates with our main brain which is why the health of your gut also affects your mental health. For centuries researchers and doctors thought that depression and anxiety caused irritable bowel systems but with new research and development, studies show a possibility that a poor gut, which causes the gastrointestinal system to send signals to the central nervous system, causing extreme mood swings. 3 Your gut also has an internal complex ecosystem of bacteria located within our bodies that we call the microbiome. The vast majority of the bacterial species that make up our microbiome live in our digestive systems. 4 Your gut’s microbiome produces more serotonin (a “happy mood” neurotransmitter) than your brain, and about 95 percent of serotonin receptors are found in the gut itself. Hence, you can understand how much your gut can affect your mood.
TRY THIS OUT!
Try out the list below for a better brain-gut connection and to help maintain a healthy gut, and minimal mood swings!
1. AVOID PROCESSED FOODS
White bread, chips, and snack cakes all contain added sugar and artificial sweeteners make a direct hit on the gut as well as cause obesity, migraines, and diabetes, which directly affects your mental health and digestive system. 5
2. EAT PROBIOTICS
Rich probiotic foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, and pickles not only help the digestive system but are also mood enhancers. The good bacteria help with your overall immune system and absorption of the good nutrients that can directly affect your mood. 4 In fact, probiotics are so essential that researchers in Baltimore are testing probiotics to see if it can help with bipolar disease. “The idea is that these probiotic treatments may alter what we call the microbiome and then may contribute to an improvement of psychiatric symptoms,” says Faith Dickerson, director of psychology at the Sheppard Pratt Health System. 6 Sometimes it is hard to get the right strains of probiotics in foods, so we recommend you take a probiotic supplement that has a variety of strains.
3. DITCH THE SWEET STUFF
While you may feel temporally better after a tub of ice-cream or a bar of chocolate, high sugar foods feed yeast leading to the production of neurotoxins that cause fatigue, mental fog, mood swings, headaches, problems with memory retention, poor concentration, inability to focus, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. 7 If you crave for something sweet best to have food with natural sugar or naturally sweet foods such as bananas, dates, and honey. 5
4. CONSUME MUSHROOMS
Shiitake mushroom contains plenty of vitamin B6. Because vitamin B6 impacts the production of serotonin and neurotransmitters, healthy B6 levels are associated with a positive mood and reducing stress naturally. 4
5. DECREASE STRESS
Stress not only takes a toll on your mental health but also on your gut triggering your stomach acids to increase and causing indigestion or make you feel nauseous. Meditation, deep breathing, and exercise are great tools to reduce the stress levels and maintain a healthy mind and body. 5
6. SLEEP DEEPLY
Lack of sleep can cause you to become irritable, forgetful, and tired. With this, your gut can get inflamed causing discomfort. Each body works differently but aiming to get 8 hours of sleep and avoiding electronics and distractions at least half an hour before you got to bed can help you tremendously mentally and physically. 5