How to Improve Your Mood with a Healthy Gut

By Emily Holland Emily HollandYour mood can be affected by a variety of factors, including thought patterns, chemical imbalances, and sleep quality. But what about your gut? While you may not think of your gut as a vital contributor to how you feel, research is increasingly suggesting that perhaps you should.One theory gaining traction in the medical community is that your gut can function as a “second brain.” Since 2013, the US National Institute of Mental Health has funded several studies to better understand how the gut microbiome (made up of bacteria, fungi, viruses) influences your thoughts and feelings.The gut is home to at least 100 trillion microbes, which aid in digestion and metabolism, produce vitamins, and ward off infection. In addition to maintaining your gut health, these microbes also produce neurochemicals that can influence your brain function and change your mood.  What Research SaysAccording to a 2012 article published by the American Psychological Association, gut bacteria manufacture 95 percent of your body’s supply of serotonin, an important neurochemical that can affect mood, digestion, and sleep. Researchers discovered that brain chemistry can be altered by manipulating the balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria found in the gut.In a study conducted by researchers at McMaster University in 2013, bacteria from “fearless” mice were transplanted into “anxious” mice, causing them to exhibit less anxious behavior. This worked in the other direction as well – the fearless mice exhibited traits of anxious mice when given their microbes. The researchers found these behavior patterns to be a result of changes in brain chemicals that influence emotion and mood.In addition to altering mood, bacteria in the gut may also play a role in the presence of autism and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. It’s also not surprising that those suffering with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which has been linked to an overgrowth of gut bacteria, might feel depressed or anxious as a result of having IBS.Perhaps unsurprisingly, communication between the gut and the brain appears to be bidirectional. Not only does the gut send signals to the brain, but your neurotransmitters send signals to the gut, explaining why you get “butterflies” in your stomach when you’re nervous or why you feel queasy under extreme stress.It’s well known that stress can influence mood, t and that may be partly due to the role stress plays in gut function. According to an article published in Harvard Health Publications, psychosocial factors such as stress can directly influence your gut’s physiology, affecting the balance of bacteria and thereby impacting your immune system and mood. If you want the gut and brain working together in favor of more positive emotions (in addition to overall health), it’s vital that you keep your stress levels in check.Fortunately, lifestyle changes can be made to help bring gut bacteria closer to equilibrium, in turn influencing your emotional health. Following these five tips may help restore your gut health: Take a ProbioticProbiotics are live bacteria that live in the gut. Often referred to as “good” bacteria, probiotics …read more
Source: Deepak Chopra