Improve Your Health to Improve Your Mood

Improve Your Mood EnglishThe benefits our body receives through having healthy nutritional habits are widely known, however, not all of us are conscious of the benefits on our mood.

Certainly, most of us have felt butterflies in the stomach when feeling nervous, or craved chocolate ice cream when feeling sad or frustrated, so we are somewhat aware of the influence of our mood in our stomach. However, we might not be conscious of the fact that the brain-stomach relationship is bidirectional: not only does our mind affect our appetite, but what we eat affects our way of thinking and our mood.

Our gut has been called “the second brain[1]” as it has more than 100 million neurons (as many as a cats brain), contains the same tissue and same neurotransmitters as the brain in our head. This multitude of neurons enables us to “feel” the inner world of our gut.

Our stomach and intestines are inhabited by trillions of bacteria, known as the gut-flora or gut-microbiota, which produce chemicals that stimulate our brain. Some of them contribute to relaxation and feelings of happiness while others can cause the pathology of anxiety or depression. Having said this, herein we shall classify such bacteria as friendly and unfriendly, rather than good or bad as it is the balance between the two sides that allow us to maintain a healthy mental and physical state.

Friendly bacteria are responsible for the production of vitamin B, amino acids and the short-chain fatty acids required to produce and distribute serotonin in our body. Serotonin – the neurotransmitter of happiness – controls the appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, mood, behaviour, cardiovascular function, muscle contraction, endocrine regulation, and more. Approximately 95% of the serotonin in our body is produced in our bowel.

Feeding our friendly bacteria is indispensable in boosting our mood. For this purpose it is recommended to consume whole foods, culinary herbs, prebiotics and probiotics, such as yogurt*.  In order to keep the balance of our gut-flora we should avoid food that contains artificial colours, sugar as one of the main ingredients and high-fructose corn syrup.

*Keep in mind that yogurts containing high amounts of sugars negate the benefits of probiotics.

We can also find serotonin in foods such as walnuts, plantains, pineapples, kiwis, plums, and tomatoes[2]. The transportation of serotonin through our body occurs thanks to an amino acid called Tryptophan. This component is most commonly found in carbohydrates (This is why our bodies crave sugar when we are upset), however it can also be found in turkey, bananas, milk, yogurt, eggs, meat, nuts, beans and fish, to name a few.

We should not forget; it is the balance of our microbiota which makes us healthy, that is, an excess of serotonin in our body is often counterproductive as an over-consumption of carbohydrates and sugars may lead to a decreased sensitivity to serotonin, resulting in a negative mood.

Choose wisely, remember that as long as you have control over your mind and your body, you are in control of your mood. Little changes can improve our quality of life tremendously.

[1] Byron Robinson, coined this term “Second brain” in 1907 in his book The Abdominal and Pelvic Brain.

[2] The America Journal of Clinic of nutrition. Serotonin content of foods: effect on urinary excretion of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid.


**If you want more information about this topic, check out some of the articles and papers where we sourced the information from.  Make sure every time you investigate about nutritional habits and diets you consult serious sources:

Carabotti. M, Scircco. A 2015 “The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems, Nacional Center of Biotechnology Information”. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/

Champeau,R. 2013. Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function. University of Callifornia. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/changing-gut-bacteria-through-245617

Emeran M The Biological Basis Of Mind Body Interactions Progress in Brain Research, Vol. 122, Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2000.

J M Feldman and  E M Lee, 1985. Serotonin content of foods: effect on urinary excretion of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid” The America Journal of Clinic of nutrition, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/42/4/639.abstract

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