The surprising link between your microbiome and mood
Did you know there is a close connection between your gut microbiome and your mood? It turns out that the secrets to your emotional well-being may well lie within your microbiome. The microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms that live in and on your body, including your gut. And it is essential to your overall health.
Of course health and nutrition are age-old topics but the powerful link between our microbiome, mood and food has only just emerged.
So, what links your microbiome and your mood?
Research reveals that the health of your gut microbiome can directly impact your mood and mental well-being.
This is because your gut communicates with your brain through what’s known as the gut-brain axis. When your gut bacteria are balanced and diverse, they help produce beneficial compounds such as hormones and neurotransmitters. What’s more, your microbiome helps regulate inflammation and immunity, all of which help regulate your mood.
For example, bacteria in your gut help produce serotonin, GABA and dopamine. These powerful molecules send signals to our brain and influence how we think and feel.
Tryptophan is a building block for serotonin – the happy molecule which boosts our mood and sleep
GABA is a calming molecule which, if missing or reduced, is associated with anxiety and depression
Dopamine is associated with pleasure and satisfaction, as well as motivation
The sheer number of microbes points to their power. Cells in our microbiome out-number human cells by 10 to 1, and they communicate with our brains and the rest of our bodies, 24/7!
“Undoubtedly, our gut microbes play a role in health” – Dinan, 2022
In addition, the speed with which our gut microbes respond to different foods indicates the powerful link between our gut microbiome, food and mood.
Only 3–4 days after changing your diet, your gut microbiome will change too! Specifically, the type and variety of bacteria, as well as the molecules they help produce.
As a result, can diet help improve our gut microbiome and mood?
Prof Dinan shares advice based on two decades exploring the link between our gut microbiome and mood. His findings are backed by scientists across the world: The more varied our microbiome, the healthier we tend to be.
In essence, consider these simple guidelines to help improve your gut microbiome:
Eat a variety of plants a week to your diet, e.g.:
– Vegetables and fruit
– Herbs and spices
– Beans and lentils
Prepare your own food
– Meal prepping, in bulk, helps!
Add fermented foods (I looooove kefir – drinking or as a mask – as it has made a big difference to my rosacea and acne-prone skin)
Choose lean meats or fish if you eat animal protein
Eat less processed foods
Keep red meat to a minimum
Reducing stress and cortisol (the main stress hormone) can benefit your microbiome!
NOTE: This does not constitute medical advice. Seek advice from a healthcare professional as needed
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Sources & further reading
How do gut microbes influence mental health? – Dinan – 2022 – Trends in Urology & Men’s Health – Wiley Online Library
The Gut’s Microbiome Changes Rapidly with Diet – Scientific American
Human gut microbiome composition and tryptophan metabolites were changed differently by fast food and Mediterranean diet in 4 days: a pilot study – ScienceDirect