The gut health and mood connection
Discover how your gut health affects mood and well-being
Your gut is home to trillions of microbes! Research shows that this community of microbes – your gut microbiome – affects our physical health, mental health and mood.
In fact, what we eat has major effect on the gut microbes themselves and how they communicate with our brain. This, in turn, influences how we think and feel.
Read on to discover how gut health is related to mental health, and ways to improve your gut microbiome health.
How your gut microbiome influences your mood
Did you know we live in a close relationship with the trillions of microbes in our gut? We feed them and in return they produce molecules our brain and body need to help us feel our best.
Our gut microbiome outnumber our other cells and genetic materials, and can produce hundreds of different molecules that influence our brain.
Consequently, our gut microbiome ‘has something to say’ when it comes to our physical and mental health.
Because research shows that our gut microbiome has a direct effect on how we feel. What we eat and do, in turn, affects our gut microbiome, which gives us a unique opportunity to profoundly affect our mental health through our diet and lifestyle.
For example, says Dinan at Cork University:
“We feed the microbes, but different bacteria have different dietary requirements. Bifidobacteria, for example, are enhanced by the intake of complex carbohydrates.”
How can our gut affect our brain and mood?
Gut microbes communicate directly with the brain, e.g. via:
- The vagus nerve.
- Production of messenger molecules including tryptophan (the building block for the ‘happy molecule’ serotonin).
- The immune system.
- Gut microbes change in depression and is less diverse than in healthy people
- When introducing gut microbes from a depressed patient into rats, the animals started to show depression-like behaviors
- For example, Bifidobacterium (B. longum 1714) reduces anxiety and lowers cortisol, the main stress hormone
- What we eat has a massive effect on the type and variety of microbes in our gut, and how these microbes behave
- Poor diet increases your risk of depression while gut friendly foods can improve your mood
In fact, it’s possible to calm your mind with food that nourishes a healthy microbiome.
Which gut bacteria can affect anxiety and mood?
Scientists show that certain microbes can help increase levels of serotonin and GABA, which are molecules (neurotransmitters) that play a role in mood and mental health.
- Clostridium ramosum has been implicated in boosting the ‘happy molecule’ serotonin
- Bacteria, such as Streptococcus, Enterococcus, and Escherichia, can also synthesize serotonin
- Several types of Bifidobacterium species are shown to be helpful allies in the quest against anxiety
- Microbes such as Lactobacillus species (L. plantarum) can regulate tryptophan levels, an essential precursor to serotonin
- Bacteria that produce GABA, a neurotransmitter molecule linked to anxiety, include Lactobacillus brevis
Ways to improve gut microbiome health
The good news is that if we take care of our gut health and the trillions of microbes in our gut, they will take care of us. Because a healthy gut microbiome is linked to better mood and mental health.
Boosting your wellbeing with gut healthy foods and meals can work wonders. For instance try to:
- Eat fermented probiotic foods such as kefir, kimchi and kombucha
- Think ‘variety’ and include different fish, nuts, fruits and veggies, and switch them up regularly
- Limit ultra-processed and high-sugar foods
- Follow a Mediterranean-style, high fiber diet
- Move your body and try to get regular exercise
Your well-being and the trillions of microbes in your gut will thank you, because the gut microbiome really does affect mental health and mood.
NOTE: This does not constitute medical advice. Seek advice from a healthcare professional as needed
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Sources and further reading
How do gut microbes influence mental health? – Dinan – 2022 – Trends in Urology & Men’s Health – Wiley Online Library
The gut microbiota and mental health in adults – ScienceDirect
Alleviate Anxiety With These 5 Microbes | GUTXY