The brain-gut connection
“I just have this gut feeling” or “I feel butterflies in my stomach”. Sound familiar? These are common expressions and yet it shows a deep connection between our brain, our gut and our emotions.
The food we eat can either nurture us or damage us. It depends on the quality of the diet you follow. Everything we eat affects our body, our gut, our blood, our cells and how our organs work, including our brain and our emotions.
What we eat matters because our gut directly affects our brain. According to the Harvard Health Blog, “There is anatomical and physiologic two-way communication between the gut and brain via the vagus nerve. The gut-brain axis offers us a greater understanding of the connection between diet and disease, including depression and anxiety.” Read more here
The bike messenger
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter of the brain. Like a bike messenger, serotonin delivers messages from one part of the brain to another.
It has many functions in the body, including your bowel function, it affects your appetite and also your sleep. It’s also the “happiness messenger”! It’s the feel-good chemical in your body that regulates your mood.
Normal levels of serotonin keep you balanced but if they are not in balance certain issues can start to occur like depression or anxiety.
Pretty important neurotransmitter right? Well…did you know that 90% of serotonin receptors are located in your gut? Yes, in your gut!
Food choices matter
By choosing a balanced and nutritious diet you can take care of your gut which takes care of your brain, which leads to proper emotional health.
Nutritious Food -> healthy gut -> proper brain function (good levels of serotonin) = Happy and emotionally healthy you!
7 Ways to improve your emotional health
Here are 7 ways you can start taking care of your emotional health through diet and other aspects that have an impact:
1. Proper Blood sugar levels:
Dips in your blood sugar levels can make you feel tired, uninspired and irritable. To be able to avoid the lows, make sure you eat foods that take longer to metabolized like nuts and whole grains that are rich in fiber. Also make sure you don’t skip any meals.
2. Exercise regularly:
It’s important to move every day because it increases the endorphins production which are mood-lifters and it also increases serotonin levels.
Drinking proper amounts of water every day helps cognitive performance and also your mood. “When dehydration reduces body mass by more than 2%, it has been consistently reported that mood is influenced, fatigue is greater, and alertness is lower.” Read more about this study.
4. Good fats:
They are a big source of energy and are required for many functions in the body. Good fats are used for optimum nerve, brain and heart function. Some good sources are salmon, avocado and olive oil, but feel free to include other options.
5. Proper protein intake:
Amino acids help your brain’s function as well. Amino acids like tryptophan, tyrosine, phenylalanine are precursors for serotonin. You can find these amino acids in proteins like salmon, eggs, spinach, nuts and seeds, among others.
6. Eat your veggies:
You probably heard your mom say this a million times but let me tell you, she was right! The nutrients found in vegetables and fruits are essential for your body’s proper function like vitamins, minerals and fiber that promote positive mood and it reduces your risk of getting diseases like cancer, heart issues and diabetes. And if you want to take it a bit further, according to a study done by the department of psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand, ”intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables”
7. Get plenty of sleep:
Sleep deprived people are more prone to health issues like diabetes, obesity and depression. It can also make you more irritable and more prone to poor decision-making. Certain vitamins and minerals help with the production of melatonin like magnesium, calcium, complex-B and of course tryptophan (also a precursor of serotonin). To be able to sleep better make sure to include dairy products, fish and leafy greens, among others.
Making small and steady changes is key to achieve better emotional health. Be aware that to see lasting results it takes time so your body adapts and resets. Be patient, be consistent and keep at it!
Want to improve your emotional health through food? Sign up for a free health coaching consultation with me.