The phrase ‘You Are What You Eat’ can be clearly shown through the connection between gut environment and your mood with a term titled the Gut-Brain Axis. Eating foods that contain chemical additives, are over processed, or that cause an inflammatory response in the body can increase our risk of diseases such as anxiety, melancholy and depression.

Serotonin is the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter known for its ability to improve mood and lift melancholy and depression. Serotonin is more known as a brain chemical. However, did you know that 90% of Serotonin is produced in the gut through intestinal flora (pre and probiotics). The gut produces Serotonin to help maintain gut motility through the migrating motor complex. This complex is a key player in preventing intestinal infections such as SIBO, Candida, and Parasites. Serotonin can also work together with the gut flora to regulate blood sugar levels and moderate carbohydrate intake.

Damage to the intestinal flora through inflammation or infection can lead to an increased permeability of intestinal mucosa (lining of the intestine). This can also express itself as inflammatory bowel disease, bloating, food sensitivities and chronic neuroinflammation which can be a major part of mental illness.

The Vagus nerve is another key player in the Gut-Brain Axis. Chronic stress can lead our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) to be suppressed by a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). Specific breathing techniques such as Diaphragmatic Breathing or Yogic Breathing have scientifically demonstrated an ability to stimulate the Vagus nerve to promote relaxation and calm. In all, nutritional interventions, anti-inflammatory diets and stress management techniques are important aspects in a multifactorial approach for patients experiencing a poor Gut-Brain Axis connection.

Dr. Allison Ronda ND

References

Browning KN, Verneijden S, Boeckxstaens GE. (2017). The vagus nerve in appetite regulation, mood, and intestinal inflammation. Gastroenterology 152(4), 730-744.

Streeter CC, Gerbarg PL, Saper RB, Ciraulo DA, Brown RP. (2012). Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical Hypotheses 78(5), 571-579.

Mörkl S, Wagner-skacel J, Lahousen T, Lackner S, Holasek SJ, Bengesser SA, Painold A, Holl AK, Reninghaus FZ. (2018). The role of nutrition and the gut-brain axis in psychiatry: A review of the literature. Neuropsychobiology. Https://doi.org/10.1159/000492834

by Jon McDonell, R.Ac

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