By Monica van de Weerd

Good mood food - Gut health and our feelings.

Who would have thought it? The key to your mood is in your gut? Happiness is a happy gut.

Not so many years ago, we didn’t give much thought, let alone love, to our gut. Then more and more research and science started pointing to the gut as a source of much more than digestion and bodily functions.

Some of the most intriguing findings are the role, the working relationship, between the gut and the brain.

How do the gut and brain work together?

The brain is hungry for information. And the gut is a terrific and chatty source for how the rest of the body, on the whole, is doing.

Our gut knows stuff! It knows all the molecules from our food and hydration. It has the inside track on ⅔ of our immune system, it knows what 100 trillion (yes, trillion! with a ‘t’) bacteria are up to and creates its own ‘content’ by producing around 20 hormones.  Studies show that gut bacteria is related to various states of mental health [1].

There’s a direct line between the gut and the brain that transmits all this data and more. Back and forth, back and forth throughout our day.

The two hour test

Ask yourself some simple questions.

A useful technique to start to understand how food and drink can affect your mood is to take the two hour test.

It takes your gut two to three hours to process food and send it into our bloodstream. Once in your blood it’s dispatched to the far flung reaches of your body including the most remote region - your brain.

The idea of the test is to monitor how you feel two to three hours after eating. Ask yourself some questions and keep track over time and after certain foods.

How is my mental energy?

Can I easily concentrate or am I distracted?

Am I feeling more or less ‘at ease’?

Am I energised or lethargic or something in-between?

Am I feeling high, low or something in-between?

By keeping tabs on yourself after eating, you can start to make informed decisions on what foods work for you. It’s not a perfect science and it's prone to many outside forces but overtime you’ll be able to home in on the foods that build your mood and those that diminish your mood.

Nutritional psychiatry
The idea of your gut affecting your mood has given rise to many new avenues of research and study. It’s also seen the development of a new field of mental health management - nutritional psychiatry (read more about it through this linked article).

Nutritional psychiatry explores ‘the clinical consideration of prescriptive dietary modification or improvement, and/or the select judicious use of nutrient-based supplementation to prevent or manage psychiatric disorders’ [2].
The connection between nutrition and our psyche is a bold new frontier in mental health. It’s always heartening to have your assumptions about good eating backed up through real world rigour and testing. It has been the Supercharged Food ethos since 2010, to help make deliciously healthy food not only easy to create but celebrate good food’s many holistic benefits.

Lee Holmes, clinical nutritionist and founder of Supercharged Food, says “In my clinical experience I’m being asked, more than ever, for nutritional advice and plans for a wide range of health conditions including mental health and mood. My patients have the best success when they take a holistic approach to their moods and feelings. Food and hydration is certainly part of that holistic, whole-of-body way to overall health.”

Legal! Mood altering chemicals found in the gut!

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. About 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract [3].

That’s great to know but how can we help our gut produce more of this good stuff and dispose of the bad stuff?

The answer is good bacteria. These little soldiers of health protect the lining of your intestines and provide a strong barrier against toxins and "bad" bacteria; they limit inflammation; they improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food; and they activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain.[4]

To get more of the good bacteria flourishing you need to do (at least) these two things.

  1. Eat well, balanced, natural foods. Mostly vegetables, fruits and nuts. Reduce meat intake and drastically reduce processed food. Lee Holmes (clinical nutritionist and founder of Supercharged Food) has a vegetarian cookbook that’s a great way to get more green in your life.
  2. Create a good gut environment. Ensure your gut is clean and toned with a healthy alkalinity. We can carry up to 3 kilos of undiscarded waste in our guts, which inhibits good bacteria from doing its job.

Consuming more fibre in your diet is key. Supercharged Food’s ‘Love your gut’ range was created by Lee to help her, well, love her gut as a means to treat her own health conditions. The Love Your Gut powder and capsules and Fulvic Humic concentrate, for example, all help to remove discarded waste and create a healthy alkaline environment in the body.

Research links
[1] Gut Bacteria Can Influence Your Mood, Thoughts, and Brain
[2], {3], [4] Nutritional Psychiatry: From Concept to the Clinic

Written by Lee Holmes: Supercharged Food.

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