The Brain-Gut Connection

Have you ever noticed how food choices can affect mood? We have! We continuously see clients have improved energy, mood & sleep once they begin to change lifestyle habits. It is amazing how different behaviors can affect our body in such drastic ways. How can this be, & why should you care? It all ties back to our gut health. The healthier our gut, the better we feel, which is something we can all get behind.  

You may remember from our previous blog post; we discussed both the gut microbiome (the bacteria colonies and their environment) & the enteric nervous system (the part of our nervous system that impacts how we think and feel) & how they both have potential capabilities in impacting mental health. To explain, researchers are currently studying how certain gut microbes may be more indicated in people who suffer from anxiety & depression. To explain a bit more, basically we have “good” microbes & “bad” microbes. Ideally, we want a higher ratio of good microbes compared to bad. This research is incredibly fascinating, but once again, why should we care? We should care because our lifestyle habits can strongly influence the ratio of good to bad microbes in our gut, which ultimately influences how we feel.  

You may have heard of serotonin in the past – serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood, perception, reward, anger, memory and more. In fact, about 95% of serotonin is made in the gut. This alone suggests the strong connection between your gut and brain. 

Okay so here’s something that is medium gross, but a wildly fascinating example of how our gut microbiome and its ability to create serotonin can impact mental health: To treat c. diff, which is a truly horrific gut infection, strong antibiotics are prescribed. If these don’t work, the next step is to do a fecal transplant, which is exactly what it sounds like: taking poop from a healthy donor and placing it in the colon of the infected person. That’s the gross part. But the fascinating part is that it’s been seen that if the donor was depressed the recipient can become depressed, even if the recipient has never had a history of depression. Our microbiome has that strong of an influence on our mood and mental health. 

Can’t wait to dig WAY more into this when the course drops this spring!

-Alex Grbcich, MS, RD, LD, CPT

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