The surprising connection between your gut and mental health
Researchers have spent years studying the brain trying to make sense of mental illnesses, but scientists are now investigating the stomach’s connection to mental health.
While studying mice, a team of international researchers discovered that probiotic bacteria in the gut with anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties could send signals to the brain through a nerve pathway.
“The gut can act as a ‘gatekeeper’ for information flowing from microbes in the intestine to the brain. This new sensory relay provides an attractive novel target for developing new treatments for psychiatric mood disorders,” said Wolfgang Kunze, principal investigator for the study, in a statement, which was published in the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology.
As more evidence uncovers the power of the gut on mental health, eating a diet that promotes healthy bacteria could become even more important. According to a Harvard University study, in just one day your diet can change which microorganisms — such as probiotics — are in your stomach.
“Ninety-nine percent of the body’s neurotransmitter serotonin, associated with creating a calming effect on the body and mind, resides in the gut versus only 1 percent in the brain,” says Nancy Moran, a registered dietician at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Illinois. “The bacteria in the gut helps produce nutrients the body needs for health.”
Moran offers these guidelines for a healthy gut:
- Eat more fermented foods such as kefir, yogurt, pickles and sauerkraut. They have live, active bacteria called probiotics which helps replace gut bacteria.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods contain fiber which is a food for the good bacteria.
- Avoid excess sugar. Sugar feeds the unhealthy bacteria, allowing it to over grow into portions of the intestines where it does not belong and take over the area where the healthy bacterium belongs.
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