Did you know that the human body contains 3 times more non-human than human cells? Not too comforting if you are squeamish right? The Human Microbiota refers to a collection of all of the microorganisms that reside on or in the body. Some have a good (mutualistic) relationship with us, some a non-harmful co-existence (commensal), and some are pathogenic (harmful).
It has been known for years that our brain influences what is going on with our gut. It is a well know fact that stress and anxiety tends to worsen symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). More research is surfacing to confirm that this is actually a two way street. 60% of people with functional GI disorders suffer from depression and anxiety. It is interesting to note that a common treatment of depression (SSRI's) are also sometimes used to treat IBS. Just as stress/anxiety can worsen symptoms, changes in our microbiota can influence our mental health. The reason for this is that our gut bacteria produces the majority of our beneficial neurotransmitters/hormones such as;
Serotonin- Responsible for our sense of well being and happiness (90% made in the gut)
Dopamine- Controls our brain's pleasure and reward centers (50% made in the gut)
Melatonin- Involved in sleep regulation (400x more in the gut than the brain)
It has also been discovered that some of our beneficial gut bacteria increases GABA receptors in the brain. This is a good thing since low numbers of GABA have been associated with many mood disorders.
So how does nutrition effect all of this? Everything we eat either feeds the good or bad bacteria in our gut. Things like refined sugars feed the bad bacteria and gets our balance all out of wack. This can decrease the production of our feel good neurotransmitters and hence negatively impact our mood. But even if your diet has been less than good to our friendly little guys below, there is still time to show them you care.
1. Cut out refined sugars and carbohydrates. Add more complex carbohydrates.
2. Add fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, pickles etc.
3. Add more plant based meals.
4. Add more antimicrobial foods like garlic and grapefruit seed extract to rid your gut of harmful microorganisms.
5. Supplement with a good quality probiotic.
6. Remember- health is all about the bigger picture so decrease stress and increase sleep, exercise, water, and meditation!
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Lucy is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Personal Trainer with a thirst for good food, fitness, cats, travel and adventure!