Have you ever had a “gut feeling” about something? Or feel butterflies in your stomach when you are nervous? What about losing your appetite after getting into an argument with a friend?
These are just a few of the ways your brain and gut are connected – physically, mentally, and emotionally. In fact, the nerves surrounding your digestive system (the enteric nervous system) make up a significant portion of your overall nervous system. They are so integral to our body’s functioning that the enteric nervous system is dubbed “the second brain.”
Here, we’ll explore this intricate connection between the brain and gut and learn how it impacts your energy and mental health. Then, we’ll cover Dr. Danielle’s best tips for maintaining a healthy gut-brain axis and favorite good-mood foods!
Exploring the Gut-Brain Axis
While ancient healing systems (like Chinese medicine and Ayurveda) have long understood the connection between the gut and our overall health, modern research is now shedding light on how important the gut-brain connection really is. Recent studies show that a complex communication system called the gut-brain axis (GBA) connects the brain, spinal cord, and the enteric nervous system (a network of over 500 million neurons located in the gut).
The gut-brain axis is directly connected via the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve originates from the spinal cord and descends to the digestive tract where it coordinates all kinds of internal organ functions, such as digestion, heart rate, respiratory rate, coughing, sneezing, swallowing, and vomiting. Research shows that the vagus nerve is the main component of the gut-brain axis and irregularities here could contribute to psychological disorders and mood imbalances.
The main takeaway about the gut-brain axis is that it is a bi-directional road of communication. That means that messages from the brain can influence the digestive system, and vice versa; what’s happening in the digestive system can change the way our brain works.
What does this mean for our mental health? When we are stressed, anxious, or struggling with other mood imbalances, it’s likely that our digestive system will feel the effects. We might notice changes in bowel movements, appetite, or even the development of digestive disorders. Similarly, if we have imbalances in our digestive system, it can lead to mood swings, depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions.
The Role of the Microbiome and Mood
Along with the nerves of the enteric nervous system themselves, the gut microbiome also plays a role in our mood balance.
The microbiome is the vast community of trillions of bacteria that live in the gut. Unlike the “bad” bacteria you get from eating spoiled food or having an infection, these “good” bacteria are helpful to us. They allow us to digest our food, produce energy, promote healthy hormone balance, and maintain a healthy immune system. Because of the gut-brain axis, they also influence our brain and mood health.
Unfortunately, many people struggle to strike the right balance of bacteria in their guts. When the microbiome is imbalanced, the production of certain neurotransmitters such as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) slows down. GABA is a calming neurotransmitter that is required for good mental health. Without enough, we start to feel stressed or anxious.
Gut Feelings: What Causes Gut-Brain Mood Imbalances?
Low microbiome diversity
Ideally, we would have a rich and diverse microbiome to support our brain, immune, and endocrine systems. Unfortunately, our diets are less diverse than they used to be, which leads to lower diversity in the gut. Research reveals that those with lower microbiome diversity are more likely to experience mood issues like depression and anxiety.
Harmful bacteria in the gut
While most gut bacteria help us, some strains can cause more harm than good. In many cases, these harmful strains take over the gut and outnumber good bacteria. This leads to a condition called dysbiosis – a common culprit of poor digestion and mental health issues. mental health issues.
A poor diet that lacks vitamins, minerals, fiber, and probiotics leads to inflammation and a weak microbiome. Processed foods, alcohol, and smoking all reduce the power of the gut even further. The result is poor digestion, hormone imbalances, and a range of physical and mental health conditions.
How to Improve Your Mood with Food
#1 - Eat a diet that supports gut health!
The first step to improving your gut health is focusing on the right foods. First, start cutting out as many processed foods, refined sugars, chemicals and additives from your diet as possible. Then replace them with gut-healing foods that have anti-inflammatory, high-nutrient properties. Eat a wide range of foods to improve the diversity of your gut flora. Not sure where to start? Consider adding these foods into your daily diet:
- A wide range of colorful vegetables
- Antioxidant fruits like berries and citrus fruits
- Nuts and seeds
- Spices and herbs
- High-fiber whole grains
- Lean meats and fatty fish
#2 - Incorporate prebiotics and probiotics.
The next step to healing your gut is by giving your microbiome the key resources it needs to thrive. This means feeding it with prebiotics, and supporting a healthy microbiome balance with probiotics.
Prebiotics are fuel for your gut bacteria. Usually made of dietary fiber, these nutrients help give healthy gut bacteria the nourishment they need to thrive. Find prebiotics in bananas, apples, asparagus, jicama, flaxseed, garlic, and onions.
Probiotics are live bacteria cultures that help build up the good bacteria in your gut and support a healthy, diverse balance. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, miso, and kombucha.
It’s difficult to get enough probiotics in your diet to make any significant changes in your gut health. That’s why we recommend Dr. Danielle’s Spore-Based Broad-Spectrum Probiotic. These capsules contain Bacillus strains – stable probiotic bacteria that can endure stomach acid and thrive in the intestines. This probiotic supports many GI complaints, including bloating, constipation, gas, and diarrhea.
If you are struggling with leaky gut syndrome, GutAssist can help. This formula helps protect your gut against daily issues like stress, food particles, toxins, drugs, and pathogens. It supports your gut health from the root by promoting microflora and healing the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract (GI) to prevent further leaking.
#4 - Improve your mood from the root with JoyAssist.
If you believe your gut troubles stem first from nervous system imbalances and mental health struggles, Dr. Danielle’s JoyAssist can help. JoyAssist is a plant-based anxiety and depression supplement that gives your brain and body holistic mood support. By providing the essential nutrients your gut and brain need to communicate well, JoyAssist sets the stage for better mood balance and happier days.
Ready to Restore Your Gut-Brain Balance?
When your gut and brain are out of balance, you simply don’t feel like yourself. Restore healthy communication through your gut-brain axis with good mood foods and support from Dr. Danielle’s line of all-natural, holistic supplements for digestive wellness and mood balance.