Do you ever feel like you are in a slump and can’t seem to get out of it? You may find yourself unmotivated, unproductive, or even unable to summon the physical or mental strength to carry out the most basic tasks. We’ve all been there, and we know how frustrating it can be.
What is even more frustrating is trying to figure out what made you feel this way in the first place. After all, there are a number of things that can impact your mood. Sometimes, the triggers are obvious, such as a recent traumatic event or burnout from a busy schedule of work or school. But other times, finding the culprit isn’t that easy.
One of the most commonly overlooked causes is your gut health. It may sound a little far-fetched, but it’s true. Gut health plays a large role in cognitive functions like concentration, memory, and especially mood. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the gut to be referred to as the “second brain.”
So how exactly does what is happening in your gut affect what you feel? It all comes down to the gut-brain axis.
The Gut-Brain Axis
Your gut and brain are connected both physically and biochemically, and this connection is referred to as the gut-brain axis. It’s common to think that this connection means that the brain has an impact on gut health and function. And that’s true. However, this connection is bidirectional, which means that your gut also affects specific brain functions, such as memory and mood balance.
Specifically, the gut can impact your mood through either the physical connection to the brain or the biochemical one. Let’s take a closer look at how they both work.
Vagus Nerve: The Physical Connection
Your gut contains millions of neurons. These neurons connect the gut and brain together through the nerves in your nervous system. The largest of these nerves, and arguably most important, is the Vagus nerve.
The Vagus nerve sends signals both ways, which is important for a variety of functions from gut motility to the secretion of digestive enzymes. This crucial nerve also serves as a connection between the gut and the brain through the parasympathetic nervous system. Without getting too technical, this connection allows the gut and the brain to send stress signals to each other. So when the gut is in a state of dysbiosis, it sends stress signals to your brain, which ultimately affects your mood.
Neurotransmitters: The Biochemical Connection
Your gut and brain are also connected biochemically through neurotransmitters. When it comes to your mood, the two neurotransmitters that are most important in this connection are serotonin and Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA).
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter (and hormone) that acts directly in the brain to regulate functions like mood, appetite, and even sleep cycles. More than 90% of the serotonin in the body comes from the gut. Because of this, a healthy gut helps ensure that your body’s serotonin demands are met, equating to positive effects on your mood and other cognitive functions.
GABA, on the other hand, is a neurotransmitter that helps keep the nervous system calm and stops or reduces stress reactions in the body. How does this relate to the gut? It’s actually pretty amazing. There are certain strains of probiotics that can produce GABA for your body to use in addition to what it makes naturally. So the healthier your gut microbiome is, the more probiotics there are to produce GABA.
Ways to Improve Your Gut Health and Mood
Now that you understand how your gut affects your mood, you are probably wondering if there is anything you can do to improve your gut health . You can! Here are a few simple habits that can make all the difference.
1. Cut out processed foods.Processed food affects the function of gut microbiota, which will ultimately impact your mood. So cutting processed foods out of your diet and replacing them with whole foods that are rich in nutrients will ultimately improve your gut health, mood, and mental clarity.
2. Stay hydrated. Making sure you are staying properly hydrated is also extremely important for a healthy gut as hydration promotes proper digestion and improves gut motility. The amount of water you need to drink to stay hydrated varies from person to person, but aiming to consume at least half your body weight in ounces every day is a good place to start.
3. Stay active. Having healthy colonies of good bacteria in your digestive tract is crucial to normal and optimal gut function. One way to enhance the size of these bacteria colonies in your gut microbiome is through regular exercise. As a bonus, staying active will also directly improve your mood by promoting the release of neurotransmitters like endorphins.
4. Add probiotics to your diet. Probiotics are a collection of bacteria that live in your digestive tract and help regulate gut health. They can be found in common foods such as yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, and sourdough bread. The best way to ensure you are seeding your gut with these beneficial bacteria daily though is to incorporate a probiotic supplement into your daily routine.
5. Boost your nutrient intake with organic Wild Microalgae®. Just like the rest of your body, your gut needs nutrients to function optimally. So boosting your daily nutrient intake with a superfood like organic Wild Microalgae will do wonders for your gut health and mood. This rare form of blue-green algae is packed with nutrients, including all 20 standard amino acids, 13 different vitamins, essential fatty acids, and over 63 trace minerals. Additionally, it has antioxidants, phytopigments, and even phenylethylamine (PEA) which is a natural mood enhancer.
Do you want to learn more on how to improve your own gut health?
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