Improving Mood via the Gut and Brain

Gut health could be connected to feelings of happiness.

A young woman is eating a gut-healthy breakfast of yogurt with fruit.

(New Africa /

The feelings you have in your mind are not just in your head. They actually originate deep down in your gut, according to Mindful, with the gut-brain axis connecting mind and the microbiome. You may enjoy better moods, a sharper, more focused mind, resilience, and a sense of calm by simply improving your gut health.

This gut-brain axis is illustrated as a “phone line” connecting your gut and brain. This line communicates to the brain from three areas: the immune system, the endocrine system, and the nervous system. So if you are feeling foggy or are having trouble focusing for long periods of time, it could be a long-distance call from your gut leaving you a special message!

Most of your body’s neurotransmitters and immune system reside in your gut. In fact, up to 90 percent of the serotonin in your body is created in your gut by a collection of healthy bacteria in your microbiome, according to Healthline. Serotonin is important as it affects mood, appetite, your response to stress, and more.

Your gut is calling
There are 100 million nerve cells lining your gut, according to Psychology Today, and when they are out of balance, they send an emergency SOS call to your brain via your mood. If you have ever experienced severe mood swings while taking antibiotics, you have received a signal from your gut. People who have irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases are also prone to mood disorders, a message that their gut may need repair.

In fact, in the early 20th century, British clinician George Porter Phillips noticed that many of his patients with melancholia also suffered from severe constipation, as reported by The BBC. Making a connection between mood and the microbiome, Phillips gave his patients kefir, a drink that is rich in a friendly microbe that eases digestion. The majority showed complete improvement, while the others felt significantly better.

Research continues to this day, with exciting discoveries being made in the field of mental health. A study from July, 2021, published in the World Journal of Psychiatry, examined the amino acid glutamate and depression. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and is being studied to help treat anxiety, social withdrawal, and depression. When the glutamate pathway from the gut to the brain is restored, there is hope that further advances can be made to heal mood disorders.

Maximize mood with healthy food
As food is mood, focus on good mood foods! These include eating lots of fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in polyphenols, according to Blue Zones. When polyphenols are in the gut, they are converted into fuel. Dark chocolate, green tea, blueberries, broccoli, red grapes, and almonds are a few good choices.

Avoid sugary foods and processed foods as these can throw off your gut. Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly can also help remove problematic bacteria and lead to a healthier gut. Be sure to also include fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir, recommends Healthline.

When you next plan meals, keep in mind that your food choices help heal body, mind, and mood. Research is advancing, especially when it comes to glutamate therapies, and the good news is that people’s ability to thrive mentally can actually start by opening the fridge! Choose a healthy food to clear a blocked gut-brain axis and help instill calm, clarity, and happiness.

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