By Caitlin Alfano, Long Island University Dietetics
Have you ever noticed that your mood can vastly improve after eating, especially something healthy and filling? One trendy area of research is studying the connection between our moods, and our gut health. While there may be many internal parts of the body between the gut and the brain, there is a unique cranial nerve called the “vagus nerve” that connects the two. An unpleasant transmittance through the vagus nerve is why one might feel an upset stomach during moments of high stress.
Brain and Gut Connection
An integral part of our gut is called the “gut microbiome”. The gut microbiome is also commonly known as the “second brain,” due to it being the only organ in the human body to have an independent, functional nervous system. Within the gut microbiome, our gut bacteria are incredibly efficient at regulating food digestion, extracting vitamins and minerals, and boosting our immune system. Gut bacteria are our important little helpers, producing an abundance of neurochemicals for the brain. We need these chemicals to enhance our ability to learn, heighten memorization, and stabilize our mood. A primary chemical for stabilizing mood may be one you’ve heard of, serotonin.
Fun fact: Did you know that the bacteria in your gut makes up 95% of your serotonin production! Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical that helps the brain and body communicate. Serotonin is helpful in regulating our sleep and relaxation, and is made from an amino acid called tryptophan, which the ALOHA team are big fans of. Tryptophan is found in protein rich foods such as fish, chicken, poultry, eggs, cheese, soy products, nuts and seeds. Our ALOHA plant-based protein bars not only have a healthy amount of carbs to help absorb tryptophan, but also 14 grams of pea protein and brown rice protein to give you as much you need!
When our gut health is compromised it's unable to produce serotonin; this can cause fatigue, low self-esteem, insomnia, and irritation. Our team at ALOHA is here to help you avoid that
The Role of Bacteria on Our Mood
In our gastrointestinal system there are hundreds of millions of neurons and bacteria that are critical for our health and mood. When the gut is compromised, it will affect these neurons’ ability to respond to internal body movements, changing the molecular structure of the bacteria themselves. This alteration in bacteria affects the body's ability to regulate hormones, intake vitamins, and use minerals efficiently. This all heavily impacts our mood, so maintaining gut health through a healthy diet is key. Remember we talked about our gut microbiomes? A plant-based diet is known to increase the diversity of your gut microbiome through healthy fibers and prebiotics. ALOHA’s team listens to our guts and yours; with our products containing up to 10 grams of plant-based, dietary fiber with prebiotics in high supply.
Prebiotics are a great way to make sure the body has an abundant diversity of healthy bacteria. Not only does consuming certain foods help our gut ecosystem; some studies have found that strains of prebiotic bacteria can reduce symptoms of depression! Just like you, your gut bacteria need food to sustain energy and regulate emotion. Having a balanced diet (we recommend plant-based) containing prebiotics will very much help in regulating your mood. Read below to find four ways to improve your overall mood.
3 Ways To Eat To Improve Your Overall Mood
- Eat prebiotic rich foods: Think fibrous foods: such as beans, onions, fruits, vegetables, and grains.
- Reduce sugar intake. Sugar can negatively affect your balance of healthy gut bacteria and therefore affect your mood. ALOHA’s low sugar protein bars never exceed more than just 5 grams of sugar.
- Practice mindful eating! That means taking time to sit and enjoy your meal at the table. Take time to appreciate the food, and how every moment and bite improves your mood.
Author: Caitlin Alfano
Caitlin Alfano is currently a dietitian working in Long Island University's dietetics program. She holds two bachelor's degrees in exercise science and nutrition and is pursuing a masters degree in clinical nutrition. Caitlin is also a certified personal trainer and is passionate about overall health and wellness.