How many of you reading this piece have some, a few, or a lot of these symptoms?
• Bloating, gas, flatulence
• Difficulty digesting your food
• Abdominal discomfort after eating
• Intolerance to some foods
• Brain fog
• Chronic fatigue
• Poor memory
• Poor concentration
These are just some of the symptoms that may be linked to your mood. What if i told you that some of these symptoms, while yes, they are gut symptoms and indicators that your digestive system is out of balance, they can also be viewed as indicators of the state of your brain health. When you think about it, we associate mood with how we are feeling and thinking, which happens in our brain, right?
Now let’s talk about the gut-brain axis, the link that exists between the gut and our brain. This highway of bi-directional messaging directly between the gut and the brain is called the vagus nerve. The health status of the vagus nerve has a direct influence on communication between the brain and the gut. A weak messaging system means unclear messages delivered, leading to dysregulated outcomes. In our brain, that can manifest as poor memory, brain fog, poor concentration. In the gut, symptoms like bloating, gas abdominal cramps, constipation, diarrhoea, food intolerances may present. The health of one impacts and indicates the health of the other, and vice versa. In other words, if the gut health is dysregulated, there are implications that brain health is also dysregulated. If you have gut symptoms, the chances are you may recognise some of your symptoms to be connected with your brain. What if you notice some symptoms of brain health e.g. Headaches, brain fog, difficulties with concentration and/or memory? Can you spot any gut symptoms e.g. Constipation, bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort. Have you been aware of the connection between the symptoms or just observed them as separate?
Like all machines, the body needs the correct high-quality raw materials to operate on an daily basis, and to ‘last a lifetime.’ the body is a complex web of different biological systems that work interdependently with each other. These include the digestive system, the liver (detoxification), immune system (the protective army), communication system (hormones, delivering and passing on messages), circulatory system (blood, delivering nutrients and oxygen), nervous system (brain, spine, nerves, gut), structural (bones, muscles, tendons). Dysregulation in one system impacts several of the other systems. Added to that, there is our genetic makeup, which contributes to our biochemical individuality, meaning that our health status is specific to our body’s response as a unit to internal and external factors.
You might ask, what has this all got to do with food and mood. A lot!
Working with clients, i generally start with gut health. The digestive system is where the hardcore breakdown of food into small enough nutrient particles to pass through the gut wall happens. If there is a dysfunction here to start with, the body and the brain are not receiving the nutrients needed to function, message and repair. The loop of communication between the gut and the brain is disrupted as the brain is less efficient in its message delivery and receipt. The gut gets unclear messages, so its function is either not efficient, or doesn’t happen. ‘leaky gut’ is a phrase to describe leaks in the gastrointestinal wall (stomach lining). In this case, molecules that should not pass through and do, cause inflammation throughout the body if sustained. Inflammation is the immune system’s response to a potential danger. The immune ‘soldiers’ go to the scene of the inflammation to ‘neutralise the enemy’(pathogens). In order for the various systems of the body to function efficiently, the digestive system, and by association, the gut-brain axis, require the correct good quality nutrients.
My point is that more and more research is investigating and indicating the positive impact of good nutrition, and targeted nutrition protocols, in supporting brain health, with a positive impact on mental health, in a way that was not perceived up to recently.
The next blog is going to have some practical tips and suggestions for supporting Mood with Nutrition and Lifestyle action steps