The Gut Brain Connection

By Shelby Grande
“OUR SECOND BRAIN”, the gut. To most, it doesn’t make much logical sense to say that our gut, bacteria, the foods we eat and digest have anything if at all to do with our emotions. Sounds absorb and crazy right? Well when you think about our simple slang of “getting butterflies in your stomach” or “having that gut instinct” is a symbolic reference to our actual interconnection of the gut microbiome and our emotions.
Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback about how hungry we are, whether or not we’re experiencing stress, or if we’ve ingested a disease-causing microbe.
Our bodies are composed of more bacteria than cells. We are more bug than human! Many people do not realize the complexity of the gut as it is not just a machine that processes and digest foods. It is a large part of our sensory system, signaling system and most importantly, the immune system. Within the layers of our gut we have around 50 to 100 MILLION nerve cells. These cells throw out signals to get rid of foreigners that do not belong in your body such as toxins, rotten food, bag bugs etc. 85% of our immune defense cells are originated and located in the gut. Like any ecosystem inhabited by competing species, the environment within the gut dictates which inhabitants thrive.
So some food to recognize to help sustain your internal ecosystem, keep your gut microbiome healthy and to boost your mood are listed below!
1. NUTS! (Especially walnuts): nuts are loaded with alpha linolenic acid which reduces over gut inflammation and therefore reduces the chance of coming down with a cold. Low ALA levels have been linked to decreased levels of dopamine, which is responsible for the feeling of joy and serotonin, which controls your anger, aggression and keeps your brain chemistry at ease. Incorporate nuts in your salads, trail mix, yogurts, butters or sautéed meals!
2. YOGURT (try kefir too!): cultured dairy products such as these listed are loaded with millions of probiotics, the good bacteria your gut needs to keep you healthy. Your gut and your brain have regular chats with each other via the vagus nerve. Yogurt makes sure that these conversations keep flowing efficiently and spread messages out all throughout the body.
3. Dark chocolate: this delicious dessert provides an instant boost in concentration and mood and even improves blood flow to the brain, which indulges you in a more vibrant and energized state of mind. Dark chocolate when digested releases epinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitters to be carried throughout the body. Skip the sugary chocolate and indulge yourself in the highest percentage of cacao organic chocolate!
4. Vegetables: Asparagus, in particular, is one of the top plant based sources of tryptophan, which serves as a basis for the creation of serotonin, one of the primary mood regulating neurotransmitters. High levels of folate in all vegetables add to the happiness-promoting profile.
5. Mussels, clams, oysters, and fish: mussels, as well as the other seafood listed, are loaded with some of the highest natural forms of vitamin B12. B12 is a brain protecting vitamin and preserves the myelin sheath that insulates your brain cells, helping your brain stay sharp and focused as you get older. Digesting mussels will also release some important nutrients to balancing mood, such as zinc, iodine and selenium. These nutrients keep your thyroid in check which is your body’s master mood regulator.
6. Warm quinoa, spinach and shitake salad with feta cheese and walnuts: this meal helps to prevent against depression and anxiety by increasing your serotonin and norepinephrine levels in your body. Beyond this, the spinach is loaded with B vitamins that protect your heart, your gut, and your brain cells and the shiitake mushroom are an excellent source of selenium which helps your defense immune system and keeps the gut brain conversations in check!

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