Food and Mood: New Findings Make the Connection

Recent research has been linking symptoms of depression to a deficiency in the gut, or to chronic gut inflammation. We all know that in our fast paced world it’s hard to eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet. More and more of our foods are processed and contain artificial fillers.

Our body is a dwelling place for about 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes, collectively known as our microbiome. They do many important things: break down our food, fight off infection, and boost our immune system. Now, scientists are finding that they may do even more than that, and have an important role in our mental health.

In fact, the burgeoning field of psychobiotics may prove to be a new type of treatment for those with chronic depression, and especially for those who suffer from gastrointestinal issues alongside depression and anxiety. “New research is showing that markers of inflammation are elevated in depressed patients. In one study, researchers found that when depressive symptoms resolved, these signs of inflammation also decreased to normal levels. When inflammation was triggered, depression was triggered.”(1)

Another set of research suggests the primary cause of inflammation may be dysfunction of the “gut-brain.” Your gut is literally your second brain — created from the identical tissue as your brain during gestation — and contains larger amounts of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with mood control. If you consume a lot of processed foods and sweetened drinks, for instance, your gut bacteria are likely going to be severely compromised, because processed foods in general will destroy healthy microflora.

We also know that sugars of all kinds feed bad bacteria and yeast, as well as promote systemic inflammation. When choosing your next meal, think of your overall health, not just quick convenience.

Here are some tips to consider (Remember to consult your physician or nutritionist for changes to your diet):
1. Be educated about what you eat; eliminate processed foods with artificial fillers which can cause more inflammation.
2. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet will help restore your gut. A good rule is to eat only “real” foods that are not packaged.
3. Taking probiotics and prebiotics can help boosts the overall health of the digestive system, supporting the body’s ability to break down and digest complex foods, minimizing the risk of digestive discomfort, and increasing the absorption of essential nutrients. (Always consult your physician or nutritionist for choosing the right supplements.)
4. Drink plenty of water daily to flush out toxins. Replace sugary drinks with water, lemon water, or herbal teas.

Remember to think critically about what you put in your gut. After all, it’s not just our physical health we need to think about, it’s our mental health as well.

Here’s to your Well Being,
Jodi Murphy, LCSW