How Your Food Could Be Affecting Your Mental Health

You’ve heard the saying – ‘You Are What You Eat’, right? Well did you know that what you eat can also be what you think? And sometimes what you feel too?

Don’t believe me? Well let me try to explain a little, with just a few facts you may not know about the crucial link between your gut and your brain:

  • Your gut works independently from the brain. It does not need, as do other organs in the body, to wait for signals and instructions from the brain in order to carry out its function – it can perform its role without input from the brain. No other organ, not even the heart can boast of this.
  • Your gut is home to more than 100 million BRAIN cells. Your gut carries more brain cells than the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.
  • The above two facts explain why the gut is often referred to as ‘The Second Brain’. So that ‘gut feeling’ you have is actually more reliable than you give it credit for.
  • Your gut has its very own nervous system; The ENT (Enteric Nervous System). This system is also able to function independently from the brain – hence sometimes you have that “I gotta go” urge that comes out of the blue!
  • The Vagus Nerve is one of the longest and most complex nerves within the human body – it links the brain to all the other parts of the body – including the gut. Research has shown that up to 90% of the fibres carried within the Vagus Nerve go from the gut to the brain – and NOT the other way around.
  • Your gut is also home to the majority of your immune cells; approximately 70 percent. Their job is to exterminate and expel anything that is causing you to be ‘under the weather’.
  • Around 90 percent of your bodies Serotonin is found in your gut. Serotonin is your body’s natural ‘happy hormone’ helping your body with feelings of wellness and happiness.

The more we study the body, the more we study mental health, the more we study the brain, the more we are seeing how intrinsically linked the gut and the brain are. There is a vast stream of communications continually flowing between the gut and the brain and research is suggesting that most of the signals flow from the gut to the brain.

What does this mean? It means that what is happening inside our gut is having an impact on what is happening in our brain, and more specifically – the health of our thoughts and feelings. And as I have outlined before – our thoughts and feelings directly impact the way that we behave.

The link to serotonin production inside our gut is just one example of many that reveal to us that when our gut health is poor – our emotional and mental health may also be poor. If our gut is struggling to produce serotonin that makes us feel happy and content then we are going to struggle with the opposites of these emotions; depression, sadness and low mood.

So – what is the answer? Improve your gut health!

Not what you were hoping for? Nope, sorry, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear either! So the next answer is to start to consider what food you are putting inside you and understand the impact that it is having on your gut health.

Still not what you wanted to hear? Were you hoping for a simple, straight forward, practical answer that you can implement today? Ok, well here is one; start taking a good probiotic. Because of the vast nervous system within the gut it is incredibly sensitive to changes and whatever is put inside it; poor food choices, stress and medication can all affect the balance of the gut. A good probiotic will help restore the natural balance in the gut. Now be aware that this is not going to be a magic fix; there really is no such thing, but this is a great first step and one that will make a difference.

Now notice that I have said twice, and am about to say it a third; you need to take a GOOD probiotic. Not ALL probiotics are the same and quite frankly – some are really not good at all (you may as well save your money and eat a box of Smarties – at least their colourings are natural!) Please, before you spend money on any old one in the local chemist that has convincing marketing slogans, rather do a bit of research and find one that has good quality ingredients. Just as a starting point – look for one that is dairy-free, and one that has billions (not millions) of organisms. If you’re still not sure; drop me a message – I am happy to point you in the direction of some tried and tested ones I use.

So, the next time you have a particularly flat day – take a moment and have a think about what you ate. Or perhaps you didn’t eat that day and maybe that is the problem? If your gut is unhappy – it has no choice but to tell you – perhaps we need to start listening better.



(Sciencey information gathered from: