Research has found that there is a link between the health of our gut and the health of our brain, and certain foods that replenish the bacteria balance in our stomach can have an impact on our brain and mood.
The digestive system is full of neurons that are connected to your brain through complex networks of nerves. The largest of these nerves, the Vagus nerve, carries information from the gut to the brain (and vice versa) and shows direct communication between our digestive system and our nervous system. Stress can impact how signals are sent through the Vagus nerve to the brain, causing gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach pain and cramping. (A common symptom of stress or anxiety).
Also, most of the Serotonin we produce, as well as other hormones, is produced in the gut from the micronutrients found in our food.
By eating fermented probiotic foods such as Yoghurt, Kefir, Kimchi and Sauerkraut can keep the gut microbiome populated and healthy.
Serotonin is produced in our gut from the nutrients in the foods that we eat. One of these nutrients is Tryptophan- an amino acid that is converted by the body into 5-HTP, which in turn is used to make serotonin and melatonin, these are hormones responsible for regulating mood and sleep.
Tryptophan is mostly found in high-protein foods such as poultry (turkey and chicken) and shrimp. People who follow a vegetarian or plant-based diet might find it slightly harder to increase their intake. For vegetarian/vegans it can be found in whole milk, cheese, soy products like tofu and nuts and seeds. Supplements like 5-HTP can also help to boost these vital hormones.
At some point in your life, you have probably heard fish referred to as ‘brain food’ and this might not just be a tactic to get you to eat all your fish fingers. In fact, there seems to be a link between eating foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids and improved brain health. Some studies have even suggested that these polyunsaturated fats may play a role in the development of a healthy brain.
Foods that are high in omega-3 include fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. For vegetarians and vegans, omega-3 can be extracted from Algae and seeds, although can be easier to take in supplement form.
Dark green vegetables like broccoli and kale are high in a number of B vitamins, such as B12 and B6. These B vitamins are used by the body in the process of breaking down food into energy, and apart from making you feel more awake, they can also support your nervous system and psychological function.
Love it or hate it, Marmite is also a good source of B vitamins. As well as dairy, eggs, and shellfish.
Green tea and black tea are a good source of L-theanine. Like tryptophan, L-theanine is an amino acid that may have an impact on the levels of neurotransmitters in our brain, such as serotonin and dopamine (responsible for regulating mood).
Other herbal teas such as lavender, lemon balm and chamomile are also thought to have a calming effect. Although research on the validity of these claims is still uncertain, there is something to be said about their role in a calming night-time or selfcare routine.