Most people in this part of the world know about how vitamin D (or lackthereof) from the sun can affect your mood, but did you know that what you feed your gut might also be making you sad?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that our brain naturally releases during times of euphoria, making us feel happy, or at ease. Depression is often associated with low serotonin levels. Often, antidepressants involved with blocking the uptake of serotonin in the brain (tricking the body into producing more) are prescribed depressed individuals. However, this particular neurotransmitter has an interesting formation story.
Unlike most of our other neurotransmitters, 90% of our serotonin is produced by the enterochromaffin cells that line the lumen of our small intestine. That means that if we do things (or eat things) to damage these cells, it interferes with our bodies’ ability to produce enough serotonin… and we get sad.
How do we feed our enterochromaffin cells?
Eating a variety of whole grains, soluble (and insoluble) fiber, and fermented foods help to feed the bacteria that coexist with our enterochromaffin cells. Feeding these important bacteria keeps their population high, contributing to the symbiotic relationship between our gut bacteria and healthy enterochromaffin cell growth. More importantly, feeding the bacteria that resides in our GI tract also keeps our little microbiota population thriving, preventing invasion from pathogenic bacteria that has potential to make us sick!
So, it is a win win situation. Feed your gut flora whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and some healthy fermented foods, and you will not only boost your immune system, but you will also encourage more production of serotonin which will boost your mood.
About the Writer:
Lauren is a dietetic student at Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She graduates in June and will continue on to a dietetic internship before she sits for her RD exam in 2018.
Lauren has enthusiasm for local and sustainable food systems, youth education opportunities, and cooperative business practices. She likes learning about the complex relationship that our bodies have with the environment around us. She also likes plants.
In her free time she likes to ride her bike, shoot black and white photography, make lefse from scratch, and listen to funky tunes.
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Dr. Alicia McCubbins is a naturopathic physician who strives to educate, motivate and inspire. Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions so that we may collectively grow through knowledge.