Lift Your Mood with a Healthy Gut - Wakunaga of America


Lift Your Mood with a Healthy Gut

Mood isn't just a mindset; your gut plays a big role in your mental well-being

With everything going on in the world today, it's easy to get down on life. But improving your mood requires more than an attitude adjustment. It also means working on your gut health. That's because your gut holds the key to a better outlook.

The Gut-Brain Connection

Believe it or not, your mood largely depends on the state of your gut. In fact, your gut and brain are in constant communication via the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the body. This means, when things are out of balance in your digestive tract, your brain gets alerted—and that can leave you in a less than stellar mood. But this connection goes both ways—the brain also talks to the gut. It’s why you might experience digestive upset when you’re anxious or stressed out.

Better Disposition through Diet

If you want to improve your mood, your first order of business should be to focus on what you eat. Incorporating a diet rich in nutrients allows your gastrointestinal environment to flourish. And that, in turn, positively impacts your mental health.

For a holistic approach to your way of eating, adhering to the Mediterranean, DASH, ketogenic, or Paleo diet can all help improve your mood, according to a systematic review of 18 studies.1 Your gut and your mood can also benefit by incorporating the following mood-enhancing foods into your daily diet:

Omega-3s. A meta-analysis of 2,160 participants published in the journal Nature showed an overall beneficial effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on the symptoms of depression.2 Good sources include cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring, as well as nuts and seeds.

Dark chocolate. Who said good health didn’t include tasty snacks! Dark chocolate increases the diversity and abundance of bacteria in your gut, and thereby improves your mood. For the most benefit, make sure that chocolate you choose contains at least 85 percent cocoa.3

Fiber. Fiber is an incredibly important nutrient that has a range of health benefits. And you’re probably not getting enough of it. Fiber promotes weight loss, lowers blood sugar, relieves constipation, and supports heart and gut health. It also enhances mood. This is because fiber works to improve the intestinal microbiota in the gut. The result is a significant improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms and a better overall state of mind.4  Good dietary sources of fiber include fresh fruits and veggies, beans and legumes, and whole grains (especially oats). Adding several of these sources to your meals can help you reach your daily fiber goal.

Fermented foods. Eaten for centuries, fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and yogurt are packed with nutrients that improve the makeup and diversity of your gut microbiome. Not only do these gut-enhancing improvements provide cardiovascular and weight-management benefits, they also deliver mood-altering effects.5 What’s more, these foods use unprocessed raw ingredients, contain little or no added preservatives, colors or flavorings, and are made using established, sustainable, and traditional technologies.

Dark leafy greens. Don’t forget your greens! Dark leafy green vegetables, including kale, spinach, collard greens, and cabbage, contain folic acid, which has been shown to help modulate mood. One systematic review found that this nutrient was effective at safely relieving depression and bipolar symptoms.6

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water isn’t just something you should do because you’re thirsty; it’s something you should do to feel better mentally. Dehydration can negatively affect your mood, not to mention your brain’s processing speed and working memory, as well as your energy levels.7 Fortunately, drinking water can alleviate these symptoms and help keep your spirits up. It’s also been shown to prevent and relieve headaches and even migraines. A study out of the Tehran University of Medical Science shows that adequate hydration can reduce the severity of migraine disability, pain severity, frequency, and duration.8

Take a Probiotic Supplement

 Probiotics play a pivotal part in promoting a balanced and healthy gut microbiome. Not only do they support healthy digestion, but probiotics can also influence mental health and improve your mood. Two recent studies back this up: In one six-week trial of badminton players, supplementing with probiotics reduced anxiety by 16 percent and stress levels by 20 percent.9 Another six-week stint of supplementation in overweight and obese participants saw significantly improved global mood and vigor along with reduced feelings of depression, tension, fatigue, confusion, and anger. Researchers noted that these results were due to a substantial increase in “good” gut bacteria, highlighting the close relationship between the gut and brain when it comes to mental health.10

 Level Up Your Lifestyle Habits

 Taking a proactive approach to your gut health can definitely lead to a better mood. Working in a few other lifestyle improvements can lift your spirits even higher.

 Physical Activity. Exercise is the perfect activity for a mental boost. And the good news is that you don’t have to be a hardcore gym rat or ultramarathoner to experience its benefits. Exercise of any intensity can significantly improve feelings of depression, and these good feelings can last for up to 30 minutes following the activity.11 Another more recent study confirmed these results while showing that exercise doesn’t just boost mood in depressed individuals, but it does so in healthy people as well.12

Good Vibes. Positive thinking isn’t just for the free spirited. Having a positive mental attitude can help improve your mood and outlook on life. Thinking positively means adopting an optimistic mindset that actively pursues favorable outcomes. One way to achieve this is with thought replacement. A report in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy shows that when you replace worrisome thoughts with positive ones, you can effectively reduce worry.13

Get Social. Getting together with friends is a great way to improve your mood. In fact, a 2019 study in Frontiers in Psychology shows that a lack of social support is the strongest predictor of depressive symptoms in older adults.14 So have a family or friends over for dinner, volunteer in your community, or hit your local hot spots on a regular basis to keep your mood in good health.

A good mood relies on good gut health. By focusing on a gut-supporting diet, supplementing with probiotics, and adding in a few lifestyle hacks, your spirits will be up in no time.


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  1. This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.