Everyone has heard the terms “follow your gut” or “gut feeling” but until recently most people just thought these terms were a figure a speech. With recent science advances, however, we are discovering there may be more truth to these statements than previously thought.
Science is exploring the impact of gut bacteria or the microbiome on both physical and mental health. It is thought your gut produces over 70% of your immunity, it regulates digestion and metabolism and produces 90-95% of your serotonin. Serotonin is sometimes knows as the “feel good” hormone and is a neurotransmitter responsible for the regulation of mood, memory, appetite, and sleep. For people who don’t produce enough serotonin, depression can become an issue. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are anti-depression medications that work to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain. But what if we could increase serotonin by changing our diet to improve gut health? Here are three simple steps you can take to increase your serotonin.
- Eat a carbohydrate rich meal. A meal filled with carbohydrates triggers a release of insulin. This insulin release allows the amino acid tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, to remain in the blood stream at high levels. These high levels of tryptophan then allow more serotonin to be produced in the brain.
- Take probiotics and eat fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimichi, kombucha, and sauerkraut. Probiotics and fermented foods introduce healthy bacteria to the gut. This healthy bacteria allows your gut to perform all it’s duties, including serotonin production, more efficiently.
- Chew your food. Digestion begins in the mouth. The more your mouth works to break down your food, the less work your gut will have to do.
The science around the microbiome is still in its infancy but with further research, we might be able to better treat depression and other illness with simple adjustments to diet.