The answer lies in our gut, which is often referred to as ‘the second brain.’ Our gut is lined with billions of bacteria which work to keep our bodies healthy. In fact, these bacterial cells outnumber human cells 10 to 1! These bacteria aid breakdown and absorption of food, production of hormones and neurotransmitters.
Notably, one of these neurotransmitters, Serotonin, is made predominantly in the gut. Serotonin plays an important role in the regulation of mood, and promoting feelings of wellbeing and happiness. The link between the gut and brain allows them to ‘talk’ to each other. Our digestive system therefore plays an important role in our emotional state. It is no surprise then that what we eat has a significant impact on how we feel!
So, what are the best foods to eat to promote a healthy gut and positive mood? There is an ever growing field of scientific literature which suggests that eating a Mediterranean diet is correlated with a lower incidence of mood disorders such as depression. The Mediterranean diet is traditionally comprised of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, olive oil and smaller amounts of lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products.
One of the key benefits of the Mediterranean diet comes from the fibre found in plant-based foods. Unlike a typical Western diet, which can be high in processed products and refined sugars, the Mediterranean diet contains a lot of dietary fibre, which fuels gut bacteria. A diet rich in a variety of types of fibre helps to promote diversity in the species of our gut bacteria. The diversity then creates the balance in gut health which is linked to improved wellbeing and positive mood.
Headway Psychology’s Accredited Practising Dietitian Robyn Bache works with clients to assess their current eating behaviours and develop eating plans to improve mood. Robyn has a wide variety of experience in gut health and irritable bowel syndrome, and is interested in the link between eating behaviours, mood & wellbeing.