How Food Affects Your Mood: The Gut-Brain Axis


“Trust your gut” is not just a little bit of handy advice passed down from mothers to their children, but a well-known phrase that is founded in science and biological studies of the gut-brain axis.

What is the Gut-Brain Axis?

Gut-Brain AxisThe gut-brain axis is defined by the NCBI as “bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous system, linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions.”

That’s a lot of big words, but essentially this means that what you eat affects your brain, and the way you think and feel affects your digestion.

The Gut Microbiome

Gut-Brain AxisTo better understand the gut-brain axis it’s important to, firstly, understand the gut microbiome. The microbiome in your gut is a collection of billions of microorganisms (around 10 times the number of all the cells in your body!) including 300 – 500 different types of bacteria, viruses and fungi all unique to you. It’s such a wild place, in fact, that some scientists have taken to labelling it a “superorganism.”

Understanding The Gut-Brain Axis

When you’re so nervous or stressed that you can’t bear the thought of food, you can look to the GBA (gut-brain axis) for answers. Or, when you’re feeling sluggish and irritable after eating two large pizzas all by yourself on a Friday night, you can look to the GBA for answers. All day, every day, messages are being passed along the vagus nerve between your gut and your brain. This means that certain foods trigger certain emotional reactions when they affect the balance of the gut microbiome, and certain emotional reactions trigger certain responses in the gut microbiome.

How To Optimize Your Gut Microbiome To Improve Your Health & Happiness

Gut-Brain AxisThe delicate balance of the gut microbiome is still being studied, but the connection between a healthy gut microbiome and physical and mental wellbeing has become irrefutable. It is altered, primarily, by what you ingest; studies have shown that sugary, processed foods and sweeteners adversely affect the gut microbiome, whilst a rich, varied diet that is primarily plant-based strengthens it.

Once your diet is on track, here are a few other ways you can improve your gut health:

  1. Eat prebiotic-rich foods such as bananas, asparagus, garlic and whole grains.
  2. Consider taking a probiotic supplement or eating fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut.
  3. Learn to manage your stress levels through meditation and breathing exercises.
    Avoid taking antibiotics unnecessarily.

Medical news today
The BMJ: Role of gut microbiota in nutrition and health
US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: The gut-brain axis:  interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems

Hey Joyfreshers, have you experienced the gut-brain axis? Does food affect your mood? What foods are bad for your gut? Share your experience with us below. 

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