The Second Brain– How Food and Digestion Affect Mental Health

The information system of the body is most commonly thought of as the brain receiving information from, and relaying information to, the various parts of the body. While this is accurate, it’s not the whole picture.

Studies have shown that the brain isn’t the only one interpreting and relaying information. There is a second player in the game — the gut.

What does the research show?

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), found through a study on mice, that 90 percent of the serotonin in the body is made in the gut. Elaine Hsiao, the senior author of the study, said,

“It is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. More and more studies are showing that mice or other model organisms with changes in their gut microbes exhibit altered behaviors.”

Dr. Siri Carpenter stated similar findings from other researchers that confirm the findings of Elaine Hsiao. She stated that changes in the microbiome of the rat’s stomachs affect neural development, brain chemistry, and can affect different types of behaviors– such as– emotional behavior, pain perception, and stress responses.

The studies that have been done on rodents are starting to match what researchers are finding in humans.

In another study done by UCLA, their findings showed that bacteria ingested with food directly affects the human brain. Dr. Kristin Tillisch, the author of the study, said,

“Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut. Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”

 As the research shows, the food you eat and the health of your gut flora play an immense role in your overall health and could affect your mental state.

Why does the food I eat matter?

Your gut health can be affected by diets high in carbohydrates, low in nutrient-dense food, high in sugar, and processed foods, which are high in chemicals and preservatives. Change in gut health can lead to adverse reactions through food sensitivities and changes in mood.

This means that if you’re not happy — either physicall or mentally — then looking into your gut health might be a good place to start.

The American Psychology Association had an article written by Kimberly Keys where she shared her own experience on eating the right food for your body. She said,

“What I can share is that not eating the fuel mix that your body requires can make you have a number of deleterious symptoms like weight gain or loss, foggy thinking, depression, moodiness, inability to focus, nervous system disorders, fatigue, nausea, cravings, digestive disorders, headaches and migraines, and a host of other conditions that get inflamed because the improper fuel is basically taxing your immune system.”

What is a food sensitivity?

During regular digestion, your body breaks down the food you eat into simple components that can be absorbed into your bloodstream. Once absorbed, the components are distributed and used by the rest of your body.

However, if your bacterial composition of the gut is not favorable to the breakdown of a specific food, then those bacteria communicate with the gut immune system and promote an intolerance to that food.

As a result, your immune system produces antibodies to attack the food that caused the intolerance. This process can cause adverse reactions in the body.

Some examples of food sensitivity reactions are as follows.

-Feeling bloated – Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS) -Mood swings -Chronic fatigue -Restlessness -Brain fog -Aggressiveness -Headaches -Insomnia -Asthma -Canker sores -Sinus problems -Excessive mucus -Acne -Eczema -Excessive sweating -Hair loss -Hives -Itchy sensations -Weight gain -Cravings -Compulsive eating -Water retention -Depression -Anxiety -Muscle soreness -Earaches -ADHD -Hyperactivity -Lethargy

If you have one or more of these symptoms, there’s a 95% probability that you have a food sensitivity and could benefit from food sensitivities testing.

How do I know if I have a food sensitivity?

It is almost impossible to detect the exact food(s) that you are sensitive to on your own. Reactions can present themselves several hours to several days after the food is ingested thus making it hard to pinpoint the exact food that you are sensitive to.

The best way to determine which food(s) you have sensitivities to is through a simple blood test called Food Sensitivity Assay. This test measures your immunoglobulin immune response when different foods are introduced. The results include the foods that your body is sensitive to.

By identifying and eliminating foods that cause food sensitivities, you can help repair your gut health, potentially reverse food sensitivities, and decrease adverse reactions that can range from bloating to depression.

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