Did you know that up to 95% of serotonin in the body can be located in the gut? Crazy right?!
For the longest time, scientists have always believed the brain is responsible for producing serotonin, which is best-known as the ‘happy hormone’. Until recent studies that have shown that the gut and brain are linked by something called the gut-brain axis. This is a term for the communication network that connects your gut and brain. They are connected both physically and biochemically in a number of ways.
The vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves connecting your gut and brain and it sends signals in both directions. One study in humans found that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease had reduced vagal tone, indicating a reduced function of the vagus nerve.
An example of this in practice is stress. When you’re stressed, signals go up and down your nervous system and give you an upset stomach, this was shown in animal studies conducted by scientists.
The gut and its microbes also control inflammation and make many different compounds that can affect brain health.
There are a few groups of foods that are specifically beneficial for the gut-brain axis, which can help to produce more serotonin naturally.
• Omega-3 fats such as oily fish.
• Fermented foods such as yoghurts or cheese.
• High-fibre foods such as whole grains, fruits or vegetables.
• Polyphenol-rich foods such as cocoa, green tea or olive oils.
• Tryptophan-rich foods such as turkey, eggs or cheese.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an essential way to support both mental and physical health. Drinking plenty of fluids during the day keeps the body and brain hydrated. This is critical for energy levels and correct brain functioning. Feeling positive is often about balance. Diet, exercise, sleep, and a positive outlook are all key elements to improving mood!