Continuing on our series from last week, today we are going to discuss the role of gut health and moods. As we discussed in last week’s article, doing a two week no wheat challenge is one great way to eliminate one potential culprit in this phenomenon. As we discussed last week, wheat often interferes with the absorption of tryptophan (which assists in relaxation) as well as causes inflammation which leads to a decrease in neurotransmitter production by our gut bacteria. Research is discovering that gut bacteria also play a role in body functions once thought to be unrelated such as metabolism, type 2 diabetes, and memory. This is due to the connection between our nerve cells — gut hormones and microbiota (the bacteria that live in the digestive system). While this research is ongoing, there is a great deal that we understand and can control now to keep the health of our gut in check.

What we put into our bodies is critically important to the function of our gut, but it goes both ways. Remember to check your labels when eating any type of processed foods. Studies have shown that ingestion of Splenda decreases beneficial gut bacteria by 50%, and this sneaky sweetener is still added to a variety of foods that you might not expect like protein shakes and Fiber One products. If you are trying to heal your gut and promote better health and mood, remember to look for the foods like this that can adversely affect your gut health as well.

  1. Put collagen in your morning coffee. Collagen is a long chain amino acid and is the most abundant protein found in the body. Collagen is produced in our bodies but naturally decreases as we age which is part of what we have to thank for wrinkles, sagging skin, and weaker cartilege in our joints. In addition to giving you a tremendous portion of protein to start your day, adding collagen to your morning (hot) coffee is a great way to begin healing your gut. The more effectively you heal your gut, the better neurotransmitter function you will have. One of my favorite brands of collagen is Grass Fed Perfect Hydrolyzed Collagen. It dissolves in any hot liquid without any taste at all. In addition to helping to heal and seal the lining of the gut, collagen:
    • Supports healthy tendons, ligaments, and joints. Some studies have even shown it to be beneficial for osteoarthritis patients.
    • Heals leaky gut. Collagen can help to break down proteins and heal the lining of the gut wall by infusing it with healthy amino acids. Collagen also helps the gut to absorb water, which keeps things moving through the digestive tract efficiently.
    • Helps to detoxify the body by minimizing damage to the liver brought on by toxic substances that enter the body.
    • Builds stronger hair and nails. Collagen is a key building block that makes up these substances and has shown to be greatly beneficial in improving hair strength and growth and strengthening brittle nails.
    • Boosts metabolism and improve energy levels. The glycine found in collagen helps to push sugar into our body’s tissues which leads to better energy levels. Collagen also assists in muscle development which in turn leads to a higher metabolic rate.
  2. Take a prebiotic AND probiotic. Prescript Assist is one of the best prebiotic/probiotic combos on the market today. There are a lot of good ones. This is just a good one that combines both necessary components for optimal digestion and gut health.
  3. Eat coconut oil every day. Research has found coconut oil to be used almost immediately by the body to assist in energy, detoxification of the liver, and fuel the gut’s production of serotonin.

As written in several of our past articles on gut health, there are a lot of nutrition strategies for improving gut health. Listed below are a few that will also give you additional resources to refer to.

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  • The 3 strategies above are simple strategies for improving serotonin and other neurotransmitter production in the gut. Every little bit helps. The first step is to eliminate foods that deplete neurotransmitters like Splenda, aspartame, and msg. The next step is healing and restoration. The steps above are all changes that you can make this week to make a difference in not only your gut health, but your mood. Pay attention to how you feel when you make these changes. Nutrition is power. So much of what happens in the body is controlled by what happens first in the gut. Take care of your gut.