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Plant-based Health: The Brain/Gut Connection

3 Jan 2018

@loosi profile image

Have you noticed how healthy eating makes you feel better? How nourishing fruits and vegetables seem to make you think clearer? Do you look upon the world with a more positive perspective when you’re embracing a plant-based lifestyle?

You’re not imagining things. The physical health benefits of eating a plant-based diet are well known - from cleansing and nourishing our bodies to protecting us from fatal diseases and premature aging.

But what about the non-physical parts of ourselves - our mind, our mood and our thoughts?

Those positive mental vibes you experience from your plant-based meals are absolutely real. They’re simply a symptom of your brain/gut connection.

What is the brain/gut connection?

Although they may seem quite unrelated, your digestive system and brain actually work together in the body. In fact, they work so closely together that the condition of one greatly impacts the other.

To understand just how intertwined the digestive system and brain are we need to take a closer look at serotonin.

Share the love and spread the serotonin

Serotonin is known as the happy hormone. Any positive thoughts and emotions we experience are a result of Serotonin flooding the brain. It’s our body’s built-in reward system; something good happens and we receive a rush of happy feelings.

What is the brain/gut connection?

But hang on, how does that have anything to do with your gut?

Well, for a long time scientists have known that Serotonin is created in the brain as well as in the gut - specifically the lining of your gastrointestinal wall.

But only recently has it been discovered just how much Serotonin is produced in your gut… an incredible 90% of all the serotonin in your body!

Serotonin has many functions including promoting the growth of nerve cells and supporting your immune system. It has the ability to travel around the body to where it is needed and makes its way to the brain via chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.

It is these neurotransmitters that keep the brain and digestive system in close contact and determine how happy your brain/gut connection is.

The secret to a bad mood? An upset gut

The knock-on effect of an unhealthy gut is a brain low in serotonin. When your diet is lacking the right nutrients to support a thriving digestive system, the serotonin production and transfer to the brain is interrupted.

What is the brain/gut connection?

The receptors for serotonin in the brain are housed in emotional and cognitive regions within the brain, including the areas responsible for learning and memory. No wonder we can’t concentrate properly when we feel ill! This is because the amount of serotonin being sent to the receptors in the brain is diminished.

Low levels of serotonin in the brain cause lapses in reasoning, working memory, and impaired cognition, and have a severe effect on our mood.

You have probably experienced the brain/gut connection before. Have you ever felt extremely nervous or scared out of your mind about something frightening and then had an instantaneous gut reaction? Maybe it was tingling butterflies, cramping or nauseousness.

Well, it works both ways. Our thoughts can make us have intensely uncomfortable feelings in our gut and the ‘off’ feeling in the gut can be a warning sign of impaired mental health.

A bad mood is a gateway emotion. Left unattended, this seemingly harmless state of mind can progress to something darker and more pressing!

Feeling overwhelmed, anxious, angry and irritated can become more prevalent when your serotonin levels are low. You may also become dependent on others and experience insomnia, panic episodes and low self-esteem. These emotions can have a huge impact on your life.

These situations call for a good look at your diet and lifestyle. Only then can you can make the necessary changes to ensure your serotonin levels can get back to happiness enhancing levels.

Get your happiness back!

Whether it’s your own or that of someone you’re with, a bad mood is no fun to be around. And a mind lacking in clarity only makes the daily grind that much harder.

Keeping your gut running smoothly is the key to improving or maintaining the health of both your mind and body!

What is the brain/gut connection?

Studies show a plant-based diet creates an environment in the gut where the good micro bacteria are abundant and can continue to flourish. When compared to a diet that includes meat, a plant-based diet has more protective microorganisms reducing inflammation in the gut and keeping the human digestive system in great shape.

When it comes down to it, plant-based foods are the way to go. And a fully vegan diet will ensure your gut is producing the serotonin your brain needs to keep you feeling good!

What is the brain/gut connection?

So if you’re looking for that happiness boost, focus on what you’re eating. Consuming luscious veggies and succulent fruits, relishing the natural foods of the world and enjoying the taste of fresh produce will lift your spirits way more than you could imagine.

When it comes to your health and your body, everything is connected. The brain / gut connection shows us that the old saying “you are what you eat” is indeed true. Keep your gut happy with delicious plant-based foods and your happy, carefree mind will thank you!

Sources: Nutrients Journal, Be Brain Fit, Medical News Today, Fitness, National Institutes of Health

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@vikas profile image
vikas5 YEARS AGO
So very true, it's amazing how much of our daily stresses and feelings can be optimized through what we eat.
@lou profile image
Nice, healthy food always makes me feel good about myself!
@mrsgarg profile image
mrsgarg5 YEARS AGO
Really great article, thoughtful and put together nicely. Look forward to more pieces like this! Also had no idea 90% of seratonin is from the gut!
@lou profile image
how is your gut @noll-fyra
@chezvegan profile image
chezvegan3 YEARS AGO
Soo true. I've been vegan for 7 years. Even when I have too much vegan ice cream and other junk vegan my mood goes down and I feel sluggish. As soon as I cut it out and back to fruit and vegetables everything feels better 🥞
@saanyag profile image
saanyag2 YEARS AGO
Thank you! This is super interesting. I didn’t know that so much of our serotonin is made in the gut.
@maria696 profile image
maria6962 YEARS AGO
This is all very helpful I'm learning new things