• Maria Pfund, Nutritional Consultant

Link Between Brain and Gut

The brain is always working, even when asleep dreaming. It takes care of thoughts and movements, breathing and heartbeat, and senses - it literally works hard 24/7. Therefore, the brain requires energy to work and that energy comes from the foods one eats, and the source of energy makes a big difference affecting the structure and function of the brain and, ultimately, one’s mood.

Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from free radicals, which cause disruption of living cells. On the other hand, diets high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain because in addition to worsening body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. According to Selhub (2018), multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function, and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.

Nowadays, there are plenty of studies to prove that there are many consequences and correlations between not only what one eats, how one feels, and how one ultimately behaves, but also the kinds of bacteria that live in the gut (Selhub, 2018). For example, 95% of the serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods and inhibit pain, is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. The gastrointestinal tract is also lined with a hundred million nerve cells (neurons) so the inner workings of the digestive system also guides one’s emotions. Furthermore, the function of these neurons and neurotransmitters is highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up the intestinal microbiome. That is why when people take probiotics (supplements containing the good bacteria), anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook noticeably improve, compared with people who did not take probiotics.

Start paying attention to how eating different foods makes you feel, and not just in the moment, but also the following days. How about trying to eat a “clean” diet (cutting out all processed foods) for two to three weeks and adding fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, or kombucha to your diet? See how you feel and then slowly introduce foods back into your diet, one by one, and to notice the effect of each food in how you feel.

Take-Home Message:

Good bacteria not only influences what the gut digests and absorbs, but it also affects the degree of inflammation throughout the body, as well as mood and energy level. Each food eaten has an effect to our overall health (physical, mental and emotional).


Selhub, E. (2018, April 5). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food - Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

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