How Food Affects Your Mood & Even Your Mental Health, According To Experts

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A few months ago, after my mood had been in a bit of a downward slump for a few weeks, a friend suggested that I start experimenting with more nourishing foods in my diet and to start taking probiotics, because she'd noticed a major improvement in her own emotional well-being when she started doing both of these things. For some of you, it may seem obvious, at least in some ways, how food affects your mood, but there truly is a science behind it all, and according to experts, it's not something to be ignored when it comes to taking care of your mental health. In fact, it might be one of the very first things to consider if you're feeling down in the dumps, stressed, unfocused, or anxious.

Yes, that's right, what you eat — and how clean and well-oiled, so to speak, your stomach and bowels are — has a lot to do with how you're feeling up top. As Shauna Faulisi, holistic nutritionist and founder of Soul Wellness Method, tells Elite Daily, your stomach is basically "the second brain" of your body because of its relationship to serotonin production (aka one of the neurotransmitters in the body that regulates your moods) and overall immunity. Faulisi adds that explaining this idea is one of the first things she tackles when she meets with new clients.

"The foods we eat will either feed the good or bad bacteria in our guts," Faulisi says.

"Sugar, which is often snuck into the foods we eat, will feed the bad bacteria and wreak havoc on the good," she adds. The same goes for "alcohol, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods."

Faulisi recommends focusing on foods that feed the good bacteria, such as above-ground vegetables, bone broth, and sauerkraut, to name a few examples. If you start concentrating on incorporating these kinds of things into your diet, "your body and mind will thank you," says Faulisi.

Dr. Michael Wald, MD, DC, a dietician and board certified nutritionist, breaks down this whole food and mood idea a little more for us. "There's a direct link between the health of the intestinal tract and the brain," he tells Elite Daily.

"For one, the gut has even higher amounts of serotonin than the brain has," Dr. Wald explains.

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Serotonin, he explains, is the chemical that's responsible for "good feelings." Serotonin is also important for intestinal tract and nervous system function, it's an anti-inflammatory, and it even helps to promote better sleep. So, basically, the healthier your gut is (as a result of the foods you eat), the better chance your body has to produce some of those feel-good chemicals and improve your overall mood.

Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, a physician who specializes in acupuncture, agreed with Dr. Wald, but took the concept a step further.

"Your digestive system is likely the most vulnerable connection your body has with the outside world," Dr. Trattner tells Elite Daily.

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Whatever food you put into your mouth, she explains, is going to spend the next three days traveling through your digestive tract, permeating the intestinal walls to be absorbed into your body’s circulatory system and tissues. "Your overall health is significantly affected by what you eat," she tells Elite Daily.

Dr. Trattner says that research really has shown that our guts are so sensitive and filled with impressionable nerves that they are, indeed, as Faulisi said, often referred to as our second brain. "The digestive system doesn't think for us, but it does play a key role in certain diseases and communicates with the brain," Dr. Trattner explains. So, along with the foods you eat, Dr. Trattner recommends making probiotics a regular part of your daily routine, and avoiding refined foods with lots of sugar, estrogens, and fat.

You might want to put all this newfound foodie knowledge to the test the next time you're shopping for groceries, and pop a few of those recommended foods like fermented coconut yogurt, or sauerkraut, along with some probiotics, into your basket. And yeah, keep away from those processed foods, or at least make it a point to snack on them in moderation. You might just notice a boost in your mood, and your mind, as a result.

If you need me, I'll be at the supplements aisle at the health food store.