Are you having trouble sleeping?
Do you wake up tired, exhausted, and stressed before the day even begins?
Do you often feel anxious or depressed?
In various articles and videos, I’ve talked about ways to manage such difficulties, focusing on both the lifestyle practices (stress management, productivity & day planning, relationships management, exercise & fitness) as well as nutrition practices (foods & supplements you can consume to reduce stress).
If you’ve been a follower of my Facebook page or YouTube channel for a while you’d already be aware that much of the research in the past 10 years has demonstrated a strong link between the heart of our digestive system and our “psychological” well being (this is commonly referred to as the "gut brain connection").
Have you ever heard of “Serotonin”?
Serotonin is neurotransmitter, a chemical produced by cells in our nervous system to communicate with each other.
However Serotonin is also known as the “happiness” neurotransmitter. It’s the chemical that’s responsible or “happiness and well-being” by having a strong effect on our brain.
In fact, the majority of “anti-depressant” medications are called “Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors”. These are drugs designed to INCREASE the amount of Serotonin in your body, and therefore making you feel less depressed.
However what most people don’t realise is the following:
Serotonin in our Digestive System helps in intestinal motility (moving food along in our digestive system).
Serotonin then travels to other parts of our body (such as the brain) where it has other functions, including the overall feeling of “happiness and well-being”.
So obviously this means that if your digestive system is stressed (because of foods that cause inflammation for example), there is far less Serotonin being produced, and as a result you are at a higher risk of feeling anxious, stressed, and even depressed.
And in my free Supplement Guide, I talked about common supplements which help fight inflammation, such as Omega 3 and Curcumin.
However, we also know that the composition of bacteria in our digestive system is critical to its function.
You’ve probably heard of “probiotics” before. These are the “good bacteria” living in our digestive system, and without which our digestive system (as well as our immune system) would become severely compromised.
This is why people consume probiotic supplements (and doctors recommend them when taking antibiotics): in order to improve the composition of the bacterial population living in our digestive system.
However you can take all the probiotics you want: if you don’t provide “good bacteria” with the right foods, they will die and be replaced by “bad bacteria”, which cause all sorts of problems.
In fact, I just came across this interesting study (from Oxford Uni) that studied the effect of “pre-biotics” on stress and mood in humans.
Pre-biotics are the foods that are consumed by the good bacteria (probiotics) in order to survive and thrive.
In this study, they took a group of volunteers and gave them either a pre-biotic supplement or a placebo (an “empty pill”) for 3 weeks.
They measured their Cortisol (stress hormone) level every morning, and ran a series of psychiatric emotional tests at the end of the 3 weeks.
What they discovered was clear: Cortisol levels (stress) were significantly lower in people taking the pre-biotics vs. those who didn’t.
In addition, the psychiatric tests revealed a better response to emotional positive and negative stimuli, indicating an improved mood, lower anxiety, and better ability to deal with stressful events.
But before you run and buy bottles of probiotics and prebiotics, you should know that you can get both from food!
Probiotics can be found in high quality fermented (non-pasteurised) foods such as Sauerkraut, Greek Yogurt, Kimchi.
Pre-biotics can be found in foods rich in fibre, such as Chicory/Hindbeh, Dandelion, garlic, onions, asparagus, etc.