The mind-gut connection - How it impacts our mental health and cognitive function
Did you know that what you eat directly impacts your mood and that every food you consume impacts the neurotransmitters in your brain?
The mind-gut connection refers to the relationship between the brain and the digestive system. Recent research has proven that there is a strong connection between the gut and the brain, with the gut sending signals to the brain that can affect mood, cognitive function, and overall mental health.
One way in which the gut can impact mental health is through the production of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help transmit signals in the brain. For example, the gut produces 95% of the body's serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in regulating mood, anxiety, and sleep.
Another way in which the gut can impact mental health is through the gut-brain axis, which is the communication pathway between the gut and the brain. This pathway can be affected by factors such as stress, poor diet, and chronic inflammation, which can lead to gut-related disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and also lead to symptoms such as anxiety and depression. The gut microbiome is responsible for producing neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that regulate are responsible for brain function. An imbalance in the gut microbiome, known as gut dysbiosis, has been linked to conditions such as anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.
We need key micro and macro nutrients to protect our brain function including our memory, our cognition, to protect our body and to balance our emotions.
What to eat for mental health and cognitive function?
Eating a diet rich in nourishing foods filled with micro and macro minerals, macronutrients and water soluble vitamins can help support the health of the gut microbiome and in turn support our mental health and cognitive function. Certain nutrients have been shown to support brain health and improve memory, focus, and overall brain health.
Omega 3 fatty acids: These essential fatty acids are found in foods such as fatty fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, avocado, olive oil, brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds. They have been shown to improve memory, reduce inflammation, and protect against cognitive decline. Studies have proven that low omega-3s have been associated with chronic inflammation, a possible contributor to symptoms of depression. Omega 3 fatty acids are crucial for brain development and reduce the risk of depression.
Antioxidants: Found in fruits and vegetables such as berries. These nutrients help to protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals, which can lead to cognitive decline. Be sure to pay attention to the dirty dozen list.
B-vitamins: B vitamins, particularly B12, B1 and folate, play an important role in cognitive function, by supporting the formation of red blood cells and the metabolism of neurotransmitters, essential for the nervous system. These vitamins can be found in foods such as organic meat, wild fish, eggs, leafy greens, acorn squash, asparagus, and cauliflower.
Zinc: Many of us are deficient in Zinc, as our soils are depleted in zinc. The body cannot heal without adequate levels of zinc. Studies have proven that low levels of zinc may be linked to being more susceptible to depression and anxiety. Zinc deficiencies have also been linked to neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, depression, Parkinson’s). Zinc can be found in foods such as grass fed beef, shellfish, nuts, and seed.
Protein: A diet that is high in protein and low in sugar and processed foods is also important for cognitive function. Protein is necessary for neurotransmitters and brain health because the amino acids found in protein are the building blocks used by the body to synthesize neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are necessary to cope with mood disorders. Additionally, protein can also provide structural support to the brain and protect it from damage. Deficiency in protein can lead to an imbalance in neurotransmitters and affect mood regulation and cognitive function. Protein also stabilizes blood sugar, preventing glucose spikes which cause brain fog and fatigue. Animal based sources such as pasture raised eggs, organic meats and wild caught fish are filled with the highest levels of essential amino acids required for brain health.
Healthy fats: Healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil and coconut, Virgin coconut oil, tahini, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, flax egg. Healthy fats are required for mental health and brain function because they are a vital component of the cell membrane, which surrounds every cell in the body. They stabilize blood sugar throughout the day and boost cognitive function such as mental clarity and energy levels.
Tryptophan: An essential amino acid that plays a crucial role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, and appetite. Low levels of tryptophan and serotonin have been linked to a variety of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Eating foods that are high in tryptophan, such as turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, and nuts, can help increase the levels of tryptophan in the body and boost serotonin production.
Magnesium: Magnesium regulates key neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation which help to regulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin and also by promoting the production of GABA, reducing inflammation in the brain. Magnesium deficiencies have been linked to a wide range of issues such as anxiety, adhd and sleep issues.
Where to find it? Consuming pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, avocado, figs, and leafy greens.
That being said, we often get asked what superfoods do our Rawcology products have? All of our products including our grain free granola, coconut chips and oat clusters are high in antioxidants, rich in fiber and each product contains at least one or more powerful vitamins or minerals. For example our Blueberry Acai Grain Free Granola contains wild blueberry powder and acai, which are both high-performance ingredients, and provide potent sources of antioxidants, and help fight inflammation. Our sprouted pumpkin and sunflower seeds are a raw source of protein, magnesium, and zinc. Thus contributing to a healthy gut flora and a great snack at all times of the day to support brain function.
Here’s a link to our favorite Brain Boosting Blueberry Granola Breakfast Cookies
Happy Wellness Wednesday
You are your home, so take care of yourself and Rawc on ;)
-Chloe Tilp, CNP