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Get Out of the Rut with a Happy gut. How to Improve Your Mood.

A key to your happiness is living in your gut.  We have an entire unseen world within us populated by little critters that need special care.


Feed them well, and they will help see to it that you feel good.  Feed them poorly, and they will be sure to make you feel how unhappy they are. 


Why Would I Want Critters in My Gut?


Those critters we host in our digestive tract are called the microbiota.  It is in our best interest to live in harmony with them as they create a large amount, up to 90%, of our “happy” hormones.


The microbiota consist of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, over one thousand different species. (And those are just the good ones).  


One of the jobs they perform is to create hormones, a biproduct of breaking down foods.  The type of food we eat determines the type of hormones and how much the microbiota can make. 


How does the Microbiota Affect My Moods?


The microbiota has a direct link to our brain, their own information superhighway.  It is called the gut-brain axis. 


When the microbiota is well-fed, they create hormones like serotonin and dopamine. These are hormones that help the brain feel good by reducing anxiety and depression.


When the microbiota is not getting the right foods, they cannot produce those happy hormones.  Hungry, poorly fed microbiota are cranky critters. 


They then send signals to the nervous system to send down the good stuff.  Those signals cause you to feel stress in your body and hopefully get the point. 


Perhaps that is why we get to feeling “hangry.”  It’s the unanswered call on the gut-brain axis line.


How do I get the Microbiota to Give Me the “Feel-Goods”?


Remember that the microbiota is made up of many different species.  They total over 100 trillion cells, and they all like different things, not unlike the human population.


Different species create different hormones and they each have specific nutrients that they need to get the job done.  That means that there is no “simple” fix that will take care of them all.


To see that the many organisms all get what they need it requires a diet that covers everything. 


What Do I Feed the Wee Beasties?


A broad diet of whole foods would seem to be your best bet.  Your microbiota wants variety, just like you do.


Fiber is your, and their friend.  No, not that muck you stir up in a glass or a bunch of capsules.  Real fiber directly from the food you eat.


According to Banner Health, your diet should consist of vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains and nuts.  The more variety you have of each of these the better.


A good way to maintain variety is to eat seasonally.  In other words, whatever is fresh and available during the season you are in, is on the menu. 


This way you are getting a broad range of nutrition throughout the year.  It is also a great way for you to not get bored and go after comfort foods that are anything but comforting to your microbiota.


Those Foods Are Not as Comforting as You Think


They’re filling, sweet, dense, and send us into the food coma we perceive as comfort.  They are the foods we reach for when we are sad, stressed, or even bored.


These are the top 10 foods to avoid or reduce if we don’t want a revolt in our gut. 


I’ll start with the ones that we both know you may not give up easily.  Just consider limiting them:  caffeine, red meat, dairy, alcohol, and gluten (unless you have Celiac Disease, then no gluten at all).


You’ve heard all about why those fooda s can create issues, so I am not going to beat a dead horse, or in this case, cow.


The next ones are just a no:  processed foods, refined sugars, fried foods, and artificial sweeteners.


Your microbiota hates these foods.  It starves them of what they need.  Additionally, these foods feed the bad bacteria that can overpopulate your gut, making you ill.


How do I Undo the Damage Done in the Past


There is a way of bringing our microbiota back to a healthy state.  It is called repopulating.


To get your microbiota back up to happy levels, or levels that can sustain your happiness, you will want probiotics.  Those are foods that contain the living cultures of the good bacteria that help you.


Kefir, yogurt, and some cheeses contain probiotics.  If cheese is a favorite food of yours, you will want ones that have been aged, but not heated afterwards.  These include Swiss, gouda, cheddar, edam, gruyère, and cottage cheese.


If you are limiting your dairy intake, there are other ways to get your probiotics:  kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and tempeh.  You can also try pickled vegetables, but they tend to be higher in sodium than fermented choices.


Caution:  May Make You Temporarily Unpopular in Confined Spaces


Too much fiber too fast can be overwhelming to your digestive system.  That can make you bloated and gassy.  Instead of going gung-ho, all or nothing, make changes over a series of weeks.


This can be done by increasing fiber rich foods a few at a time each week, while discontinuing eating other nutrient deficient ones. 


Additionally, the more fiber you eat, the more water you want to drink.  This will allow your digestive system to flush out what it can’t use without discomfort and embarrassment to you.


Take Care of Them and They’ll Take Care of You


The world within us works perfectly with us when we give it what it needs to thrive.


Feed your microbiota a whole foods diet filled with a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.  Make sure to keep them well-,hydrated too.


When you give your microbiota all it needs, they will give you those hormones that help you feel happy and healthy.


*Always check with your doctor before making changes in your diet.*





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