By: Nicki Strovinskas, RDN

Being in a “good mood” could be related to more than just a current feeling. Did you know that the state of your digestive tract could actually have an impact on your emotional/mental health? Being deficient in certain nutrients, blood sugar regulation, and exercise can all play a role in how you are feeling. Feelings of anxiety, depression, or even joy and happiness could be related in some ways to the food we are eating.  

You may have said before “trust your gut” or “I feel it in my gut” or in an anxious time you may have felt that fluttering in your stomach. There is truth behind those statements and feelings because our gut and brain are connected and can impact each other. This can be called the Gut Brain Axis. When your gut health is impaired you can experience affects on your mental health as well. Harvard Medical School states, “A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress or depression.” (1) So how we are feeling could be related to the current state of our digestive tract. For example, is there an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria, are there parasites present, are you lacking the healthy bacteria your gut needs to thrive? All these simple imbalances could be causing you to feel more anxious or stressed. The Annuals of Gastroenterology reports that there is a bidirectional interaction between microbiota and the Gut Brain Axis. There is signaling from the gut microbiota to the brain and from the brain to the gut microbiota. (2) Therefore if our gut microbiome is impaired it can have an impact on your mental health. This also means the use of probiotics and other gut health supporting foods (fermented veggies, kombucha, etc.) can actually have a positive impact on your mood and overall mental health. Typically when we avoid inflammatory foods and help to correct the digestive tract imbalances a client’s mental and emotional health can improve as well. 

If our digestive tract is impaired it could also be causing nutrients not to be absorbed properly therefore creating nutrient deficiencies (especially amino acids from protein metabolism). Another cause of these deficiencies could be from consuming a diet lacking important nutrients we need (example, consuming a high processed food diet or just not consuming enough nutrient dense foods). These deficiencies can be directly linked to our mood and mental health. Weston A. Price explains the correlation between certain nutrient deficiencies and mental/emotional health. As seen in the chart below. 

Nutrient Vitamin B6Vitamin B12Vitamin COmega-3 Fatty AcidsZinc
Deficiency Causes: Confusion, depression, insomnia Psychiatric symptoms (obsessive compulsive behavior, depression, irrational anger and dementia)Used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, obsessive- compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety disorders. Low levels are tied to depression, impulsivity, schizophrenia, aggression and dementia. Linked to depression, and imbalanced zinc-to-copper ratio is linked to many mental health issues
Food Source: Raw animal foods, raw milk, raw oysters, and raw meatAnimal foods- best sources are liver, meat and seafoodFresh fruit and vegetables Seafood, cod liver oil, grass-fed animal productsRed meat, liver and shell fish

We also know that amino acids can play an important role in regulating our mood. The chart below shows the link between the Neurotransmitters in our body, the moods it relieves and the amino acids needed to make this happen. We like to encourage protein with each meal to help make sure we are getting the amino acids our bodies need.  

Here is where you can find some of these amino acids in foods: 

  • Tryptophan: poultry, seafood, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, egg whites 
  • Tyrosine: poultry, soy products, nuts/seeds, bananas, dairy products, lima beans
  • Taurine: shellfish, seafood, poultry and beef
  • Glycine: can be found in gelatin-rich homemade bone broth, red meat, seeds and poultry
  • Phenylalanine: meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products

Consuming meals that are balanced with adequate protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates help us get the nutrients we need but also to keep our blood sugar stable. When our blood sugar levels are stable we feel more energized and happy. The Weston A. Price Foundation states that “when our blood sugar drops lower than it should be, we can feel anxious, nervous, depressed and angry.” In order to keep our blood sugar from dropping lower than it should, it is important not to spike it higher than it should go as well. Protein, healthy fats, and fiber are important to include in all your meals to help regulate any high sugar spikes. Have you noticed that when you haven’t eaten in a while you may feel more anxious or angry? Once you eat something that feeling can often go away. A healthy tip would be to be sure to have all food groups present in each meal (a protein, carbohydrate, healthy fat, and if you can some additional fiber). 

Exercise is also important in keeping you healthy and happy. When we exercise it can have a positive impact on your mental health as well as your physical health. We all know we can experience endorphins when exercising and that improves our mood. Did you know that lack of movement can trigger anxiety or increase mood disorders. (4) Stretching and light exercise has been shown to be beneficial to both mental and physical health. Pilates and Barre type exercises can build strength and calm your mind. Exercises like swimming, hiking, running, and biking can not only support cardiovascular health but also help with anxiety relief. (4) All types of movement, from stretching, walks, strength training, to high intensity interval training (HIIT), can have a lasting effect on both your physical strength and emotional health.

Maintaining a healthy digestive system, consuming adequate nutrients, keeping your blood sugar stable, and being sure to exercise can all impact your mental health and overall mood.

For anyone struggling with chronic negative moods check out our 4 Phase Mood Mastery Coaching Program for a very personalized approach for restoring emotional wellbeing:

The Eureka! Coach Team is ready to help clients master emotional health by rebuilding their GI tract, developing personalized nutrition plan to combat potential nutrient deficiencies and adding mood building movement into your daily routine.

We know that taking care of your emotional health is just as important as taking care of your physical health!!



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