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Listen To Your Gut! It Does Not Lie

And how these foods can help optimize your gut, immunity, and mood.

We have all had to alter our normal routines over the last few months. This forced change and need to cultivate new paths has added increased stress and anxiety into our already busy lives. This has included imposed isolation and social interaction via technology, which can easily lead to bouts of depression, poor sleep, and simply eating out of boredom. During these times it is easy to seek out comfort foods to help make us feel better. Truth be known, these “comfort foods” are a large contributor to poor mental and emotional health.

As a bit of background on me, in late December 2019 I moved from my home of 21 years to start a new adventure and opportunity in a different state. Like all adventures, regardless of how well you plan them, they all come with a few obstacles. I arrived in my new city in the late afternoon and was immediately met with my first obstacle. The place I had agreed to rent was not as it had been presented in pictures or in conversation (and, no, it was not better than presented). About 90 minutes later, I was met with my second obstacle when I learned that the job I moved for, and was to start in a couple days, was not actually going to start for at least three weeks. Over the next few months as I adjusted to my new life in a city where I did not know anyone, I became reliant on my “comfort food”.

For me, my “go to” comfort foods are chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, and tortilla chips, and of course they just happened to be laden with highly palatable, inflammatory ingredients, such as refined sugar, industrial seed oils, grains, dairy, and multiple preservatives. I would go through a package of each at least once a week. I tell you this because I want to be open, honest, and authentic about my own internal struggles.

We are all susceptible to our emotions and cravings and it is important to know that they do not define who we are or who we will become. Needless to say, I was not in the best position mentally and emotionally when the pandemic hit. I became further isolated and I lost my job, which could have sent me further down the proverbial rabbit hole. What I realized is that I needed to not only protect my mental health, but I needed to protect my gut health and boost my immunity. This became my “Why” and proved to be the key to overcoming my

reliance on these super palatable foods and emotional valleys.

I understood that 60%-70% of my immune system is located in my gut, and my gut is directly connected to my brain via the Vagus nerve, which is the main communication pathway in the gut-brain axis.

Another important element is recognizing that approximately 90% of the body’s serotonin and 50% of the body’s dopamine is produced by the bacteria in your gut. Both are key hormones integral to stabilizing mood, well-being, and happiness. Therefore, eating my “go to”, super palatable foods that are highly inflammatory directly lowered the function of my immune system and negatively affected my mood.

Here is how I boosted my immunity and simultaneously stabilized my mood.

I focused on eating high quality foods that contained lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This proved to be the best line of defense, nourished my body, kept me in good standing with my gut, and protected my brain. Continually consuming my “go to” comforts foods filled with refined sugars and industrial seed oils would only lead to body inflammation, impaired brain function, and dampen my already fragile emotional state. Since there is a direct connection between your gut and brain (recall the Vagus nerve) it is vital to feed both the best nutrients nature has to offer.

Below is a “baker’s dozen” list of the foods I utilized (and continue to utilize) to help optimize my gut, immunity, and mood:

1. Avocado – monounsaturated fat to help with healthy blood flow.

2. Blueberries – low glycemic and high in fiber and protects against oxidative stress and the effects of brain aging.

3. Bone Broth – rich in the beneficial protein’s collagen and gelatin, which are packed with anti-inflammatory amino acids, helps heal the gut lining to support the gut microbiome to boost immunity.

4. Broccoli – great source of Vitamin K which improves cognitive function and memory.

5. Garlic and Onions – both are high in prebiotics that feed and support the growth of good gut bacteria.

6. Dark chocolate – improves focus and concentration and stimulates endorphins...and remember the darker the better. Look for something that is 85% or greater Cacao with no added sugar.

7. Eggs – provides memory-improving and brain-boosting choline.

8. Green leafy vegetables – good source of Vitamin E and folate to limit brain aging and improve memory.

9. Salmon and/or sardines – contains Omega-3 fatty acids, a powerful anti-inflammatory, and

works to reduce the effects of brain aging.

10. Turmeric – reduces inflammation and improves the brain’s oxygen intake. Black pepper also helps activate turmeric.

11. Walnuts – contains high levels of antioxidants and Vitamin E to protect your neurons. They are also high in Zinc and magnesium that will boost your mood.

12. Kimchi – the fermentation crowds out bad gut bacteria and allows beneficial gut flora to thrive.

13. Water – your brain is 80% water. Therefore, dehydration can cause brain fog. Also staying

hydrated will help curb food cravings and hunger.

* Note: Many of the foods itemized above also contain flavonoids, which are essential for good gut health. Flavonoids are found in leafy green vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, onion, apples, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, oranges, grapefruit, lemon, unrefined coconut oil.

In conclusion

Just as your gut bacteria influences your mood, your mood influences and causes changes to your gut bacteria. How your gut bacteria impact’s your mood depends on the health of

your gut microbiome (aka your gut’s internal environment), as well as how well your digestive

system functions as a whole. Probiotics and prebiotics can help regulate the composition and diversity of the gut bacteria and be used as ways to impact brain function. Continued research is making it increasingly clear that diet-based therapies targeting the gut may be used to influence brain function and improve mood. The microbes in the gut send messages to the brain and are able to influence cognition, mood, executive function, emotional regulation, stress responses, pain, sleep, and social behavior.

When your gut is healthy, the lines of communication between your gut and brain will function at optimal levels.

Adequate serotonin is produced, the correct hunger and satiety signals are sent to and from your brain, proper nutrients are synthesized, and so on. As a result, you feel energized, calm, and experience an overall greater sense of well-being. I do not believe there is a solution that works 100% of the time, or that there is one solution that works for everybody. I still have my melancholy moments, but I have a system in place to counteract these moments and make them shorter. Listen to your body and note how you feel physically and emotionally before, during, and after eating certain foods. I also reach out to friends and family more often for support. This is a process that works for me and has helped me be free of

chocolate chip cookies, tortilla chips, and ice cream for the past six months, and has allowed me to become closer with the one’s I love. My purpose here is to help you develop lifelong health utilizing real life approaches.


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