More than just a gut feeling - How mood and emotions are influenced by the 'second brain'

Saturday, September 08, 2012 by: Carolanne Wright
Tags: mood, emotions, second brain

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(NaturalNews) Attitude and outlook may not all be in the head. Researchers have found that the gut can function like a second brain -- influencing the nervous system and behavior. High fat intake has been shown to affect this gastrointestinal nervous system, helping to improve emotional balance. But not any fat will do -- specific fatty acids are the key to unlocking a bright and stable frame of mind.

The gut isn't just about digesting food -- it also regulates our emotional climate throughout the day. A specialized field of study dubbed neurogastroenterology links the workings of the gastrointestinal tract with mood and emotional health. According to Michael Gershon, professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University, "The gut can work independently of any control by the brain in your head - it's functioning as a second brain." Through a network of 100 million neurons in the gut called the enteric nervous system (ENS), over 30 neurotransmitters are produced that are identical to those found in the brain -- one of which is serotonin. Incredibly, 90 percent of all serotonin is located in the gut. Remember, serotonin is an important feel-good hormone that regulates sleep, appetite and mood. Gershon continues,"Tinkering with the second brain in our gut has lately been shown to be a potent tool for achieving relief from major depression."

The results of a Belgian study confirm Gershon's theory. Researchers bypassed the pleasures of eating by inserting a nasogastric tube into the stomach of healthy volunteers. They were then given either a saline or fatty acid solution through the tube. At the same time, each person was exposed to melancholic or neutral music along with sad or innocuous images. Feelings reported by participants as well as MRI brain scans showed that those who received the fatty acid infusion had about half the sadness compared with the saline group.

Feeding joyful emotions

For maximum emotional benefit, certain types of fat are more effective than others. Saturated fat from animal products like dairy, red meat and pork tend to cloud the brain, provoke aggression and trigger depression. Trans fats, which are found in foods like margarine, shortening and many fast foods, are another mood killer. A happier, more positive choice would be omega-3 rich foods like salmon and other cold water fish, walnuts, flax and chia seeds. These fatty acids 'feed' the gut and emotions in a constructive way -- helping to nourish a sunny and balanced disposition by directly supporting the enteric nervous system's production of serotonin.

Sources for this article include:

"Positive Mental and Emotional Effects of Fatty Foods" Staff, Utne Reader, March/April 2012. Retrieved on September 3, 2012 from: http://www.utne.com/mind-body/effects-of-fatty-foods-zm0z12mazsie.aspx

"Your Backup Brain" Dan Hurley, Psychology Today, November/December 2011. Retrieved on September 3, 2012 from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201110/your-backup-brain

"Fatty acid-induced gut-brain signaling attenuates neural and behavioral effects of sad emotion in humans" Lukas Van Oudenhove, Shane McKie, Daniel Lassman, Bilal Uddin, Peter Paine, Steven Coen, Lloyd Gregory, Jan Tack and Qasim Aziz, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, July 25, 2011. Retrieved on September 3, 2012 from: http://www.jci.org/articles/view/46380

"Healthy eating and your mood: How eating healthily can improve your mood and behaviour" RealBuzz.com. Retrieved on September 3, 2012 from: http://www.realbuzz.com/articles/healthy-eating-and-your-mood-us-en/

"Boost Brain Power with Good Fats" Amy Paturel, MS, MPH, Cleveland Clinic Wellness, September 8, 2009. Retrieved on September 3, 2012 from: http://www.360-5.com

"Essential Fatty Acids - Improving Fertility and Mood" Dr. Judith Fiore, ND, Infertility Awareness Association Canada. Retrieved on September 3, 2012 from: http://www.iaac.ca

About the author:
Carolanne believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, wellness coach and natural foods chef, she has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of green living for over 13 years. Through her website www.Thrive-Living.net she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people who share a similar vision.

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