More Than Just a Gut Feeling – How Mood and Emotions are Influenced by the ‘Second Brain’

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By  Carolanne Wright

Contributing Writer for  Wake Up World

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.

Article Sources  

Mental and Emotional Effects of Fatty Foods  utne.com/mind-body/effects-of-fatty-foods

Your Backup Brain  psychologytoday.com/articles/201110/your-backup-brain

Fatty acid-induced gut-brain signaling attenuates neural and behavioral effects of sad emotion in humans  jci.org/articles/view/46380

Healthy eating and your mood: How eating healthily can improve your mood and behaviour realbuzz.com/articles/healthy-eating-and-your-mood

Boost Brain Power with Good Fats 360-5.com

Essential Fatty Acids – Improving Fertility and Mood  iaac.ca

Updated September 2014

Previous articles by Carolanne:

Please note: this article was first published on  Natural News.

  • http://Website Berneck

    There was one comment you made that I have to disagree with. That is, “Saturated fat from animal products like dairy, red meat and pork tend to cloud the brain, provoke aggression and trigger depression.” Where was your source on that, and how was this determined?

    While this is more anecdotal, I have found that fats of this kind do no such thing, and I have spoken with many people who can attest to that. HOWEVER, when these foods are combined with grains and other sugars/refined carbs, you can definitely experience the “food coma.” Which in turn can lead to depression, etc.

    Animal fat is not the enemy, sugar and grains are.

    I’m not suggesting that eating a 16oz steak is good either, but the issue is less the steak, and more what is being eaten with it. A steak with creamed spinach, mashed potatoes and the bread basket is going to make anybody feel bloated and sluggish. If people eat this way all the time depression and anger follows. No doubt.

    However, eating 4-6oz of beef or pork regularly with a plate load of steamed or raw veggies, leafy greens, etc, WILL NOT have this effect. Eating whole natural foods is the key. Anything processed is the real enemy.

    There’s more to it than making a statement like that. Otherwise, I agree the gut has a tremendous amount to do with the way we feel and our overall health. It’s so simple it’s stupid, yet most doctors will never even discuss the notion that food could be the key to a lot of our ailments…. Go figure.

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