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relationship between food and mood

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Humans are complex beings and there are many factors that can affect our state of health. One of them is the â € œ intestinal microbiotaâ € popularly known as  « flora «. In this article I will explain what is the relationship between microbiota and depression . 1

Functions of the microbiota or  «flora»

The intestinal microbiota or  «flora» is defined as the microbial ecosystem that colonizes the gastrointestinal tract. It is so important that it is even beginning to be considered as one more organ. The set of these microorganisms that live inside our body supposes up to 2kg of our body mass, a quite remarkable weight for how small these beings are, don't you think?

And of course, being so many, it is logical that they can exert some effects on our health:

  • Synthesis of compounds such as vitamins (Vitamin K, Vitamins of group B).
  • It facilitates the absorption of certain minerals (calcium, iron).
  • Protects from the implantation of external pathogenic bacteria avoiding infections.
  • Strengthens the immune system against different types of infections.

But and in addition to all this I tell you that it is able to communicate with your brain affecting your mood do you believe me? Year? Now you will!

 «The microbiota is made up of about 2kg of small microorganisms that are part of our body mass»

Can the microbiota affect our mood? ?

The answer is Yes but for this we must first understand how to communicate with such an organ so far physically.

The microbiota is able to communicate with the brain through various mechanisms such as: 2

  • Stimulate the immune system.
  • Through the vagus nerve (a nerve that communicates stomach and part of the intestines with the brain).
  • By hormonal responses.
  • Even by certain molecules that produce certain bacteria.

 «The microbiota is able to communicate with the brain»

Major depression and its relationship with our microbiota bacteria

Now I want us to focus on the major depression what exactly is it?

The major depression is an emotional disorder that causes a feeling of constant sadness and a loss of interest in performing different activities. It affects 300 million people, causes a functional disability and is even associated with 800,000 suicides a year or so. The major depressive disorder is the most modulable psychological disorder by these little friends.

In a recent review, it has been observed that patients with depression they had a greater amount of bacteria from families Bacteroidetes, Proteobacteia and Actinobacteria while they had lower levels of Firmicutes . While there are patients with greater protection against the disorder who have a greater amount of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium . This makes it clear that this type of patient already has a different type of population compared to that of people without the disorder. 3

Regarding molecular mechanisms, I am not going to deepen, but I leave two Articles of the two most important routes that the microbiota can modulate if it is of interest:

  • Serotonin (the happiness hormone): Oâ € ™ Mahony, S. (2015) 4 .
  • GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid): Mazzioli, R. (2016) 5 .

With this data we can already imagine that it is one thing quite serious, and to reassure you we are going to talk about how what we eat can help us keep our happy microbiota and send pretty messages to our brain. 6

 flora or microbiota

Now well, how p Can nutrition with the microbiota and depression help?

It is logical to think that the microbes that live in our intestines take advantage of the food that passes through there to nourish themselves, but what are the nutrients or foods that would help (or not) to prevent or treat this depression?

  • Mediterranean Food: A systematic review (higher scientific quality) that collected data from a total of 1,959,217 people (WOW!) Determined that people who maintained adherence to high-quality food (specifying, the Mediterranean) had greater protection against depressive symptoms together with a lower inflammatory index attributed to increased consumption Specific fish and vegetables. 7
  • Ultra-processed foods: A cohort study that evaluated 14,907 Spanish people (not as good scientific quality, but has a significant number of participants) free of Any type of depression, determined that chronic consumption of this type of food is capable of increasing cases of depression reaching 774 cases in the time that the study lasted. 8
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: A randomized and controlled study conducted in 4 countries in Europe showed that supplementation of> 1g / day of EPA and DHA (á omega-3 fatty acids) in patients with the disorder already present, obtained an improvement in depressive symptoms presented by patients under treatment with antidepressants. 9

On the other hand, there are treatments that are being evaluated for future use such as the use of psychobiotics (supplements with healthy intestinal microbiota for your brain) and fecal transplants (sounds as bad as it is).


What do I recommend as a Dietitian-Nutritionist?

  1. Take a feeding pattern as much s Mediterranean possible.
  1. Increase the consumption of v Seasonal and fish egetales (and if possible proximity).
  1. Avoid ultra-processed food as much as possible since it has been shown that is not beneficial for depression or health ].
  1. In case you suffer from this condition and are under treatment with antidepressants talk to your doctor and assess the supplementation of> 1g / day of omega-3.
  1. Exercising moderately improves depressive symptoms and should be assessed in patients with the disorder. 10

I hope you found the topic that I selected today interesting and could be of help to more than one.


  1. Guarner, F. (2007) Role of intestinal flora in health and disease. Nutr. Hosp. 22.
  2. Gulas, E., Wysiadecki, G., Strzelecki, D., Gawlik-Kotelnicka, O., & Polguj, M. (2018). Can microbiology affect psychiatry? A link between gut microbiota and psychiatric disorders. Psychiatria Polska, 52 (6), 1â € “17.
  3. Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2016). Mood by microbe: Towards clinical translation. Genome Medicine, 8 (1), 36â € “38.
  4. Oâ € ™ Mahony, S. M., Clarke, G., Borre, Y. E., Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2015). Serotonin, tryptophan metabolism and the brain-gut-microbiome axis. Behavioural Brain Research, 277, 32â € “48
  5. Mazzoli, R., & Pessione, E. (2016). The Neuro-endocrinological Role of Microbial Glutamate and GABA Signaling. Frontiers in Microbiology.
  6. Cheung, S. G., Goldenthal, A. R., Uhlemann, A.-C., Mann, J. J., Miller, J. M., & Sublette, M. E. (2019). Systematic Review of Gut Microbiota and Major Depression. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10, 34
  7. Molendijk, M., Molero, P., Ortuà ± o Sánchez-Pedreà ± o, F., Van der Does, W. & Angel MartÃnez-González, M. (2018). Diet quality and depression risk: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Journal of Affective Disorders 226, 346â € “354
  8. Gómez-Donoso, C. et al. (2019). Ultra-processed food consumption and the incidence of depression in a Mediterranean cohort: the SUN Project. Eur. J. Nutr.
  9. Mood Food (2015). Preventing Depression Through Food.
  10. Kvam, S., Kleppe, C. L., Nordhus, I. H. & Hovland, A. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders 202, 67â € “86

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