Neurotransmitters and the Gut-Brain Connection
Neurotransmitters are chemicals in our bodies which act as signals between neurons to regulate mood, behavior, appetite, sleep, sexual desire and sexual function. Much of the neurotransmitter serotonin is actually produced in the digestive tract and it is believed that serotonin is largely responsible for the gut-brain connection.
There are strains of bacteria in the gut which produce serotonin from an amino acid – tryptophan – and research shows that if your body is lacking these strains of bacteria, you experience changes in mood and behavior. Other strains are able to produce dopamine, another neurotransmitter which is responsible for our reward system and as well as motivation. In a way, healthy bacteria are our body’s own natural anti-depressant!
Because of the strength of this gut-brain connection, maintaining a healthy and diverse microbiome is one of the emerging treatment approaches for addressing mental health concerns.
Food allergies and intolerances refer to foods which cause an immune reaction. A food allergy which causes symptoms like anaphylactic shock, such as a peanut allergy, is known as an IgE food allergy and these can be life threatening (IgE refers to the specific type of antibody of the immune system that is involved). Food allergies which are IgG mediated involve a different type of immune antibody, are not life-threatening on their own, and are generally referred to as a food intolerances.
Although both are immune mediated — meaning they cause inflammation and result from or are triggered by an abnormally regulated immune response — they are generally different in the type of symptoms they create. Food intolerances, can produce a wide array of symptoms, from fatigue and brain fog to eczema, digestive upset and migraines. Food intolerances have also been associated with mood and behavior changes. Ingesting foods you’re intolerant to can increase inflammatory markers, known as cytokines, in the brain and contribute to depressive symptoms.
The most prevalent food intolerances are dairy, gluten, egg, soy, and nuts/peanuts however it is common to have more than one food intolerance as well as other, less common intolerances.
The easiest way to know of you have food intolerances is testing. If you would like to schedule a food allergy test click below!