Can our gut affect our mood?

Can our gut affect our mood?

Forming good diet habits at the start of the year may impact us in the long term. At Calocurb, we understand the importance of a healthy gut and its effects on our mood. This blog will discuss the gut-brain axis and tryptophan, the essential amino acid that regulates our serotonin levels.

Science has shown that a healthy gut can make beneficial changes in the brain and vice versa via a connection known as the gut-brain axis. The primary information connection between the brain and gut is the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body, which may play a key role in regulating mood via the common ‘feel-good’ hormones: serotonin and dopamine.

What affects the gut often affects the brain and vice versa.
Our gut works a great deal to keep our good bacteria in balance and keep the bad ones in check. In stressful situations, the brain sends warning signals to the gut, which is why stressful events can cause digestive problems like an upset stomach and wreck the good:bad bacteria ratio. On the flip side, a lack of good bacteria (dysbiosis) in the gut may trigger anxiety or depression.


The communication between our brain and gut shows us the importance of a healthy diet on our mood. Over 90% of your body's serotonin is found in your gut, not your brain. The essential amino acid, tryptophan, is the building block of serotonin. Scientists believe tryptophan impacts a lot of aspects in our lives from our mood to appetite control, nutrient absorption and sugar balance. Again, if our gut’s good bacteria is compromised, so can your brain and scientists have shown a link between decreased tryptophan absorption and increased feelings of depression.

"You are what you eat" is a common saying and underlines the importance of good food to be healthy and fit. A study has shown that a fatty, high-carb diet may lead the tryptophan to be broken down in a way that leads to insulin resistance (your blood sugar levels increase) and decreases serotonin production. That sluggish feeling after that piece of cake? Your gut AND brain are both not happy!

Tryptophan can only be found in your diet such as protein-based foods:

  • Dairy (aim for probiotic-rich yoghurt products to increase levels of tryptophan and promote a healthy gut microbiome)
  • Eggs
  • Lean chicken, turkey or salmon
  • Tofu and soybeans
  • Grains, nuts and seeds (e.g. quinoa, cashews, almonds and chia seeds)
  • Fresh vegetables and fruits (potatoes, prunes, bananas and apples)
  • Dark chocolate (opt for 85% and over and minimal sugar content)

In a nutshell, it’s happy gut, happy mood! Think of your gut as your body's backstage manager, constantly whispering cues to your brain about how to feel. By treating it to a diet full of tryptophan-rich delights and gut-loving goodies, you're basically throwing a VIP party for your serotonin levels. So, next time you're feeling down, head straight for the probiotic yoghurts or some lean chicken - your gut (and brain) will thank you for it!