Understanding Morning Sickness and Food Cravings

Understanding Morning Sickness and Food Cravings

Mental Health Gut Article

Two of the most commonly reported pregnancy symptoms are “morning sickness” (nausea and vomiting) and food cravings. Below, we offer some tips to support you through your pregnancy and reduce these symptoms!

Morning Sickness

Approximately 50-90 percent of women experience nausea and vomiting in their pregnancy, and 5 percent of women have the same symptoms throughout the entire pregnancy, per The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Unfortunately, science hasn’t proven the exact cause of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. However, the elevated pregnancy hormone, BHCG, and estrogen may be a contributing factor, in addition to unbalanced blood sugars. (Mayo clinic)

We have some tips for you in surviving nausea and vomiting in pregnancy:

  • Eat several small meals a day, and don’t skip breakfast. Many women need to have a few rice crackers before getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Avoid triggers. If the smell of chicken makes you nauseous, avoid the smell when possible.
  • Don’t lie down after eating.
  • An empty stomach can contribute to nausea so try to eat regularly. Plan small snacks throughout your day to avoid long periods of time without eating.
  • Avoid spicy and fatty foods such as pizza, french fries and burgers.
  • Consider using anti-nausea wristbands. These bands are placed on your wrist to trigger pressure points that may alleviate nausea.
  • Use ginger, nature’s anti-nausea remedy. There are many options including ginger , ginger candies or ginger tea. Use ginger candies sparingly as the do contain sugar.
  • Increase your intake of vitamin B6, which can be found in foods such as spinach, bell peppers, garlic, tuna and cauliflower has been shown to help decrease nausea.
  • Change the time of day you take your prenatal vitamins. Take your prenatal vitamins in the morning, afternoon or night.
  • Try to get plenty of rest.
  • To combat nausea, try reaching for cold foods—hot bites are more likely to have an aroma that triggers your gag reflex.
  • Keep lemons on hand. Sniff them, squeeze them in drinking water or even lick slices—the refreshing smell and taste can calm your stomach when morning sickness hits. Lemon and other citrus essential oils can have a similar effect.


No one really knows why pregnancy cravings occur, though there are theories that it may be related to nutrient needs in the mother or baby and the craving is the body’s way of asking for what it needs. For example, craving fries can actually mean the person might be needing sodium, craving ice cream could be the need for increased calcium or fat, and craving chocolate might indicate a need for magnesium.

Our taste buds do actually play a role in how we interpret our body’s needs. Studies show that the high hormone levels present during pregnancy can alter both a woman’s sense of taste and smell. So, certain foods and odours can, not only be more enticing, but in some cases more offensive; a problem that often plays out as a pregnancy food aversion.

While some pregnancy cravings can certainly seem a bit odd, in most instances, they don’t represent any real threat to mother or the baby. This, however, can change dramatically, when the craving is for a non-food item. The condition, known as pica, can lead to an overwhelming desire to consume any number of substances, some of which can be extremely harmful to both mother and baby. During pregnancy a woman can crave – and eat – things like dirt, laundry starch, crayons, ground-up clay pots, or ice scraped from the freezer. While pica (eating non-nutritive substances) is not well understood, sometimes these cravings represent a nutritional deficiency, particularly a need for iron, there are no studies to prove this is always the case. Among the most dangerous aspects of pica is the consumption of lead, particularly when women eat dirt or clay. This can lead to infant and child developmental problems with low verbal IQ scores, impaired hearing, and delayed motor skill development. Other research has shown an increased risk of learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders in infant exposure to lead before birth (Webmed).

It is important if you do have cravings to think about the food that you are craving and what nutrients it may have that you could be needing. With this information, you can make a plan to switch out what typically might be an unhealthy craving to something that is more nutritious, and feed your body with the nutrients it requires. For example, if you are craving ice cream you might be needing calcium and fat, so you could switch out your sugar-loaded ice cream with organic full-fat Greek yoghurt with frozen berries. The latter is much better for you and your baby as it offers more nutrients, less sugar, and can help maintaining balanced blood sugar levels and a healthy weight gain during pregnancy.

In Summary

We don’t have all the answers as to why nausea, vomiting and food cravings are so common during pregnancy. But, we there are many available strategies to help manage and resolve these symptoms.

If you need help navigating these, or any other pregnancy symptoms, or just want to optimize your nutrition during pregnancy – book an appointment with Koru Nutrition today!


1. Wilson RD, et al. (2015). Pre-conception folic acid and multivitamin supplementation for the primary and secondary prevention of neural tube defects and other folic acid-sensitive congenital anomalies. SOGC Clinical Practice Guideline No. 324. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada37(6): 534–549. http://sogc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/gui324CPG1505E.pdf. Accessed July 20, 2015.

Nutrition for Pregnancy 101

Nutrition for Pregnancy 101

Mental Health Gut Article

It can be an amazing experience to get pregnant and know that you are growing a life. But it can also be overwhelming as you begin considering what you can and can’t do, and what you can and can’t eat to ensure the health of both you and the new person growing inside of you.

To maintain a healthy pregnancy, you must be consuming approximately 300 extra calories each day. Ideally, these calories will come from a balanced diet of protein-rich foods, quality fats and oils, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Sweets and processed fats should be kept to a minimum. A healthy, well-balanced diet can also help to reduce some pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and constipation.

So what is a healthy weight gain during pregnancy?

A woman who was average weight before getting pregnant should gain 25 to 35 pounds after becoming pregnant. Underweight women should gain 28 to 40 pounds. And overweight women may need to gain only 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy.

In general, weight gain occurs as approximately 2 to 4 pounds during the first three months you’re pregnant and 1 pound a week during the rest of your pregnancy. If you are expecting twins you should gain 35 to 45 pounds during your pregnancy. This would be an average of 1 ½ pounds per week after the usual weight gain in the first three months.

But where does all this extra weight gain go? Here is the break down:

What To Eat To Support Pregnancy

As mentioned above,  eating a balanced diet with a variety of whole foods helps ensure that you are getting the full spectrum of nutrients to support you and your baby’s development. Consuming whole grains, clean and lean cuts of meat, good quality fish high in omega 3, raw nuts and seeds and lots of fruits and vegetables, are all really important. Some key nutrients and foods that are needed are highlighted below.

Eat Your Fruits And Vegetables

No surprise here! We all know fruits and vegetables are healthy for us! Set yourself the goal of “eating the rainbow”. Consume bright coloured fruits and vegetables of all different colours to get a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Pregnant women should focus on fruits and vegetables, , and consume between five and 10 tennis ball-size servings of produce every day.


Folate is a naturally-occurring B-vitamin that taken or consumed before and during early pregnancy reduces the chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect or other birth defects.

Foods high in folate include:

Romaine lettuce 2 cups = 152mcg
1 cup of spinach = 262 mcg
1 cup of asparagus = 262mcg
broccoli 1 cup = 93 mcg
lentils 1 cup = 358 mcg.

Taking folate or folic acid (the man-made version of folate) daily in a dose of at least 400 mcg for at least 2 to 3 months before trying to get pregnant and while you are pregnant is generally recommended for reducing birth defects and risk of anemia (2). Folic acid and/or folate are found in prenatal supplements. Some women need higher doses, and some women don’t synthesize folic acid into folate efficiently. Talk with your health professional about how much and what type of supplementation may be right for you.


You will need more iron during your pregnancy than you did before becoming pregnant. This extra iron supports the creation of additional blood in your system and supports the growth of the placenta and fetus.

Pregnant women are recommended to consume 27mg of iron a day, which is double the amount needed by women who are not expecting, according to ACOG. Getting too little iron during pregnancy can lead to anemia, a condition resulting in fatigue and an increased risk of infections. Most prenatal vitamins include iron.

There are two main types of iron, heme from meat sources and non-heme from vegetable sources. Meat sources are more easily absorbed into the body than vegetarian sources. But that doesn’t mean you don’t benefit from the vegetable sources!

Foods high in Iron include:

spinach 1 cup = 6.4mg,
swiss chard 1 cup = 35mg
lentils 1 cup = 6.6 mg

heme sources:
3 ounces of cooked beef = 2.1mg or more
3 ounces of canned sardines, canned in oil = 2.1mg

Often iron supplementation is recommended in addition to consuming iron-rich foods. However, some iron supplements can cause an upset stomach and constipation, depending on the form of iron present. Taking iron at bedtime may decrease the chance of stomach upset, as can using a more gentle formula. The body absorbs iron best in small amounts when eaten with vitamin C, so you may want to take your iron throughout the day in lower doses. Unfortunately, taking iron supplements in the first trimester may aggravate morning sickness. If morning sickness, constipation or upset stomach are a concern for you, talk to your health care provider, as there are many forms of available that may be better tolerated.


Calcium is needed for the development of your baby’s bones. You can get enough calcium in your diet by eating or drinking a variety of foods. Pregnant women age 19 and over need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day.

Sources of calcium include:
Swiss chard 1 cup = 101.5mg
spinach 1c up = 245mg
= 447mg
Broccoli 1 cup = 74 mg
basil 2 tsp = 63mg

Calcium-fortified soy and rice beverages, canned fish with bones (such as salmon and sardines) and cooked beans, legumes, and lentils, are all good sources of calcium as well.

The Takeaways

To help ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby ensure you’re consuming approximately 300 extra calories per day from whole food sources including “eating the rainbow” of fruits and vegetables every day. Focus on consuming or supplementing with enough folate, iron and calcium.

For more information to guide you through your pregnancy journey, please schedule an appointment with Koru nutrition today.

10 Christmas Survival Tips

10 Christmas Survival Tips

Mental Health Gut Article

Stringing the lights on our houses and decorating our Christmas trees while watching the snow fall… it really is a magical time of the year. But, with all the Christmas wonder and excitement, this is the time that we tend to over indulge in food and beverages – which leads to struggle with putting on a few extra pounds.

This year will be different with social gatherings limited due to COVID, so it may seem like there’s not much else to do other than eat! At Koru, we want to make sure you can enjoy your Christmas festivities and food delights without over-indulging and feeling just as stuffed as your stuffed turkey! We just might be able to help you avoid that food coma…

So, let’s look at some ways to help you not feel stuffed like your turkey!

Here are 10 Christmas Survival tips: 

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Are you hungry or thirsty? Dehydration caused by not drinking enough water can be easily mistaken for hunger cues, which can be dangerous when you have a big meal ahead of you. Drinking water can fill you up and help to keep your portion sizes under control.
  2. Lighten up! Try making your traditional recipes a little lighter by using low-sodium chicken broth in the gravy and to baste the turkey. Try plain Greek yogurt in the mashed potatoes, dips and casseroles to benefit from the good bacterial cultures. Use sugar substitutes such as swerve, xylitol and pureed fruit in place of sugar in baked goods.
  3. Use a smaller plate. Recent research suggests that we consume around 3,000 calories in our Christmas dinner – more than the entire recommended daily intake for a grown man! So, pay attention to your plating. Use a smaller plate because larger plates lead to larger food intake. Consider limiting yourself to one serving only. Besides, second helpings always taste better as leftovers the next day. Try dividing your plate into: 25% protein, 25% starches/grains, and 50% non-starchy vegetables.
  4. Let the body and brain connection catch up. Once dinner is done, it is suggested to wait 20 minutes until you indulge in anything else, such as second helpings and/or dessert. This will allow your brain to recognize how full you really are and hopefully avoid over-indulging and the potential food coma!
  5. Walk it off! How about instead of taking a nap after the feast, go for a walk around the block? Breathing in some fresh air and getting the blood pumping can help your digestion. This is also a great opportunity to get out of the house and avoid ongoing nibbling of food.
  6. Look at staggering your meal throughout the day. Maybe have appetizers at 11:00am, dinner at 2:00pm and dessert at 5:00pm. That way you space out your 3 course meal over the day and get to enjoy your dinner with a lot more time to relax and chill out afterwards.
  7. Focus on non starchy vegetables for dinner. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and green beans are all wonderful traditional Christmas options. Plus, you can switch out mashed potatoes for mashed cauliflower
  8. Fit in fitness this Christmas! Whether you are busy or bored, your fitness routine normally takes a major dip this time of year. We recommend completely changing your fitness routine during the holidays so that you force your body to adapt to something new, stay enthusiastic about fitness, and keep burning off that eggnog.
  9. Many of us consume more alcohol at Christmastime. At the very least, steer clear of sweet cocktails and creamy liqueurs. Have a glass of water after every alcoholic drink to keep down the calorie count – it also has the benefit of leaving you with a clearer head the next morning.
  10. Be mindful! Christmas is a time of plenty, and with nuts, chocolates, mince pies and cheese straws wherever you look, it would be rather Scrooge-like to suggest that you don’t eat any treats over the festive period! But rather than mindlessly popping whatever is in front of you into your mouth, spend a moment thinking about whether you really want it, or are just eating it because it’s there. Prioritize where you want to “indulge” and where other temptations can be avoided without much regret. Then truly savour those foods you choose to indulge in. Enjoy every bite!

Wishing you a happy, and healthy, holiday season from all of us at Koru Nutrition!

    6 Ways Your Diet May Be Impacting Your Sleep

    6 Ways Your Diet May Be Impacting Your Sleep

    Mental Health Gut Article

    Sleeping problems are on the rise and for a number of reasons. When we don’t get enough sleep not only do we feel tired and grumpy the next day but, we often tend to gravitate to stimulants such as coffee, sugar or carbs to help keep us going. When we don’t get appropriate sleep quality or quantity, our body does not have the chance to do all the amazing activities and tasks that kick in when we are asleep.  As a result ongoing sleep issues can lead to numerous health problems.

    A study conducted by Dr. Charles M. Morin at Université Laval revealed that 40% of Canadians had experienced one or more symptoms of insomnia at least three times a week and only 13% said they had consulted their doctor about it.

    The most effective way to deal with insomnia is identifying the underlying cause of it and then apply the appropriate recommendations. The most common causes of insomnia are depression, anxiety and stress, but your insomnia can also be due to hormonal imbalances, calorie restricting/eating disorders, food allergies, blood sugar imbalances, toxic build up and nutrient deficiencies. 

    So, let’s explore a few of these…

    1. Consuming Stimulants such as Coffee and Alcohol

    People often think having that one or two glasses of wine or beer a night can help them to relax, take the edge off and get a better night sleep but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Although alcohol can help you feel relaxed, it actually interferes with sleep. Alcohol can reduce overall sleep time, and cause shorter, lighter, and less restful sleep. Alcohol also impairs the transport of tryptophan into the brain which is important in making melatonin to help us sleep.

    As much as we love our cup of coffee it can hinder us getting a good night’s sleep and believe it or not even 1 to 2 cups a day can be problematic. That’s because caffeine can remain in our bodies for up to 20 hours so even sipping on your morning cup of joe can inhibit your sleep at night. As we know coffee gives us a pick me up; that is because it produces stimulating hormones such as adrenaline, nornepephrine and cortisol which help us to feel alert and energized. Caffeine has been associated with insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and periodic leg movement. Remember caffeine is also found in hot chocolate, chocolate and teas, so if you are not a big coffee drinker you might be having a problem with the caffeine in these foods and beverages.

    Both caffeine and alcohol can also decrease the absorption of nutrients essential for sleep such as B vitamins, magnesium and calcium. They are also a natural diuretic so can cause you to have to wake up during the night to use the washroom.

    Monitor you intake of these beverages and see if you notice a difference when you consume them and when you don’t.

    1. Food Allergies

    Believe it or not food allergies can be a common culprit of insomnia. Food allergies can cause difficulties falling asleep and cause frequent awakenings. Foods that are high on the allergenic profile include wheat, corn, milk, chocolate, nuts, egg whites, seafood, red and yellow dyes and yeast, but basically it can be any food. The problem with food intolerances and sensitivities is that it can be hard to detect as there can be up to a 3 day delay in a response to a specific food that you ate. Imagine something you ate on Monday and having insomnia problems on the Wednesday. The other issue is that you may consume that problematic food on a daily basis and subsequently have sleeping problems every single night. Food intolerances can also cause the  release of histamine which can also disrupt the brain chemistry and lead to sleep disturbances.

    Although you can do blood work for food allergy testing, the best way to determine if you have an issue is complete the food elimination diet for 2 weeks and then reintroduce one food type back into the diet for 3 days and monitor symptoms. If there is no change in sleeping patterns then this food is not the culprit and you repeat this procedure until you identify the problem food.

    1. Blood Sugar Imbalances

    Consuming too much sugar and skipping meals can contribute to unbalanced blood sugars which can induce nighttime hypoglycemia. When blood sugars drop the body releases hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol that stimulate the brain and indicate that it is time to eat. This can awaken you or prevent you from entering into deep sleep.

    1. Avoid Smoking

    Nicotine is a stimulant and as a result many smokers have difficulties with sleeping problems. In a poll conduced by the National Sleep foundation 46% of smokers reported experiencing sleep insomnia a few nights a week as compared to 35% of non-smokers. Nicotine found in cigarettes stimulates the release of adrenaline and norepinephrine, which are hormones that activate the body, increase heart rate  and elevate blood pressure as well as keep us awake.

    1. Dieting

    Anorexia or when losing weight/dieting can contribute to poor sleep  with many experiencing frequent waking at the second half of the night. Both animal and human research has shown that starvation-level calorie restriction leads to sleep interruptions and a reduction in slow-wave sleep, also known as deep sleep (1).

    In another small study of 10 young women, four weeks of dieting led to greater difficulty falling asleep and a decrease in the amount of time spent in deep sleep (2). Feeling as though you are too hungry to fall asleep or waking up hungry are major signs that you’re not getting enough to eat.

    1. Nutrient Deficiencies

    There are a number of nutrients that help us to get to sleep and maintain sleep throughout the night and deficiencies in these nutrients can cause us to experience difficulty falling asleep and having restful sleep. Vitamin and minerals deficiencies include B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and vitamin E.

    Deficiencies in copper and iron have ben linked to greater difficulties in getting to sleep and decreased sleep quality. Studies indicate that low levels of iron correlated with an increased incidence of restless leg syndrome and vitamin E deficiency may also be a factor in restless leg syndrome (3). Although B vitamins are good for energy they are also important for sleep. Deficiencies in folate has been linked to insomnia and restless leg syndrome and  your body needs vitamin B6 to help convert tryptophan into melatonin which is our sleep hormone (4).

    Calcium and magnesium are natural calming sedatives to the central nervous system. Magnesium is a natural muscle and nervous system relaxant so also important if sleeping issues are related to pain but also for stress, anxiety and irritability.



    1 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15033150/

    2 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8310984/

    3 Arthur C, Guyton, MD and John E Hall PhD Textbook of medical physiology 9th edition (Philadelphia)

    1. Kennedy, Tighe, Brow. “Melatonin and Cortisol switches during mania, depression and Eythmia” Depressed Nocturnal plasma melatonin levels” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 1777:5 (1989), 300-303

    12 Nutrition “Hacks” For Better Sleep

    12 Nutrition “Hacks” For Better Sleep

    Woman sleeping

    Sleep is so important to our overall health and wellbeing. It impacts our emotions, cognition, mood, physical abilities and eating habits. When we sleep our body repairs and rejuvenates itself, it is where muscles are built, cells are replaced, hormones are released and healing occurs.

    Over the past few decades, both sleep quality and quantity has declined. In fact, many people regularly get poor sleep (3,4).

    Research shows that insufficient sleep can increase the risk of obesity by 89% in children and 55% in adults (10). Other studies conclude that getting less than 7–8 hours per night increases your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes (11,12).

    Sleep and wakefulness are controlled by a series of chemical reactions in the body. Certain nutrients can affect these chemical reactions and alter how long it takes you to fall asleep, how often you wake up during the night, and how you feel the next day.

    So, if you want to optimize your health or lose weight, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do.

    Here are 12 nutrition sleeping hacks to help get you into better and healthier sleeping patterns.

    12 Nutrition Hacks for Better Sleep

    1. Stay away from spicy foods in the evening

    Research shows that people that eat spicy food at night spent less time in both the light phase of sleep known as Stage 2 and the deep, slow-wave Stages 3 and 4. All of which means that they experienced less sleep over all and took longer to drift off (1).

    1. Try to avoid heavy meals at night-time especially if they are high in fat.

    A heavy meal or fatty snack right before bed can cause discomfort and indigestion. This in turn can affect your sleep, causing you to wake up several times. Studies have shown that eating a large meal close to bedtime may make it harder to fall asleep. Aim for around 10 grams in the evening, or about what’s in three ounces of salmon.

    1. Cook with sleep friendly herbs such as parsley, dill, sage, basil, turmeric, garlic and nutmeg

    Flavour your evening meals with these sleep-friendly herbs as opposed to spicy flavourings or sugar loaded sauces.

    1. Avoid high protein-meals before bed

    Protein-rich foods release amino acids into the blood. When amino acids such as tyrosine flood the body, they are quickly used to synthesize stimulants such as the excitatory neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine, and thermogenic thyroid hormones. Excitatory neurotransmitters keep the brain active and thyroid hormones increase the body’s metabolic rate. Both effects disrupt sleep. Furthermore, by suddenly increasing the number of amino acids in the body, high-protein foods reduce the amount of tryptophan reaching the brain.

    1. Consume soy foods to reduce night sweats

    If you struggle with hormone related night sweats and hot flashes you may want to consume more foods high in phytoestrogens such as roasted soy nuts, edamame, tempeh, tofu, soy milk and cheese (this should be non-GMO soy). Soy is also rich in important sleep promoting nutrients such as iron, B vitamins, calcium, vitamin E and magnesium.

    1. Best to consume a large breakfast, lighter lunch and an even lighter evening meal

    This will take the strain off your digestion and enable your body to focus on sleeping as opposed to digesting

    1. Make sure you are getting adequate calories

    Dieting and restricting calories can cause stress on your body and disrupt hormones which can have a negative impact on your sleep

    1. Avoid drinking too much in the evening

    Try and consume most of your fluids during the earlier part of the day. Drinking too much in the evening can cause frequent wakings to go to the bathroom.

    1. Make sure you are eating enough fibre through more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains

    Research shows that people who fill up on fibre spend more time in deep sleep, than those who get less fibre, and consume more saturated fat, and more sugar which results in waking up more often (2).

    1. Avoid alcohol

    Alcohol is known to cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns (5,6). Alcohol also alters nighttime melatonin production, which plays a key role in your body’s circadian rhythm (7,8). Another study found that alcohol consumption at night decreased the natural nighttime elevations in human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a role in your circadian rhythm and has many other key functions (9).

    1. Avoid MSG food products

    A common food additive that is known to cause insomnia is MSG (monosodium glutamate). This compound is a common ingredient used in preparing Chinese foods as well as refined, packaged foods. However, it is a potent stimulant and can keep some people awake late into the night.

    1. Choose a nighttime snack that contains complex carbohydrates with a limited amount of protein and fat.

    Dairy is a great sleep inducer (if you do not have an allergy or intolerance to it) because the brain can use the tryptophan and calcium from it to help make melatonin. Try and keep the snack to less than 200 calories and eat between 1 to 1.5 hours before bed.

    Best Bedtime Snacks

    • Whole grain piece of toast with a nut/seed butter
    • A small bowl of low sugar cereal with low fat milk and a banana
    • Cottage cheese and tart cherries or kiwifruit
    • Yoghurt with cut up banana
    • Small bowl of warm oatmeal with milk and banana
    • Banana and nut butter on whole grain piece of toast
    • Small handful of almonds (28 grams)
    • Chia Oats with Kiwi

    So, what are you waiting for? Try out some of our nutrition sleep hacks today and increase your potential for a long and restful sleep.

    Good night.



    1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1399758/
    2. https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.5384
    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4302758/
    4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20669438/
    5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7077345/
    6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7258218/
    7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8370699/
    8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8345809/
    9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8675588/
    10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2398753/
    11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21300732/
    12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15851636/
    How Your Gut Has A Direct Impact On Your Mood

    How Your Gut Has A Direct Impact On Your Mood

    Mental Health Gut Article

    You may be surprised to know that the bacteria living in our gut often referred to as our microflora or microbiome can have a significant impact on our brain chemistry and how we feel, think and behave. We’ve written a little more about that here. The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” and has the ability to communicate via the nervous system, hormones, and the immune system.

    Our gut is composed of trillions of bacteria and over 1000 different species. The composition of the microbiome varies from person to person, with contributing factors including age, diet, behaviour, environment, and genetics (Yang A.L., Kashyap et al., 2015).

    Unfortunately, the microbiome is often under looked as an influencing factor in a wide range of neurological conditions despite the fact that it plays a role in Autism Spectrum Disorder, chronic pain, stress, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease as well as Depression and Anxiety (Mayer EA, et al. 2014)

    Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects many facets of human behaviour, such as mood, stress response, appetite, happiness and sexual drive. Interestingly enough, up to 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced by the gut microbiome.  Research demonstrates a connection between healthy gut bacteria and lower rates of depression (1,2,3,4,5).

    The common bacteria that we know are lactobacilli and bifidobacterium. These “friendly” bacteria have actually been shown to lower levels of brain-toxic compounds and can lower inflammation in the brain by reducing certain cytokine levels (inflammatory markers), These specific cytokines can cause anxiety, depressive symptoms and cognitive disturbances (Logan, 2006).

    Research published in the American Society for Microbiology in 2012 has found that “good” gut bacteria can have a marked effect on GABA levels in the brain (a neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating anxiety, digestion, sleep and relaxation), which can help reduce feelings of anxiety and elevate our mood.

    Another interesting factor is that the gut microbiome can have an influence on the medications that we take as it can play a role in, not only the effectiveness of the medication, but also on whether a person experiences side effects for the medication that they are taking  (Flowers S.A., et al 2015).

    So what do we need to do to help support a healthy gut microbiome and therefore a healthy mood?

    #1. Eat your fruits and vegetables

    Dietary fibre supports the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria.  In fact, one study found the diversity in the gut microbiome was directly related to the variety of fruits and vegetables in a person’s diet. It also found that the microbial composition of the gut can be rapidly altered with dietary changes. (McDonald D., et al 2018).

    A recent study found an inverse relationship between fruit and vegetables and future depression or anxiety. They found that eating four extra portions of fruit and vegetables could boost people’s mental health. The more fruit and vegetable people ate, the less likely they were to be diagnosed with a mental illness (Redzo. M, 2019).

    Health Canada’s Recommended Fruit and Vegetable Intakes:

    • Children 11 and under, 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily
    • Children 12 to 13 years, 6 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
    • Females 14+ to 50 years, 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
    • Males 14 to 50 years, 8 servings of fruits and vegetables daily

    Meanwhile, The World Health Organization recommends 7-13 a day for adults and 5 servings for kids, plus eating the colour of the rainbow everyday.

    If you or your kids have a difficult time consuming enough fruits and vegetables everyday, check this out.

    #2. Consume fermented foods

    Fermented foods are foods produced or preserved by the action of microorganisms. In this context, fermentation typically refers to the fermentation of sugar to alcohol using yeast, but other fermentation processes involve the use of bacteria such as lactobacillus, which help to make foods such as kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut, may improve gut health, and subsequently, mood.

    The fermentation process allows live bacteria to thrive in foods that are then able to convert sugars into alcohol and acids. During this process, probiotics are created. These live microorganisms support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and may increase serotonin levels (1,2).

    If you don’t tend to consume a lot of fermented foods, check out this recipe for Crunchy Yogurt Clusters!

    #3. Consume Prebiotics

    Unlike probiotic foods, prebiotic foods do not contain living organisms. They are the food for the probiotics which contribute to the health of the microbiome because they contain indigestible fibres that ferment in the GI tract. Prebiotic foods include artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, chicory, cabbage, asparagus, legumes, and oats.

    Additionally, research shows that consuming green tea, ginger, omega 3 in the form of fish oils, olive and flax oils can all help to increase the production of lactobacillus or bifidobacterial which can lower inflammation and toxins in the brain that can contribute to depression (Logan,2006).

    #4. Take a Probiotic

    There are a wide variety of probiotic supplements out there on the market and it can be hard to know which one is best for you. What we recommend is that you look for something that has at least 10 billion cultures, and has multiple strains.

    We recommend HMF Multi-strain from Genestra. Genestra is well known for it’s probiotic line of supplements and this one comes with 15 billion cultures and contains 16 different live cultures. If you are interested in purchasing the product please check it out on our online supplement dispensary.

    So, to support a healthy mood you need to support a healthy gut. A good start is to incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet, get appropriate levels of fibre, consume prebiotic  and fermented foods – and for an added bonus take a high quality probiotic.


    Logan, Alan ND., The Brain Diet, Cumberland Publishing House, 2006

    1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25860609/
    2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25078296/
    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5864293/
    4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26760398/
    5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23384445/

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    © 2021 Koru Nutrition Inc. All Rights Reserved.