Our stomachs can often be a mystery to us and many of us don't realise just how much the foods we eat can impact on our mood and mental wellbeing.
According to charity Allergy UK, a shocking 45% of us suffer with food and drink intolerances, and with so many people in the UK suffering with low mood, identifying the root cause is essential to treat the problem.
In food allergy, an exaggerated immune system response results in the body making antibodies to 'fight off' a specific food. However, the majority of people who react to foods can suffer detrimental delayed reactions to a food or beverage - this is called food intolerance.
Food intolerance is a much more common problem than food allergy and one of the most harmful symptoms can be low mood. One in four people in the UK will suffer problems with their mood or mental health every year, with anti-depressant prescriptions increasing by over 40% in the last 5 years*.
Recent research from YorkTest Laboratories, leading experts in food intolerance testing, has found that 97% of their customers reported problems relating to mood as a significant symptom of their food intolerance, of which 73% felt that their mood had significantly improved after altering their diets to remove foods to which they reacted**
In addition, in a recent paper published in the journal of Nutrition and Food Science, over 81% of patients reported a significant improvement in mood and mental wellbeing as a direct consequence of applying the dietary changes recommended by YorkTest.
So how is it that the food we eat can have such a significant impact on our mood?
Bidirectional connections between the gut and the brain are complex and are regulated in the body in three different ways; through nerves, hormones and the immune system. The gut mediates the body's immune response; at least 70% of our immune system is situated in the gut and is used to expel and kill foreign invaders.
Our gut contains some 100million neurons (nerve cells), more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. All of these neurons lining our digestive system do much more than merely handle digestion or cause occasional nervous feelings. Our gut partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body. Many people will not be aware that 90% of serotonin, the brain's 'happy hormone' is produced in the gut - it is for these reasons that the gut is often referred to as the 'second brain'.
In addition, research has shown that depression is frequently associated with gastrointestinal inflammation - a common symptom of food intolerance. By tackling unidentified food intolerances, not only will physical symptoms benefit, but mental health symptoms can often show significant improvement.
There are a number of ways to identify potentially mood-suppressing food intolerances, one that I recommend that is scientifically validated and well researched is YorkTest, Europe's leading provider of food and drink intolerance testing with over 30 years' experience. The YorkTest food and drink intolerance test called Food&DrinkScan can uncover potential food and drink triggers, allowing people to simply modify their diets with life changing health benefits.
* Figures obtained from NHS Prescription Services under the Freedom of Information Act by the BBC.
** Survey of YorkTest customers. Figures based on responsive customers only.