The Mind, Gut & Mental Health

Can the way we eat and move influence our mental health?

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The GUT

Clapp et al., 2017.

Clapp et al., 2017.

The gut is home to billions of micro-organisms, making up >70% living bacteria and contains 500 million nerve cells. These cells are connected to the brain through nerves which transmit information. The gut and its microbes control inflammatory processes, immune function and several different compounds that can influence our brain health. 

The BRAIN

Our cognition is governed by the number and strength of neurons to help solve problems, respond to stimuli and think about new ideas. Neurons continually make new connections and new pathways in the brain to make us smarter and improve our memory, a process called ‘neurogenesis’. Specific nutrients within our diet can stimulate neurogenesis and poor quality foods can inhibit growth of an area of our brain called the hippocampus. Not great when this guy is critical for learning, memory and mood regulation!

How do they communicate? 

The gut and brain have a two-way link between the central nervous system (CNS = brain) and enteral nervous system (ENS = gut). This allows the gut to send and receive signals to and from the brain. 

Can nutrition improve and support mental health? Short answer, yes.

Whilst, our gut-brain-body health is highly influenced from the day we are born (genetics, lifestyle, environment, exposure to different foods, illness and infection), our gut microbiome continues to undergo changes throughout the life-span. Fortunately, growing research shows we can positively manipulate our gut microbiota to support overall health. This includes reducing stress-induced cortisol release, influencing behaviour and mood pathways!

A poor-quality diet can increase the risk of:

  • Common mental disorders i.e. depression and anxiety 

  • Chronic inflammation 

  • Low immune system 

 Some key food principles that have shown positive correlation between gut-brain and wellbeing!

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Fibre → important for the production of short-chain fatty acids, a by-product of fermentation in the large intestine, essential for reducing inflammation & supporting healthy bowel lining.

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Prebiotics & Probiotics → living and non-living organisms help to feed our living organisms within the gut, promoting strong immunity and provide first line of defence to “nasty bacteria”!

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Omega 3 → important in keeping the dopamine levels in your brain high (feel good chemicals!) and are also also essential for memory, language, creativity and mood regulation.

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Amino acids → essential building blocks of protein, especially tryptophan, a key amino acid that can be converted into several important molecules, including serotonin and melatonin, necessary for regulation of mood, sleep and behaviour.

Exciting research within this area continues to emerge! There are many more positive ways in which nutrition can support best health. Want to find out? Check out our website online here or give Ash or Aimee a call :)

Aimee Boidin | Body Fusion Dietitian | Lane Cove, Cremorne, Wahroonga & Balgowlah

Fish Sustainability

Over 85% of seafood caught in Australia is sustainable – but does this mean it is the most nutritious choice available on the market? 

Sustainable seafood refers to the produce that has undergone minimal impact on fish populations and the marine environment. Species that are often classified ‘better choices’ are often seafood that has not been overfished and are caught or farmed using techniques that have low environmental impacts. These include choosing smaller, fast-growing species and avoiding top predators, including swordfish, shark and tuna. 

 What about considering the nutritional quality vs. sustainability of seafood on the market?

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What makes a certain seafood choice healthier than another?

 Think S.M.A.S.H. (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovy, Sardines, Herring)

Protein – Essential Amino Acids

SMASH fish provide one of the highest quality of amino acids, building blocks of protein that are essential to support and maintain muscle cell and tissue growth, important for overall health and immunity.

 Long-chain Omega 3 fatty acids 

These types of fats are high in anti-inflammatory properties, essential to heart, brain and joint health. Robust research supports the intake of these fats for healthy levels of “good” cholesterol in the blood. 

 Lower in mercury 

We know that too much mercury in the diet can be toxic in the body and SMASH fish have the lowest amount of mercury, therefore all the more reason to include them in a sustainable diet.  

 Vitamin D 

Sunlight is the most bioavailable source of Vitamin D; however, we don’t always get the opportunity to soak up enough sun! SMASH fish provide a good source of Vitamin D, a hormone, important for calcium absorption, cell growth and releases serotonin – our happy hormone!  

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Less than 1% of adults reported eating sardines and mackerel which were considered some of the most nutritious and sustainable varieties.

 Whilst certain breeds of tuna are in the avoidance list, canned tuna is brand dependant. See image to the right. Click here to see the complete breakdown of tuna brands.

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Aim for 2-3 serves of fish per week. See below for some great ways to add SMASH into your life!

1.    Salmon & Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Patties 

2.    Baked or Pan-fried with a yummy roasted vegetable and quinoa salad! 

3.    Simply add a sustainably sourced can of tuna, salmon or sardines to a sandwich, whole-grain crackers for an “open sandwich” or throw them into your salad! 

Written by Aimee Boidin (Lane Cove and Wahroonga Dietitian)

Moroccan Chicken Cous Cous Salad

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Ingredients

Chicken

·       Olive oil – 2xtsp

·       2 cloves of garlic, crushed

·       ½ brown onion, finely sliced

·       1 tsp. paprika

·       1 tsp. cumin

·       1 tsp. turmeric

·       ½ tsp. black pepper

·       ½ tsp. red chili flakes

·       600g chicken breast (100g chicken/serve) – diced thinly

Cous cous

·       250g packet of Israeli (Pearl) cous cous

·       1xveggie stock cube

·       ½ butternut pumpkin, cubed

·       1xred capsicum, sliced

·       1xlarge zucchini, sliced

·       1xpunnet of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

·       ½ packet of finely chopped fresh mint

·       1xlemon/lime – juice squeezed

·       100g Danish feta – Finely cut into cubes

·       8-10 dried apricot halves, finely diced

·       Greek yoghurt to top

Optional: Drain a can of chickpeas or lentils and run through the mix to make it go a bit further

Method

1.    Steam pumpkin in microwave with dash of water for 4 minutes until soft

2.    Add pearl cous cous to 2.5 cups of water over medium heat, add in 1xstock cube – cook for 5-10 mins until soft and no water left. Remove and leave to cool

3.    Add oil to a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, cook until brown.

4.    Add in the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. Just before removing add in all spices (paprika, cumin, turmeric, pepper). Remove chicken from pan and set aside

5.    Add a little oil back into chicken fry pan and add in capsicum, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes

6.    Finally add all ingredients together in large serving bowl: Pumpkin, cous cous, chicken, cooked veggies, feta, fresh mint, apricots and Danish feta. Mix and season with pepper.

7.    Serve with generous dessert spoon of greek yoghurt on top

Nutrition – Did you know?

·       Keeping water when you steam veggies means you retain the nutrients in the water. Don’t throw it away and use

water sparingly when steaming!

·       Pepper increases the bioavailability of turmeric by 2000 %

·       Spices contain large amounts of anti-oxidants which are thought to prevent ageing in our cells

·       Pearl cous cous is lower GI than normal cous cous, keeping us fuller for longer

·       You can reduce the salt in this meal by adding in your own home made stock or perhaps its salty enough with the

Danish Feta

Salmon & Mozzarella Sweet Potato Salad

Salmon & Mozzarella Sweet Potato Salad

From our team “Where ocean meets the land”, the winners of our last Corporate Workshop Challenge.

Serves 4  

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Chosen Ingredients

  • 200g smoked salmon 

  • 80g mozzarella cheese 

  • 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds 

  • 4 cups baby spinach 

  • 1-2x medium zucchini 

  • 150g sliced mushrooms

  • 250g sweet potato spaghetti spirals 

  • 200g (1/2 can) chickpeas (salt-reduced canned, drained and rinsed) 

  • 2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil 

Putting it together

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  1. Drain and rinse chickpeas, then bake on low-medium for 5-10 minutes until lightly browned and crispy

  2. In the meantime, add fresh baby spinach into a salad serve bowl 

  3.  In a medium-hot pan, add a drizzle of olive oil & toss sweet potato for 2-5 minutes & add into the salad bowl

  4. Slice mushrooms and zucchini and grill in a medium-hot pan for 3-5 minutes. Add to salad once cooked.

  5. Sprinkle sunflower seeds onto a baking tray and bake on low for 5 minutes until lightly browned

  6. Add smoked salmon into the spinach and veggie salad mix, then the mozzarella balls (either whole or sliced)

  7. Add the roasted sunflower seeds (save some for garnish) and mix the salad through with a drizzle of olive oil and cracked pepper for taste and enjoy!

The name & creation of this recipe was inspired by the winning team at Workday who took part in one of our fun and interactive cooking classes - creating lunch salads that are nutritious & delicious, keeping energy high until the afternoon!

Wholesome Christmas Salad

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Searching for a quick, nutritious and tasty salad to go with your Christmas dishes!? 

Look no further… 

Salmon, Potato & Apple Slaw Salad 

Serves 4

Ingredients 

  • 400g canned red salmon (John West) or 400g fresh Australian salmon fillet

  • 400g of white washed potatoes 

  • 1x medium/large green apple 

  • 1x large any dry coleslaw salad pack

  • 1x fresh kale bunch

  • 1x asparagus bunch

  • 2 cups cooked cous cous 

  • handful of Pepitas and walnuts for some crunch

  • Olive oil (enough for cooking and as a dressing)

  • Cracked pepper and salt 

  • Rosemary and basil 

Method 

  1. Slice potatoes in quarters and steam until cooked through (5-8 minutes) 

  2. Place ½ the pack of slaw raw on the bottom of a plate or salad bowl as a base 

  3. Clean and chop kale bunch, place in a hot pan with olive oil spray until lightly wilted (2 minutes)

  4. Chop asparagus bottoms off and cut in half, sauté in pan with ½ pack of slaw and oil for 2-3 minutes 

  5. Once kale, asparagus and slaw are lightly cooked through, throw on top of the raw slaw 

  6. Once potatoes are cooked through, place within and around the salad base 

  7. Slice 1x fresh green apple and place around/within the salad 

  8. Add cous cous to some boiling water (follow packet instructions) until cooked through – add to salad 

  9. Add canned red salmon to top of the salad or pan-fry/bake salmon fillet/s until cooked through, shred and place on top of the salad 

  10. Sprinkle the pepita and walnuts over the top

  11. Drizzle some olive oil, add cracked pepper and salt to taste and rosemary, basil or desired herbs

Nutrition

  • high protein

  • anti-inflammatory omega-3 rich

  • filled with colour and antioxidants

  • plentiful fibre

Recipe inspired by our Lane Cove Dietitian, Aimee Boidin

Want to know more about Intermittent Fasting & Circadian Rhythm!?

Intermittent fasting (IF) gained its popularity in 2012 and with further published research growing in the area, peoples interest in the topic continues to rise. Originally research claims stemmed from animal studies and only recently has human studies began to develop. 

 Circadian Rhythm or otherwise known as ‘Time Restricted Eating’ (TRE) has recently gained interest, with a similar motive to intermittent fasting. The idea of TRE is to follow our natural ‘circadian rhythm’, which involves eating at times our body is primed to eat and digest and to stop/reduce eating at times we are supposed to be at rest or recovery i.e. using stored energy.

The real question is – can these two forms of eating promote “sustainable weight loss, improve our energy levels and benefit our overall health”? 

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Intermittent fasting aims to initiate a ‘fasting and feeding’ time period. 

 The most common forms of Intermittent Fasting involve; 

  • Alternate day fasting– one day fasted (<25% of total energy) and one day, normal feeding 

  • Time-restricted fasting– commonly an 8-hour feeding window and 16-hours fasted

  • The 5:2 diet– 2 days involves <25% total daily energy needs and 5 days normal feeding

Time restricted eating is about paying attention to the number of hours you are fasting within a 24-hour window. The concept is based primarily off following your own circadian rhythm, meaning there are times in the day where our body is more metabolically active and times for resting and repairing, i.e. we are more primed to digest towards the morning and middle of the day, than towards the evening, where our bodies are ready for rest. 

Theory & Claims 

  • Increased weight loss

  • Improved biomarkers i.e. insulin sensitivity, blood pressure & total cholesterol

  • Reduced appetite 

  • Reduces chronic disease risk

  • Reduces inflammation  

Evidence

Yes, we do enter alternate metabolic phases, meaning during a prolonged fasted period our body relies less on glucose and more so on ketones as our primary energy fuel. This involves the breakdown of stored fat mass, resulting in reduced appetite due to the presence of ketones. Yet when alternate day fasting was compared to a ‘calorie restriction weight loss plan’, in a 2017 randomised control trial, results showed intermittent fasting did not appear superior and both diets achieved equally same results in weight loss (6.0% vs 5.3% respectively) and improved biomarkers (i.e. insulin sensitivity). 

What are the health risks of fasting?

  • whilst weight loss and certain biomarkers have improved in certain studies, results were short-term, therefore it is advantageous that future research examines long-term changes in metabolic improvements and body weight management. 

  • when fasting (like alternate diets) is implemented without the proper guidance of a qualified health professional, especially for specific populations and or days where calorie restriction is necessitated, individuals are at risk of lacking key nutrients and food groups, leading to further complications, predominantly irritability and lack of motivation long-term. 

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Conclusion

We know late night eating is associated with a higher risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome and poor heart health. Following our ‘circadian rhythm’ can be an effective method, with some small studies showing overweight adults who fasted for more than 14 hours overnight promoted reduced total calorie intake, weight loss, increased fullness towards the evening and improved sleeping patterns. 

 Improving the quality of your diet, monitoring portion control and being energy smart in conjunction with daily movement will help you work towards your weight loss/maintenance goals. If you wish to pursue a form of fasting, we would suggest seeking out an Accredited Dietitian who can ensure you’re achieving complete energy and nutrition, suitable to your lifestyle. The fundamentals of understanding ‘how and when’ you fast and how you break up your meals matters!

Read about us

 https://www.bodyfusion.com.au/about-our-dietitian/

Evidence

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2623528

https://insights.ovid.com/crossref?an=01938924-201802000-00016

https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413118302535

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156

Chicken & Mango Spring Salad

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Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

Grains

  • 2 cups cooked Pearl Cous Cous 

 Protein

  • 1x large BBQ chicken 

  • ¼ cup whole dry-roasted almonds

Veggies

  • 2x bunch asparagus 

  • 1x 200g Superleaf Salad Mix (Woolworths)

Fruit 

  • 1x large fresh mango

  • 4 thin slices of orange to garnish

Dressing (optional)

  • 1 tsp. wholegrain mustard 

  • 2 tbsp. juice of orange 

  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 

 

METHOD

1.    Follow packet instructions to cook pearl cous cous

2.    Shred BBQ chicken, remove skin and stuffing

3.    Slice asparagus, drizzle with olive oil and microwave on high heat for 1-2 minutes or lightly pan-fry

4.    Slice mango into small cubed pieces

5.    Slice orange into 4x thin slices for garnish and save half for juice for the dressing (optional)

6.    Drain cooked cous cous

7.    In a large bowl, add superleaf salad mix, cooked asparagus, shredded chicken, cous cous and mango

8.    Toss salad and drizzle dressing as desired

9.    Add sliced oranges as a garnish and sprinkle roasted almonds throughout to finish 

10.  Enjoy :)

NUTRITION

  • antioxidant rich 

  • 1 serve of protein 

  • 1 serve of carbohydrate 

  • 2 serves of vegetables

Inspired by our Lane Cove and Cremorne Dietitian, Aimee.

Check out her full bio http://bodyfusion.com.au/about-our-dietitian/

Maintaining a Healthy Weight & Breast Cancer  

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Breast Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian. In 2018, it was estimated that 18,235 new cases of breast cancer would be diagnosed with 148, males and 18,087, females (AIHW, 2017). Evidence shows that a 5-10% reduction in weight losscan lower an individual’s risk for breast cancer by 12% through the implementation of small diet improvements and lifestyle choices (Chlebowski et al 2017).

 What is the research link between weight and breast cancer?

Research shows being overweight or obese is highly associated with the diagnosis, recurrence and or survival rate of breast cancer incidents in post-menopausal women. Since high body weight increases circulating hormones, particularly insulin, this influences body fat distribution toward the mid-section (the biggest predictor for chronic disease development, particularly, heart disease or type 2 diabetes). Maintaining a healthy weight through good nutrition practices alongside exercise can improve one’s health and longevity.  

If you have been recently diagnosed with cancer or finalised your treatment and feeling lost, overwhelmed and unsure on how to tackle your diet, continue reading…

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Why managing your weight during and post breast cancer treatment is beneficial to your health?

  • Promotes a stronger immunity and total recovery 

  • Decreases the risk for adverse health conditions i.e. heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes 

  • Decreases the risk of breast cancer recurring

  • Better controls blood sugar, blood pressure and lipid profile levels i.e. cholesterol & triglycerides

  • Reduces stress and pressure on joints and improves joint mobility  

 What influences my weight during treatment? 

Gaining weight is common post breast cancer diagnosis, for several individual reasons, including early-onset menopause, a side effect of treatment, changes in energy intake and or reduced movement due to fatigue. To date, there is no scientific evidence to support a “special” diet, therefore it is best to avoid drastic changes. Employing strategies that promote safe and gradual weight loss is the most effective way and under the guidance of an accredited practising dietitian (APD). 

How can I eat healthy during treatment? 

Are you experiencing symptoms that are impacting on your food intake? Nausea, reduced appetite, change in taste and or smells? These side effects can make it difficult to achieve a well-balanced diet, affecting your nutritional status and increasing risk for poor immunity. Prioritising a wholesome approach to eating as best you can ensures your body is equipped with sufficient energy with the right nutrients, improving your responsiveness to treatment. 

How can I eat healthy after treatment? 

Research shows carrying extra body fat promotes a cancerous environment. Implementing a plant-based diet provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich nutrients, encouraging healthy cell growth and preventing oxidative stress. Limiting intake of red, processed meats, sugar-dense drinks, alcohol and salty foods can support a healthy weight and helps fight cancer recurrence. 

 

Some handy tips to maintain a healthy weight during and post treatment! 

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  • Prioritise protein at meals and snacks  

  • Include an array of vegetables and legumes at each main meal  

  • Work with your dietitian to create balanced meals that meet your own unique individualised requirements

  

Is widespread information leaving you feel confused as to whether elimination or addition of foods should be included in your cancer journey? Is weight a concern? OR side effects impacting on your diet? Reach out to an APD who can provide you with individualised and simple tips!

  

You can book in here http://bodyfusion.com.au/contact-us/or read more about our dietitians here: http://bodyfusion.com.au/about-our-dietitian/

STUFFED PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS (many ways)

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Serves: 2

One Serving Size = 1x large mushroom cap + 1 serve of protein + 1 cup cauliflower rice, 1 cup coleslaw + ½ cup grains

INGREDIENTS

 Vegetables 

  • 2x large Portobello mushrooms 

  • 1 cup frozen spinach 

  • 1x small brown onion (optional)

  • 1 cup cauliflower & turmeric rice – see practical tip

  • 2 cups coleslaw or baby rocket and cherry tomatoes to serve – see practical tip 

 

Lean Protein Options (serves two)

  • Cheese: 1 cup fresh low-fat ricotta or cottage cheese 

  • Fish: 200g can of tuna in spring water, drained

  • Plant Protein: 1 cup red lentils (see ‘Lentil Bolognese’ recipe) OR Syndian Patty* (Coles)

  • Vegan Friendly: 250g tofu scramble 

  • 4x Egg Scramble 

  • Animal Protein: 200g lean minced meat (turkey, pork, beef, chicken) – Bolognese style   

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 Low GI Carbohydrate

  • 1 cup cooked ancient grains – see practical tip   

Healthy Fat

  • 2 Tsps. Olive Oil + Spray

Sauces / Spices / Flavours 

  • paprika, turmeric, cracked pepper, garlic

  • 2 tbsp. parmesan to grate over the top

Practical Tips - purchase ‘cauliflower rice’ already ground from the fresh salad section in Woolworths or Coles and add a dash of turmeric spice after heating in the microwave for a few seconds. Purchase ‘ancient grains’ from Coles (microwaveable pouches).

INSTRUCTIONS

1.     Preheat oven to 200°C or alternatively turn grill on. Line a tray with baking paper. 

2.     Remove stalk from Portobello mushrooms and finely chop to include in the filling mixture

3.     Microwave spinach for desired minutes until cooked through 

4.     In a large bowl, add cooked spinach, onion and desired protein choice

5.     Spray both sides of the mushroom caps with oil. Place in a microwave for 30-40 seconds. 

6.     Divide mixture between mushroom caps, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan

7.     Bake or grill mushrooms for 10-15 minutes or until topping is golden 

8.     Cook ancient grains packet in microwave for 60-90 seconds 

9.     Transfer to a plate – serve mushroom caps with turmeric rice, cabbage + ancient grains 

Nutrition

  • High Protein

  • High Fibre 

  • Low Energy (kJ Friendly) 

  • Can be vegetarian or vegan friendly 

Brought to you by our Lane Cove & Cremorne Dietitian Aimee Boidin!

Corporate Wellbeing: How to sustain mood and energy to maximise productivity and enjoyment of work (3 minute read for the time poor!)

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Ever feel like you are just bouncing from one coffee to another or skipping a meal due to back-to-back meetings? Completely common, but not ideal!

After working closely with many high-flying corporates who were often both time poor and stressed, I decided it was time for a Dietitian to help guide them towards the right brain fuel and behaviours to support their careers.

Energy

Fact: Our brilliant brain runs off glucose (sugar!) and with lack of it our attention, memory and concentration starts to falter rendering us unproductive. Craving chocolate from the vending machine for a rollercoaster high? We can do better than that!

Eating foods of a low glycaemic index will sustain energy and support alertness. Some of these foods include traditional oats, whole grains, fresh fruit, yoghurt, milk, legumes/lentils and sweet potato.

Eating regularly is imperative to cognitive performance – plan wisely. What about putting a piece of fruit next to your keyboard as a reminder to snack?

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Mood

If we are in a good mood at work we are motivated, diligent and communicate well with our team. Many hormones help regulate our mood and the exciting thing is this… food influences our hormones!

What is the “Gut Brain Axis” ?

Interestingly the gut and brain can communicate to each other through the vagus nerve, commonly known as the “gut brain axis”.

Gut to brain: Endocrine cells (hormone cells) in the gut can interact with nerve fibres that link to the brain through secretion of hormones such as serotonin.

Brain to gut: Stress increases intestinal permeability and modifies the gut-microbiota (bacteria) leading to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. 

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Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid which is converted into two other hormones serotonin and melatonin.

Serotonin is our feel good hormone, with 95% of it being produced by the cells in our gut.

Foods high in tryptophan include bananas, legumes (including nuts), lentils and lean protein sources (meats such as chicken, ham, dairy).

 And what about melatonin? Well it’s our sleep inducing hormone! Good sleep contributes to a healthy mood too. Hot cup of milk to help you sleep? Now you know why.

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 Omega-3

Another vital nutrient that assists making brain chemicals, which assist with positive mood. And guess what? Our body cannot make Omega-3, we must eat it!

Deep sea fish (salmon, tuna, ocean trout, sardines) are our highest Omega-3 sources. Other seafoods such as octopus, mussels and prawns have smaller amounts. We can also obtain small amounts from plant foods like walnuts and flaxseeds.

So there you have it. Out with the copious amounts of coffee and kit kats, in with the sustaining carbs, foods to support healthy micro-biota, your faithful tryptophan rich bananas and salmon sashimi for lunch.

Interested in a workshop? Check out our Corporate Services here: http://bodyfusion.com.au/corporate-health/

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