4 min read

Gold Coast Naturopath Holly Mayo shares insights about the effects of food on mood regulation i.e the gut brain relationship. 

They always say that you are what you eat and this cannot be truer!

Protein intake and mood regulation:  

The macronutrient group that is a saviour for mood is proteins and for a number of reasons. When ingested protein breaks down into amino acids in the body. Certain amino acids are then used by the body for hundreds of different reactions but specific to mood, there are a couple that come to the forefront;

Tryptophan & Mood Balance: 

Tryptophan converts in the body by the help of cofactors* into serotonin. Serotonin is one of our neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation among other things like sleep, appetite control and cognition. It is often referred to as one of our 'happy chemicals’ as it promotes a sense of wellbeing. Lowered serotonin levels are associated with states of depression and anxiety.

Tyrosine, Phenylalanine & Mood Balance:  

Tyrosine and phenylalanine are amino acids that once converted by cofactors* in the body produce dopamine. Dopamine has a role in mood control and motivation as well as cognition, memory, and learning. Lack of circulating dopamine has been shown to produce an inability to experience pleasure and a lack of motivation.

Glutamine & Mood Balance: 

Glutamine is an amino acid that converts in the body to GABA. GABA is the bodies main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. When GABA exerts its effects in the brain it helps to facilitate feelings of calm subsequently lowering feelings of anxiety as well as helping to reduce feelings of stress.

Glycine & Mood Balance: 

Glycine, another amino acid has also been shown to have an inhibitory effect in the central nervous system working to allay feelings of anxiousness.


Serotonin & The Gut - The Gut Brain Relationship 

A happy and healthy digestive system equals a happy and healthy mood, but why? Over 90% of serotonin is produced by cells in the gut. The gut is colonised by billions upon billions of bacteria, some positive and some not so positive. When there is an imbalance of bacteria within the digestive system it has been shown to significantly alter serotonin metabolism affecting mood and cognition. Anxiety and depression have been heavily linked to alterations in the balance of bacteria within the gut.


A Key Ingredient to help Symptoms of Anxiety

Whole rolled oats naturally contain anti-anxiety properties as well as being a fabulous food to support the health of the digestive system (remember happy gut = happy mood) as they contain forms of fiber that the positive bacteria in your digestive system use as a food source. Half a cup of whole rolled oats (preferably organic) a day is a fabulous way to start the day. Try adding chia and hemp seeds and nuts or nut butters to your oats to bump up the protein content and you’ve got a double dose of mood food to start your day!


Breakfast Recipe - Overnight Oats 

Overnight oats are so easy to make - simply put ½ cup of whole rolled oats (not quick oats – these have less nutritional benefits) in a small container with 1 cup of nut milk (I tend to use Pureharvest coconut milk). I personally add the juice of half a lemon, some vanilla, 1 heaped tablespoon of shredded coconut, 1 tablespoon of hemp seeds and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and some frozen raspberries for flavour and it tastes JUST like lemon cheesecake. You are welcome!

And these are just SOME of the many ways that food can influence mood!

*Cofactors are numerous and plenty but a lot of neurotransmitters are converted using magnesium, zinc and B vitamins.

If you are suffering with signs or symptoms of mood imbalances like anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia or sleep disturbances a review of your diet could be an important aspect to help get you back on track. Holly is available in the clinic for Naturopath and Nutritional consultations - to enquire write to us on our contact page.

If you would like to schedule in a consultation, online bookings are available, or if you have questions you can contact the clinic on (07)5515 0409. 


Want to get to know Holly before your consultation? You can read about Hol and learn how she got into Naturopathy by visiting her about page




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