Looking for a quick hack to be happy? You’re not alone. It’s one of the most frequently asked questions on Google. Happiness, however, isn't something that just happens after a quick online search. You have to work on it.
A good place to start, says nutritionist Rashi Chowdhary, is in our gut. Pursuing happiness in a place teeming with bacteria — billions of them — seems strange, but given that these single-celled organisms outnumber our own cells 10 to one, the idea that they could have a say on our mood may not be far-fetched.
The key, says Chowdhary, is a “happy” chemical called serotonin, a hormone that is mainly produced in the gut. Also known as a natural mood stabiliser, serotonin helps regulate our mood, as well as other functions such as sleep, digestion and memory, all contributing to feelings of well-being and happiness.
“Eighty per cent of your serotonin hormone, which is your happy hormone, is secreted in your gut,” Chowdhary explains in the second episode of the Friday Food For Thought web series produced by the Friday Lite Magazine.
“So you could be driving the best car, you could be having the best job, have the nicest boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever, but if your health habits are not supporting your gut, then you won’t secrete serotonin, and then you won’t feel the joy and contentment in every single moment.”
The gut’s influence on our bodily functions and feelings extends even further.
“Our gut is like our second brain,” says Chowdhary. “There's a vagus nerve that goes from our gut right into our brain, and these two communicate with each other. How many people these days suffer with anxiety, [and for these people] a lot of times they don't even know their gut is actually inflamed, so it's crying out for help and your brain is picking it up… and it starts to give you anxiety or depression.”
Our immunity to diseases and infections, a big talking point these days, also has a direct connection with gut health, as Chowdhary notes that 80 per cent of our immune system lies in the gut. “Your gut lining, if you want to be healthy, that's the first thing you want to take care of.”
Watch the second episode of the web series for more of Chowdhary’s tips on gut health, as well as practical advice on intermittent fasting. Friday Food For Thought, hosted by Pallavi Tewari and supported by homegrown brands Mai Dubai, Waterfront Market, Al Adil Trading and Danube Home, is a health series that focuses on practical solutions for many common health issues. A new episode premieres every Friday, 4pm, on the Gulf News and Friday Lite Facebook pages and IGTV channels.