Did you know that there is a link between gut health and mental health?
The gut microbiome can play a role in the development of mood disorders. In this blog post, I will discuss the links between gut health and mental health, as well as how to improve gut health in order to boost your mental wellbeing.
The gut-brain connection is well established and researched, and so we know that it is possible to eat your way to better mental wellness.
The link between gut health and mental health
Our gut is the hub of our immune system and is often described as our ‘second brain’ because of the nerve cells and the connection to our nervous system.
And it’s our nervous system that has us reacting in a ‘fight, flight, or freeze mode’ which can affect our overall feeling of wellbeing, stress, and anxiety, as well as how we relate to other people and how we cope in challenging situations.
The gut (our intestines) contains our microbiome – a collection of bacteria that live in the gut. This is completely normal and you’ve probably seen TV adverts promoting yogurt drinks to help the good bacteria grow.
It has been shown that some gut bacteria can influence the development of depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. In fact, studies have shown that an imbalance in gut bacteria can lead to serious mental health dysfunction.
Our gut bacteria affect many systems in our body from the immune system to weight regulation to mental health so it’s important to take good care of them.
Feeding the gut
The food and drink we consume have a direct impact on how we feel.
Different foods have different effects on our gut and overall wellbeing, some have a positive effect and some have a negative effect.
The good news is that you can choose what to eat and drink, and it’s easy to monitor how what you consume affects your moods or behaviour by keeping a simple food and symptom diary.
Improving your gut health is a great way to boost your mental health, and it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive.
How to improve your gut health
There are a few ways to improve your gut health, which in turn can improve your mental health.
Some simple lifestyle changes including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep can have significant positive effects.
So how exactly can you improve gut health? Here are a few tips:
Have a high fibre diet. Include plenty of fibre-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in your diet as fibre promotes the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
Eat fermented foods. Probiotics are live bacteria that are found in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut. They help to restore balance in your gut microbiome and improve gut health. You could also look for a high quality probiotic supplement.
Avoid gut irritants. Things like processed food, additives, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine can irritate the gut and lead to an imbalance in your microbiome so cut them down as much as possible.
Consume fatty acids. Omega-three fatty acids have also been shown to be beneficial for gut health. Omega-three fatty acids can be found in fish, particularly oily fish like sardines and salmon, as well as nuts and seeds.
Hydrate. So many of us are chronically dehydrated and aren’t even aware. Water helps all systems in our body work optimally, especially digestion. Aim for 2 litres of water a day, either plain or with a natural flavouring. Try a cup of hot water first thing with slices of lemon and fresh ginger, or a cooling glass of water with some ice, a slice of cucumber, and a sprig of fresh mint.
Exercise regularly. Getting regular exercise not only boosts mental wellbeing in its own right, but it also helps your digestive system run well which in turn supports your gut microbiome to flourish. You don’t need to hit the gym or start running marathons if that’s not your sort of thing, simply start with weekend walks with friends or some fun challenges on Fitbit.
By following these tips, you can start to improve your gut health and boost your mental health at the same time.
It is important to take care of our gut in order to maintain a healthy overall system. As we’ve seen, the food we eat has a direct impact on our gut, and therefore, our health and mental wellbeing.
Getting more support
While it’s great to do what you can to support your own mental health, sometimes we need some extra support, and that’s where I step in.
I’m a qualified psychotherapeutic counsellor with years of experience of supporting people through tough times.
You don’t have to work through things on your own, suffer in silence, or feel like you’re being a burden on friends or family.
I have a safe space for you to be open and seek the support you need. Simply contact me to book a chat.