Did you know that over 90% of serotonin, the hormone that creates our feelings of happiness, is actually made in your GUT?!
Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, helps with sleep, digestion, and even our eating patterns. This gut-brain connection is linked by neurotransmitters, which is why the gut is commonly referred to as the second brain. Our gastrointestinal tract contains 500 millions neurons and can actually function completely on its own without direction from the brain, crazy right?
Our gut health is crucial for mental health. If our microbiome is out of balance, we can experience depression, anxiety, mood swings, anger problems, and more.
How can my gut become out of balance?
Prescription medications, antibiotics, food intolerances and allergies, addiction substances like coffee, sugar, and alcohol can all contribute to an unhealthy gut. When individuals improve their diet, lifestyle and overcome addictions, their energy levels and overall mood improves- many times it’s a drastic improvement. Taking a nutritional approach to psychological struggles can be beneficial for many people, especially when the underlying cause can be traced back to food sensitivities and intolerances.
So, what’s the deal with my microbiome?
Our body is filled with trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes. This is known as our microbiome. Nourishing whole foods feed our good bacteria and make us feel vibrant from the inside out. When we have a healthy microbiome containing of a lot of good bacteria, we experience a stronger immune system, and a more positive headspace. This means less anxiety, depression, mood swings, brain fog, confusion, irritability and even less paranoia.
What happens when we feed the bad bacteria in our gut?
Refined and processed foods, dairy, unnatural sugars, sweeteners and dyes are all food for bad bacteria otherwise known as pathogenic bacteria.
Antibiotics and prescription medications kill our good bacteria, known as probiotics.
When consuming unhealthy foods or foods that we are intolerant too, and/or taking over the counter drugs, we compromise our microbiome and destroy the health of our gut.
When our gut is not in good health, we can start to experience all of the mentioned undesirable mental health problems as a result. Nutrition is not always the answer to mental health problems, but it is a huge part of the question and is worth considering before making other drastic changes that can further damage your gut.
Extensive research on this gut-brain connection continues to grow. But what we do know already, is that taking good care of our digestive system can have enormous benefits for our brain and bodily functions.
Here are some ways to improve your mental health through nutrition and start healing your gut.
Fermented foods are packed with probiotics, so flood your microbiome with these good bacteria.
2. Fiber Rich Foods
Whole fruits, vegetables and seeds are a great source of fiber and are food for our good bacteria, known as prebiotics. You can try adding fibrous choices like apples, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sweet potatoes, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli into your diet.
3. Avoid Caffeine
Or just reduce caffeine intake if you aren’t quite ready to give it up completely. Caffeine can irritate the gut lining, cause inflammation, and can also be dehydrating. If you do have caffeine, pair it with a healthy fat like avocado with your eggs in the morning to slow absorption into your blood stream and reduce inflammation.
4. Healthy Fats
Fat is essential, our brain is made up of nearly 70% fat! Not all fat is equal and there are ones we should include more than others. Foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty wild-caught fish like salmon are all good choices. The Omega-3 fatty acids found in these foods are important building blocks for the brain and can have a major impact on mental health.
5. Get Tested
Talk with your licensed medical professional about getting a blood test to check your bacteria levels and the health of your microbiome. This will give you a solid starting point and detect any problems that may be going on so they can be addressed properly.
6. Seek Support
If you have a gut imbalance, healing your gut can be tricky especially if you are unfamiliar with nutrition and different types of gut problems. Find a holistic health care provider that can help you retrieve your gut health. You can even hire a Holistic Nutritionist & Health Coach like myself, to help you identify the problem and guide you along your healing journey.