Gut Health

Today we’re going to discuss the gut-brain connection. A lot of you are struggling with mental health right now. Considering the uncertainty and state of the world right now, this is not surprising. In past weeks, we’ve offered a number of different strategies to improve your mental health, including getting outside regularly, practicing meditation, and prioritizing self-care. Hopefully you’ve been starting or continuing to implement these habits. This week, we’re going to discuss another way to drastically improve your mental health: nutrition.

Did you know that you have 10 pounds of good bacteria in your gut?? In fact, we have more good bacteria in our gut than the rest of the cells in our body combined. Good bacteria are so vital to our health, such as helping our immune system and nutrient absorption.

 But our microbiome is also incredibly important for our mental health. The bacteria in our gut are responsible for 90% of our serotonin. Serotonin is one of the hormones that makes us happy! This means that we can actually influence how we feel on a daily basis by eating foods that nourish these bacteria.

So how can we do that? 

 Here are some foods you should be eating regularly to maintain a healthy gut:

  1. Plant proteins – Add plant proteins to your diet, such as legumes, quinoa, or spirulina. The fibres in legumes are particularly beneficial for your microbiome.

  2. Healthy fats – Add healthy fats to your diet, such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are incredible for decreasing stress, boosting mood, and improving mental focus.

  3. Fermented foods – Fermented foods are a great source of probiotics which help nurture a good gut environment. Some examples include: kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, tempeh, and tofu.

  4. Fruits and vegetables – Make sure you’re including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet to increase the diversity of your microbiome.

What are we finding in the research?    

In a review published last year, scientists discuss the relationship between diet, stress, and gut bacteria. They discuss the vicious cycle of how stress can negatively impact gut bacteria, and vice versa. This leads to poor food choices which exacerbate this problem.

 On the other hand, choosing healthy foods such as plant proteins, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables will do the opposite. Healthy food choices will improve your gut microbiome, which will improve your mood, leading to improved eating habits. This turns a vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle.

 The fascinating connection between the gut and brain is just starting to emerge and could change the way we think about mental health.