How much do you think about your gut? Is it something that you are aware of or just know it to be something that digests food?
The gut is a fascinating system, full of interesting processes which is why it is referred to as the second brain. Most of us can ignore our gut but it tells us some very interesting things when we listen.
Why is it important to think about our gut and how does it relate to our mental health?
Our gut has many important functions such as:
- Digesting food and absorbing nutrients
- Eliminating toxins from our bodies
- Holds our gut microbiome which has functions such as creating vitamins and neurotransmitters
- 70% of our immune system is found in the gut
- Gives us warning signals – think about those ‘gut feelings’ you have
When we’re aware of what our gut is telling us, it can help us to start to put things into place to support it. For example, signs such as bloating, brain fog, feeling sluggish, struggling with loose stools, constipation or food allergies, or having low mood and anxiety. These are often symptoms that may show your gut is struggling.
Our gut, especially the microbiome, (which is a collection of bacteria and other pathogens, that work together to support the functions mentioned above), can be impacted by things such as; antibiotic use, a diet that lacks diversity, the eating of ultra-processed foods, and being stressed.
Our gut and brain are connected via the vagus nerve. when our gut isn’t feeling right, it impacts how we feel mentally. This can also work the other way around. When we’re stressed or anxious, this can also impact how effectively our gut is working.
For example some people are gluten intolerant and can tell when they’ve been eating too much gluten. They start to become bloated, sluggish and find their mood becomes lower and anxiety levels higher. At this point, what is useful is to start re-examining one’s diet and start to eat foods that support gut health.
What can you do to support your gut health:
- Include probiotic foods that support your microbiome. These are foods such as sauerkraut, sourdough, kefir, kimchi, and yoghurt with bacteria in them.
- Increase the diversity of foods you’re eating. The gut and body need a variety of vitamins, minerals and protein to support the formation of neurotransmitters, which support our mental health. For example, our gut produces about 95% of serotonin which is our mood and emotion stabiliser. Where possible ensure you’re eating enough protein, fruit, vegetables and whole grains to get a wide variety in your diet.
- Reducing the amount of ultra-processed foods in your diet.
- Reducing stress and trying deep breathing before eating. When we’re stressed this can slow digestion, reducing our ability to absorb nutrients and causing our gut to become inflamed, which can increase feelings such as brain fog, low energy levels and anxiety.
- Increase your fibre intake, by eating foods such as wholegrains, broccoli, brussels sprouts, oats, peas, avocados, pears, bananas, and berries.
Looking after your gut health can support several functions including your mental health. So, if you’re working towards a healthy gut or wanting to improve your mental well-being, consider implementing some of the suggestions offered above.
And where you want support in figuring out what your gut needs then get in touch for a free 30-minute health and energy review, where we can start to explore what you need and how I may be able to support you.
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interested in conversations with chefs, foodies and others with a passion for food? check out the podcast https://anchor.fm/greenwich-pantry
We would like to give credit Claire for her wonderful explanation on what makes a healthy gut. Also her suggestions on the healthy foods needed to build and maintain it. Please click the link above which leads to her page so you can learn more. Thank you.