gut health and mood

Healthier gut, happier mind?

Ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you were excited or nervous? The phrase “go with your gut” may be more pertinent than we initially thought. The brain and the…

Ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you were excited or nervous?

The phrase “go with your gut” may be more pertinent than we initially thought. The brain and the gut are interconnected, with the brain having a direct effect on the stomach and intestines; the mere thought of eating can cause the production of stomach acid before the food even touches your lips.

The reverse is also true, with research increasingly showing the impact of your gut microbiome on your brain health and mood. The gut communicates with the brain through the nervous system; when the gut is inflamed, it can result in feelings of anxiety and decreased mood.

Gut microbiome comprises of the trillions of microorganisms in our intestines which are responsible for promoting stability in the body and fighting external issues. A good microbiome plays a key role in keeping our gut healthy.

Here’s how to improve your gut health for a happier mind.

Add fermented foods to your diet

Fermented foods are a trendy topic in the health food world of late, and for good reason! Fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, and coconut yogurt are loaded with gut friendly probiotics (good bacteria!) which aid in cultivating a healthy gut microbiome.

Steer clear of sugar

Consuming refined sugar and artificial sweeteners feeds bad bacteria in the gut and prevents good bacteria from growing. These negative changes to the gut microbiome lead to inflammation, poor metabolism, and ultimately; poor mood. Quit the sugar and opt for natural sweeteners like fruit, dates or date syrup, stevia, or maple syrup.

Get moving

It isn’t just what you put in your body which affects your gut, it’s what you do with your body too. Exercise increases blood flow and stimulates the digestive system’s muscles. Also, exercise helps enhance your body’s response to stress and promotes increased production of serotonin and norepinephrine; neurotransmitters which aid in improving your mood.

However, exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore, so don’t run if you hate running! Get your blood pumping with a sport you enjoy; sign up for a team sport like beach volleyball, basketball, or soccer, take up tennis lessons, plan weekend hikes in nature, or head to your local ice-rink and learn to ice-skate.

Catch those Zzzs

Adequate sleep is crucial for your body to function at its best. A lack of quality shut-eye compromises your microbiome health. Sleep deprivation can cause a decrease in beneficial bacteria in the gut, changes in the composition of microorganisms in the microbiome, and a decrease in insulin sensitivity.

In turn, poor gut microbiota also impacts how well we sleep, causing a vicious cycle.

Aim to have a regular bedtime, turn off all electronic devices an hour before bed, avoid black tea and coffee in the afternoon, and sip on a cup of calming chamomile and passionflower tea before bed.

Eat mindfully

Eating well encompasses more than just what you eat; it’s also how you eat it. Sitting down, tuning in, and being present whilst you eat aids the digestive process, allows your body to recognise when you’re full, helps you feel satiated for longer, and increases your enjoyment of food. Chewing your food slowly promotes full digestion and nutrient absorption, which can help reduce digestive discomfort and maintain a healthy gut.

Practice mindful eating by removing any distractions (turn off the TV and opt for some calming music instead), sitting down to eat, chewing your food thoroughly between bites, and focusing on the tastes you’re experiencing.

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Published: 01/05/19

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