Trusting your gut goes far beyond the simple saying. We all know the feeling of butterflies during highs and the hollow feeling in your gut during your life’s lows but fun fact – your gut is truly your second brain. Just how times of stress can affect your digestive system, your stressed gut can also affect your brain as they are very intimately connected. Simply put, an interrupted gastrointestinal system will send signals to the brain, which in turn can cause symptoms of anxiety, stress, or depression.
What is gut health?
Gut health is the function and balance of bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract. Organs such as the esophagus, stomach, and intestines all work together to allow us to comfortably eat and digest food.
How does it affect your mental health?
The “gut-brain axis” is a system of connections and communications between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain, linking the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with your gut.
Probiotic bacteria contain a neurotransmitter called GABA that helps regulate brain activity and can calm anxiety. In an experiment conducted in 2011, Dr. Cryan and his team found that healthy mice who consumed a specific probiotic displayed more relaxed behaviour than the mice who did not consume the bacteria.
What are the signs of an unhealthy gut?
The ‘Gut microbiome’ refers specifically to the microorganisms living in your intestines. A healthy microbiome is a balanced microbiome, and any change within this can increase the risk of inflammation and disease. Whereas healthy gut bacteria can protect you from disease, keep inflammation low, and of course promote mental well-being.
Fundamentally, an upset stomach, a high-sugar diet, unintentional weight changes, fatigue, skin irritation, food intolerances are all signs of an unhealthy gut.
What can you do to improve gut health?
As expected, to keep a healthy gut depends all to do with what you eat. Making sure to replace processed, sugary, and fatty foods with whole foods will offer the ultimate physical and mental benefits. Specifically, make sure to include:
High-fiber foods: Green veg, oats, bananas, berries, wheat all help aid healthy digestion.
Collagen-boosting foods: Bone broth and salmon help protect the intestinal wall and improve digestion.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Salmon, mackerel, and flax seeds can help reduce inflammation and in turn improve digestion.
Probiotic foods: Kimchi, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, and yogurt can help add diversity to your gut.
Prebiotics: Onions, garlic, and leeks will help feed your gut good bacteria.
What is also important is learning what foods agree with you the most and those you may be intolerant to. Keep a food diary and note any foods that contribute to any stomach upset and of course, keep up the water intake as well.