An unsettled gut can send signals to the brain, just as an unhappy brain can send signals to the gut. Thus, an individual's gut and intestinal distress can sometimes be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.
This is because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are connected—a connection known as the gut-brain axis.
This article explores how you can benefit your mental health by looking after your gut health. Please keep reading to discover our advice on the gut and the brain!
An introduction to the gut-brain connection
Before we get into it, it's important to understand the connection between the gut and the brain. The brain and gut communicate bidirectionally, sending signals between the central and enteric nervous systems.1
In the gut, we have trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms known collectively as the gut microbiome. If the microbiome is unbalanced, the signals sent between your brain and the gut can become skewed.
The brain contains 100 billion neurons, while the gut has 500 million. These neurons are connected through the nerves in the nervous system.2
The gut won't send or receive the right messages, which can lead to digestive issues and mental health issues; depression and anxiety have been heavily linked to an unhealthy gut. Healing the gut microbiome and maintaining health can help the gut-brain axis thrive.
Additionally, 95% of serotonin is made in the gut, so if the gut is unhealthy, the production of serotonin is limited.3
A lack of serotonin can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Serotonin plays a key role in body functions such as mood, sleep, nausea and sexual desire, which can all impact our mental health.4
3 ways to improve mental health through the gut
As we've learned, the gut and brain are intricately connected. Knowing this, isn't it logical to assume that improving your gut health would help to improve mental health? Here are some tips on how to improve both your gut health and your mental health simultaneously.
Eat more foods that are good for the gut and the brain
The food we eat can have a significant impact on our gut. Now we know how much the gut can influence the brain, we can start to think about foods we can consume that benefit the gut-brain axis.
Omega 3 fatty acids are fantastic fuel for the gut and the brain. This vital nutrient found in fatty fish, algae and high-fat plant foods can increase the good bacteria in the gut and reduce the risk of many brain disorders.5
Prebiotic foods such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables are a great source of nutrients for the good bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics have been shown to balance cortisone levels, helping to reduce stress levels in the brain.6
Fermented foods are perhaps the most useful food source for balancing and diversifying the gut microbiome. They are filled with probiotics, adding new strains of good bacteria into the gut.
Kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, pickles, yoghurt and fermented cheeses are just some of the fermented foods that can give you that added boost.5
Take a probiotic supplement
Taking a probiotic supplement can ensure you receive that daily dose of probiotics - particularly important if fermented foods aren't to your taste.
Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are two key strains of live bacteria crucial for maintaining or achieving optimum gut health that can positively impact your mental health.
Adding more of these into your diet through probiotic supplements or foods containing these specific bacteria can give you the boost needed. Our signature formula Gut Care includes both of these crucial strains of probiotics that could benefit your gut and brain.
Increase physical activity
Exercise isn't just great for muscle mass and weight loss, it's great for overall physical and mental well-being. It doesn't have to be a massive part of your everyday life, but including exercise in your routine can have many health benefits.
Exercise releases endorphins which make us feel happier and less stressed, which can help to fight symptoms of depression. Any form of exercise gives us more energy by sending more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles while raising our body temperature, allowing us to feel more alert during the day.
Exercise can boost your digestive system's ability to process the food you've consumed. It can help to stimulate the muscles and nerves in the digestive tract, particularly in the mucosal lining of your intestines. The intestinal muscles can then squeeze efficiently, helping to prevent constipation.
Even gentle exercise increases the blood flow to the digestive system's muscles. It helps the food move through smoothly, upping the absorption of nutrients and preventing bad bacteria from growing in the gut microbiome.
Looking after your gut and mind can make a massive difference to your everyday life and overall wellness. Now you know how intricately connected they are, you can make proactive choices that benefit your body.
If you'd like to try our signature product Gut Care to benefit your gut-brain axis, you can check out the vast list of benefits here.
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