How Gut Health Can Impact Mental Health
I’m not a gut health expert, but I have gathered learnings from experts, my studies, and my personal experience. These experiences include helping myself, my partner and my clients improve their gut health and overall health. From this, I will give you my understanding of the gut and its link to the mind.
Gut health plays a vital role in our overall body health, including digestion and permeability (nutrient absorption), hormone regulation, immune system and overall metabolism. But the one we are going to talk about today is the role it plays on the mind.
First, I want to introduce you to what the makes up the gut.
The body hosts trillions of bacteria, fungal and other living organisms. Though many are on our skin, the gastrointestinal tract hosts most of these. They’re called the microbiota.
The microbiota and the gut are like a fingerprint within all of us. We all have different compositions, which means we have varying amounts of good and bad bacteria.
We must have a healthy ratio of good and bad bacteria. Generally, when the bad outweighs the good we start to get problems which include;
* leaky gut
* weight Gain
* excessive bloating
* acid reflux
* skin conditions
* autoimmune issues
* inconsistent bowel movements
* and list goes on.
Everything on the above list all influences our body in different ways, but ultimately all have a similar effect on our mental health. This affects our mood, our ability function and can impact certain parts of our brain that controls our gut.
Is the brain connected to the gut?
Yes. The gut has a direct relationship with the central nervous system via the vagus nerve (the controller of your autonomic nervous system). According to studies, the involvement of “good bacteria” in the gut increases hormone serotonin (your happy hormone), which activates the vagus nerve and creates a stronger signal to the brain.
People suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or people who have a disrupted gut microbiota have increased likely hood of producing low levels of serotonin and producing unhealthy amounts of cortisol – which is a cocktail for depression and anxiety.
What determines if you have a healthy gut and unhealthy gut?
An unhealthy gut can be caused by:
* Poor mood
* Inability to poo or runny stool (inconsistent bowels)
* Cloudy mind
* Poor energy
* Stomach cramps or pains
What could be causing it?
Can create inflammation and irritability in the gut due to the natural plant chemical compounds such as lectins and phytates. These natural chemical compounds are there as a protective mechanism for the plant and can be avoided if food prepared properly, i.e. soaked or sprouted. Additionally, products like highly processed foods – i.e. junk food, sugar, alcohol or plant embryo foods, particularly grains and sometimes nuts, seeds, coffee etc. can cause issues.
Emotional and physical stress regulates stress hormone cortisol. Excessive levels of cortisol are said to create inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and create a leaky gut. This can circulate toxins through the bloodstream, causing you too to feel quite lousy and sick. Additionally, and more importantly, stress can affect your sleep. Not getting enough sleep, in general, will also help to raise these types of stress hormones while decreasing brain productivity and function. Watch the video in the link to learn more from expert Mathew Walker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-8b99rGpkM
Being exposed to poor hygienic environments (i.e. dirty working environments, dirty houses, partners, family) can cause you to pick up bad bacteria and fungal.
How do you promote a healthy gut, so you have a healthy mind?
Eating good quality, clean, real food that works for you and your bodies composition.
This may include;
1. Good quality meats (organic grass-fed – land grown if possible) or wild-caught
2. In-season fruits and vegetables (increasing your vegetable intake to 6-8 serves per day)
3. Healthy fatty foods (i.e. avocado, nuts and seeds)
4. Good quality saturated fats sourced from land raised animals or pasture-raised animals/products
5. Fermented foods with live bacteria (i.e. kraut, kefir, kombucha)
6. Hydration with filtered water or hard (mineral) water if you do well on it
7. Herbs/foods (i.e. oregano, wormwood, ginger and garlic) that are anti-parasitic/anti-fungal can help regulate a healthy gut flora.
Think quality rather than quantity. 6-8 hours is what you want to be aiming for quality sleep. If you aren’t a good sleeper trying meditating before bed to dump things that may be on your mind.
You can track your sleep quality using a sleep cycle app, which will help you track the depth of your sleep. Additionally, setting your bedroom for a mild temp where you’re not too cold and not too hot (16-20 degrees is a good temperature) can help you get quality sleep.
What’s important to remember is that all our body systems, including the gut, work together to give you the energy and clarity you need to tackle the day. When you feel low or lack energy, look at what is fuelling your body, and you may find some answers.
Written by: Jordan Briggs – Coach and Owner Vital Health And Performance.