If you’ve ever felt butterflies in your belly or felt weirdly sick to your stomach after experiencing something traumatic or confronting - then you’ve already felt the connection between your gut and your brain - known as the gut brain axis.
These so-called ‘gut reactions’ are very real and can be linked to a vital connection between our gastronomical tract and our brain.
So what are these links and what does all this have to do with mental health?
Here is everything you need to know.
What is Gut Health and why does it matter?
Our gut is made up of millions of bacteria that allow for the proper functioning and balance of the gastrointestinal tract. Think of the gut as an orchestra working together to ensure that all the food you eat is processed efficiently and effectively. The gut facilitates this process by breaking down foods and turning them into nutrients which are then delivered into the bloodstream.
A healthy gut also keeps the immune system intact and helps the body fight off diseases, viruses, and unwelcome bacteria.
But the gut also influences our mental health and wellbeing.
Gut Health and Mental Health
The link between the gut and the brain is established via several hormones, neurotransmitters, and via the immune system. The gut microbiome is also linked to the body's central nervous system.
An unhealthy gut has been linked to several mental health issues including anxiety and depression. But this isn’t just a one-way cause and effect situation. Feeling anxious or depressed can also negatively affect the gut, while an unhealthy gut can also impact our mood, mental health more generally.
It's no surprise that both our gut health and mental health play an important role in the overall function of our bodies. From the way we think, all the way down to basic bodily functions - one is always affecting the other.
Irritable bowel syndrome and depression: what we know.
Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is thought to affect 1 in 5 Australians at some point in their lives. Symptoms can range from constipation, irregular or alternating diarrhoea, stomach pain, and naturally accompanied by heightened stress and even anxiety.
While the exact causes of IBS remain unknown - research is increasingly finding links between IBS and mental vulnerability, anxiety, and depression. This study found that IBS and its symptoms were significantly associated with common mental disorders.
Gut Health and Stress
Our gut is highly responsive to changes in diet, stress, and other external factors - like antibiotics. These changes or fluctuations lead to what is known as a dysbiotic state - where the microbiome is unable to function normally and can result in leaky gut syndrome.
And just as your mood can be influenced by symptoms of an unhealthy gut, stress can also be a factor that results in leaky gut syndrome or even IBS.
Gut Health also affects your skin health
The gut is an important player when it comes to regulating skin health. It's accountable for around 70% of our immune cells, not to mention the powerhouse behind our metabolism, where nutrients are fed into the body and enzymes are detoxified. All this means that a healthy and functioning gut will show on your skin.
Healthy skin equals a healthy mind
We’ve all had the experience where a pimple or nasty breakout has affected our mood - and these feelings should not be passed off. People who suffer from acne and other skin-treated issues are ten times more likely to have issues with their gut health. A robust gut can be a powerful weapon in fighting off skin disorders - which in turn can boost your overall sense of self-worth and mental stability.
How to boost your mental health via your gut
There are many ways you can boost your gut health and benefit from the positive mental health effects. Here are a few to get you started:
Eat a balanced diet
What you eat and drink is perhaps the most important factor in maintaining a stable and healthy gut. Everything that we choose to consume will impact the ability of our microbiome to process and turn food into energy and nutrients. It’s good to avoid fried foods and try to reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption. Focus mainly on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all good choices when it comes to promoting a healthy gut.
Include Probiotics in your diet
Probiotics are an important part of your gut health toolkit. By including probiotic-rich foods in your diet you can re-populate your microbiota with all the right (good) bacteria that is missing. here are some probiotic foods to help stimulate good bacteria in your gut microbiome:
Take Gut Health Supplements
Good gut bacteria can also be stimulated by taking the right gut health supplements. While these should not substitute a healthy diet, supplements can help to boost the health of your gut microbiota by balancing out your digestive system and easing some of the more severe symptoms of IBS and leaky gut syndrome.
Get your mental health back on track today with a healthier gut
Want to turn your gut health around but unsure where to start? Here at Nourishme Organics, we stock a range of organic, gut health supplements to kickstart your microbiome and get your mental health back into gear.
Shop Online today and have your order delivered to your door.