Your Gut and Your Mental Health

There’s more and more evidence suggesting that the state of your gut heavily influences your state of mind. Here’s why, plus ways you can improve your gut health.

Sure, eating ice cream can make you feel happy. But what if we told that you it goes much, much deeper than that? That what we eat, and the resultant state of our gut, has a significant effect on our state of mind? According to Dr David Perlmutter in his book ‘The Brainmaker’, as well as other medical sources, the gut and the brain actually communicate extensively with each other, via the nervous system and immune system.

The basic premise is that if your gut is in a bad state, this will negatively impact your mood, and in most cases, heighten mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. It’s all caused by inflammation, which then triggers an imbalance in your microbiome – the collection of microbes (bacteria) in your gastrointestinal tract. In fact, according to research published in JAMA Psychiatry, brain inflammation was 30% higher in people diagnosed with clinical depression. This link between inflammation and depression is mentioned extensively in Perlmutter’s book as well.

It’s not just depression that’s been linked to poor gut health, though. Other conditions like dementia, anxiety, autism and Alzheimer’s all apparently have a link to it too. Believe it or not, the state of our gut has even been said to influence attributes like our metabolism, our weight and even how athletic we are.

So how do I improve the state of my gut?

Now that we know how important it is, how do we go about improving it? Unfortunately, as with most health issues, there’s no quick fix to obtaining a gut that’s brimming with health. Rather, it’s about making ongoing positive, healthy changes to our diets and lifestyles.

Here’s how:

  • Eat a varied diet that’s rich in fresh vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and natural, unprocessed foods.
  • Drink plenty of filtered water – install a filtration system in your home or buy a filtering jug.
  • Up your fibre intake and reduce sugar drastically, or don’t consume it at all.
  • Add fermented foods into your diet like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles and kombucha tea.
  • You may be tired of hearing it but exercise regularly: it improves the absorption of minerals and vitamins by your gut, besides its many other health benefits.
  • Manage your stress levels, as stress can directly influence your gut’s physiology, upsetting the balance of bacteria and affecting your immune system and mood. TO help with this, ensure that some form of stress release is incorporated into your life, whether this is meditation, yoga or practising mindfulness.

As interesting as this new wave of thinking is, changing how you eat would certainly not take the place of any medication that’s been prescribed to you by a medical professional. Speak to your psychologist or psychiatrist about your diet for advice about how to supplement any medication you are already on, so you can move towards better gut health, and better mental health overall.

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201404/the-gut-brain-connection-mental-illness-and-disease

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2091919

https://chopra.com/articles/how-to-improve-your-mood-with-a-healthy-gut

https://www.psycom.net/the-gut-brain-connection

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/nov/06/microbiome-gut-health-digestive-system-genes-happiness

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-43815370

Choosing the right medical aid is no joke, but we’ll leave you smiling.