How Your Gut Health is Affecting Your Mental Health

Do you doubt the power of the gut?

Having often been overlooked, the gut is quickly becoming recognised as an organ of equal importance to the brain and the heart. 

Just as we once believed that the earth was flat, we were also unaware – up until recently – of the impact that our gut has on our overall health

A healthy (or unhealthy) gut contributes to the operation of a huge variety of bodily functions, from heart and brain health to sleep, digestion and mood

With questions around gut health gaining traction in the wider population, more and more research is being done into the connection between the gut and the rest of the body. 

What makes your gut special

There are trillions of microorganisms that make up the gut microbiome (the bacteria living in your intestines). This microbiome is entirely unique to you, just like a strand of hair or a fingerprint! 

The microbiome, when strategically balanced between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria, has many beneficial properties

While it can protect against pathogens and strengthen the immune system, research is showing that a gut microbiome tipped in favour of ‘bad’ bacteria can also play a detrimental part in anxiety and depression.

The gut-brain connection

The vagus nerve is the main communication line between the gut and the brain. Studies have shown that this connection can affect emotional behaviour when different bacteria are present within the gut microbiome. 

Powerful emotion can trigger symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract. Does it not make sense then, that this connection allowing the brain to influence the gut can indeed go both ways? 

The bacteria in your gut microbiome changes drastically depending on what you eat. And with a poorly balanced microbiome now being linked to mental health disorders such as depression, having a clean gut health diet is crucial.  

But how does the gut-brain connection affect your mood?

Good question! Did you know that 90% of serotonin receptors are located in your gut

So while we all settled into this idea that our brains were the powerhouse producing serotonin, it actually turns out that our gut has been in control the whole time. 

Because the food you consume affects and changes your gut environment, and because your gut is so closely linked to your brain, food that negatively impacts your gut will also negatively impact your brain. 

And it’s not just food! When you take particular types of medication, like anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics, it is common to experience nausea as a side effect. 

This nausea is caused because of the way that the medication affects your gut, even though it is likely targeting a different part of your body. 

Food that loves your gut (and therefore, your brain!)

So what have we learned? 

That whatever you consume is going to negatively or positively affect your gut. And what can you do about it? 

Easy. Consume foods that help your gut rather than hinder it! 

Research is revealing that the likelihood of developing depression and anxiety is greater if you consume a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and added fats. 

Even if your diet consists solely of Coco Pops and fizzy drinks, you can still turn your gut microbiome ( and therefore, your overall mood) back around!

A study performed in 2017 showed that a whole food, plant rich diet can help to improve the symptoms of depression

Switching up your diet to include more whole grains, nuts, fish and good quality meats will help to boost your gut microbiome, keep it working as normal and put you in a more positive frame of mind. 

Talk about your gut health today

The team at Merge Health believes that everyone has the potential to positively transform their lives. A friendly bunch of medical and allied health professionals, they provide integrative healthcare uniquely catered to each and every patient. 

Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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