Have you ever had that feeling in your stomach that something bad was about to happen?  Or you got butterflies in your stomach when your girlfriend/boyfriend enters the room?  It just so happens that there is a second brain in the body situated in your gut.  This ‘brain in your gut’ can influence your mood and mental health.  And by improving gut health you are also able to improve your mood and mental health.  

Gut and Mood and mental health

  When people think of anxiety, stress or mental illness, they often think of the brain.  Why would you think this?  Possibly because it is well known that neurotransmitters in the brain affect mood and mental health.  So if you’re not getting enough of the happy hormones then you may be suffering from anxiety or depression. But did you know that the happy hormones Dopamine and Serotonin are produced in the Gut?  In fact 90% of Serotonin production is in the gut.  And neurons that make up the brain are also found in the gut.  When your gut is compromised then it can under produce Serotonin and Dopamine which is linked to anxiety and depression.  And improving your diet can help improve low energy, brain fog and sadness.  It has been shown that people suffering from gut problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are more likely to have problems with anxiety and depression than someone who is healthy.  

Gut Health and Sleep

  Researches have found that there is definitely a link between gut health and sleep.  While poor gut health can affect the way you sleep, it has been found that getting enough sleep can help repair the gut.  Which in turn improves sleep.  So get your night caps on and sleep to improve the gut health.   

Gut-Brain Axis

  There is also a link between the gut and the brain called the brain-gut axis.  It is a two way street where the brain affects the gut and the gut affects the brain.  For instance can you recall a time when you were anxious to pass and exam and you felt it in your gut? This also means that things like stress and anxiety can have an affect on the health of the gut.  And it is necessary to reduce stress and anxiety to have a healthy gut.   

What is the gut?

  The gut is part of the intestines that is responsible for breaking down the food that we eat and absorbing nutrients.  It is also responsible for the elimination of waste and toxins.  Not only that but as well as affecting mood it also helps with immune function and sleep. The gut contains 100-million neurons and has it’s own nervous system.  Serotonin and Dopamine affect the neurons promoting wellbeing and reduced stress.   

Gut MicroBiome

  The gut microbiome refers to the micro organisms that live in your intestines.  In fact there are about 300 to 500 species of micro-organisms in the gut.  Some of them can be harmful but many are beneficial to health. One problem of antibiotics is that it can kill the bacteria in the intestines.  That’s why it is important to take probiotics to add good bacteria back into the intestines.  It has been shown that the brain can have an effect on the microbiome and that stress can in fact suppress the good bacteria.   

Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

  Any type of gut disturbance may indicate that you have an unhealthy gut.  Things like gas, diarrhea, heartburn and constipation is an indicator of an unhealthy gut.  A healthy gut can easily process food and eliminate waste.  Some other symptoms of an unhealthy gut include sleep disturbances, low immune system and systemic inflammation.  Food intolerance can also indicate an unhealthy gut.  A food allergy is caused by and immune reaction to a food.  Researches believe that food intolerances are in fact caused by an unhealthy gut.  Trigger foods can cause symptoms such as gas, bloating and diarrhea.   

Ways to Improve Gut Health

  Reduce Stress Chronic levels of stress can wreak havoc on your body.  It raises cortisol level which can increase inflammation.  But it also has an affect on gut health.  By lowering stress by doing things like yoga, meditation and decreasing your consumption of caffeine, you can help to repair the gut. Sleep Getting enough sleep not only affects mental health it can also impact gut health.  Not getting enough sleep can impact gut health which ironically can affect sleep.  So getting enough sleep can improve gut health which will promote sleep.     Water Water has been shown to have a positive impact on gut bacteria.  So drink your 2 litres a day to promote a balanced healthy bacteria in the gut.  Reduce Sugar and Fatty Food Reducing sugar and fatty food is not only good for the waist line, it’s good for gut health too.  Try to replace those sugary drinks with water or tea, replace sugar with fruit and replace fatty foods with lean protein and vegetables. Prebiotics and Probiotics What’s the difference between a prebiotic and probiotic?  A prebiotic is the food necessary for gut bacteria to feed on and probiotic is a good bacteria supplement.  Prebiotics are the dietary fibre necessary to feed the good bacteria in the but and help reinoculated the microbiome.  Some foods that are probiotics are onions, bananas, legumes and asparagus.  On the other hand, probiotics are live cultures that add good bacteria to the gut.  This is especially important if you’re taking something like antibiotics which destroys good bacteria in the intestines.  Some probiotic foods include kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut and miso.    

Foods that help with improving gut health

  High-Fibre Foods High fibre foods are excellent for gut health.  These include foods such as legumes and beans, bananas and berries.    Garlic and Onions Garlic and onion have various benefits to the body.  Research has shown that they have anti-cancer properties as well as positively affecting the immune system.  These have ties to the functions of the gut.    Fermented Foods Fermented foods are great sources of probiotics which can influence gut health by adding in extra bacteria when the diet is lacking.  Fermented foods include kombucha, kefir, yogurt and kimchi.   

In summary

By improving your diet to include foods such as prebiotics, probiotics and foods high in fibre as well as getting enough sleep and reducing stress, you will be able to improve your gut health which will in turn improve mood and mental health.
Kristin is a NLP Practitioner and Health Coach helping people with mood and mental health.  She has bipolar disorder.  In the past she had an attempted suicide and two nervous breakdowns.  But through technques to improve mood and control emotions she hasn’t had any symptoms of mental illness for 10 years.  Now she teaches her method to other people so they can also get over overwhelm. To work with her click here

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