Did you know that food doesn’t just affect your gut, it affects your brain? Or that certain foods can trigger anxiety or depression?
In fact, your gut has so much to do with your mental health it’s been dubbed your “second brain”. This is something we see time and time again in our practice. By using certain foods and proper gut care, many of our clients see a huge relief in their mental health symptoms. Even one of our nutritionists, who has both IBD and depression but was eating pretty healthy, saw a major difference. But how does this happen?
HOW THE GUT BECOMES DYSFUNCTIONAL
Your gut covers everything in your digestive tract, but in terms of gut health the intestines get special attention. It’s almost like a city: you’ve got workers that digest your food, your food acting as commuters, and your bacteria and gut walls acting as law enforcement. This city manufactures 95% of your serotonin (the neurotransmitter that antidepressants enhance), houses 70% of your immune system, and does this all while whisking away everything you eat. It really is quite the powerhouse.
But then come in the troublemakers: certain foods and additives like to kill off the law enforcement good bacteria and scribble graffiti on your gut walls to damage them. They bring in their buddies, bad bacteria and inflammation, and have them set up camp. They chip away at your gut wall until substances leak through. At this point, the city is compromised and no longer working properly. With the barrier breached and invaders on the move, the rest of your body becomes on high alert.
It doesn’t stop there.
GUT HELP FOR BRAIN HEALTH
There’s a highway between your gut and your brain called the vagus nerve. This enables a system of communication. Through this gut-brain axis, your gut tells your brain it’s in distress. Your brain responds by changing your mood. We used to think that mental health issues caused gut disorders, but now research indicates it’s the other way around. Your gut acts as a quite persuasive voice when it comes to mental health.
The good news is you can help fight this through a nutritional counterattack. The recommendations change depending on if you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, ADHD, or PTSD. But there’s some overlap between them all:
- Get plenty of fiber: fiber exercises your gut and feeds your good bacteria.
- Focus on mono-unsaturated fatty acids, especially Omega 3s: these help your body fight inflammation
- Reduce refined sugars: refined sugars wreak havoc on your gut health and promote inflammation, triggering changes in mood
- Choose foods high in probiotics and prebiotics: these help populate your gut with good bacteria and help lower inflammation
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s an excellent start for anyone wishing to move their health in the right direction. You can’t go wrong by giving your gut what it needs.