You have probably heard of the importance of gut health for the body. But what you may not know, is the huge impact it can have on our emotional wellbeing.
Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract.
Maintaining this balance of microorganisms is very important for not only our physical health, but our mental health too. The gut is connected to the brain in a number of ways, and exploration since the early 1900s has revealed a very close relationship between emotional wellbeing with bacterial balance, meaning people who suffer with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and its symptoms commonly suffer from depression and/or anxiety as well.
Symptoms of an unhealthy gut
You may have an unhealthy gut if you are experiencing:
- Fatigue / lack of sleep
- Weight gain
- Sugar cravings
- Food intolerances
- Skin issues (dryness, unexplained rashes, eczema, acne, rosacea)
- Digestive upset (gas, bloating, stomach ache, acid reflux)
- Digestive conditions – IBS, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis.
- Autoimmune disease (eg Celiac Disease and Psoriasis)
- Low immune system (frequently catching colds, etc)
- Signs of depression / anxiety / low moods
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Poor quality hair and nails
- Daily aches and pains in muscles or joints
- Bad breath
Tips for promoting a healthy gut
There are a number of ways in which you can influence the condition of the gut and a major one is diet. Some foods you can add into your daily diet to improve your gut environment include;
- Cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli and kale
- Fruits with a balanced glucose-to-fructose ratio, such as bananas and strawberries
- Carb light grains, such as oats and brown rice
- Lean protein, such as eggs and fish
- Fermented veggies, such as sauerkraut and kimchi
There are also natural supplements you can take to promote gut health, such as;
- Activated charcoal
- Pre / probiotics
- Psyllium husks
Gut health and emotional wellbeing
The interaction between bacteria and depression / anxiety goes both ways. Daily stress is said to increase vulnerability to diseases including both depression and irritable bowel syndrome. Gut microbiota also influences serotonin and dopamine production, which are related to emotional wellbeing, and as 90% of the body’s serotonin is found in the gut, there can be no doubt that there is a genuine link between gut health and mental health.
A great way to combat stress and anxiety is through meditation. When you are stressed your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode and your body begins to divert energy and blood flow from everyday functions such as digestion, to focus on preparing you for a life-or-death situation. This proved very useful during our evolution, however in today’s society cortisol can be released into the system from the stresses of everyday life, such as a traffic jam on your way to work, and the results can induce impaired digestion and abdominal discomfort as a result of stress.
Other ways to reduce stress include:
- Breath work
- Taking breaks and periods for rest
- Reading / listening to music
- Reducing use of toxins
- Complementary therapies
- Acupuncture, reflexology, aromatherapy
Benefits of a healthy gut
Benefits of a healthy gut may include:
- Control of blood sugar and lower risk of diabetes
- Improvement of heart health
- Improvement of brain health
- Healthy hair and a lower risk of hair loss
- Healthy skin and a lower risk of skin disease
- Emotional and hormonal balance
- Improved wellbeing