June 23, 2020

Gut Health

Scientists have been making such strides recently in learning about gut health. The gut seems to connect, interestingly, to pretty much every other aspect of your health. So you might know that eating well and having a healthy gut means having a healthy mind. But did you know that the state of your gut even affects your mental health? Yes, your gut affects anxiety and depression, and today I want to talk a little more about that.

What Do I Mean By "Gut Health"?

First of all, just in case you're not familiar with the idea of gut health, let me give you a quick introduction.

Basically, having a healthy gut means that you have the right balance of microorganisms in your digestive system.

These microorganisms consists of good bacteria (which you may know as "probiotics") and bad bacteria. As you can probably guess, you should work hard to have more good than bad. Otherwise, your gut becomes unbalanced, which can cause gut inflammation, which can lead to a whole host of other health problems.

So how do you make sure you have enough good bacteria in your gut?

You are probably familiar with the idea of probiotics in yogurt. The reason it has probiotics is because it's fermented by adding bacteria cultures to the milk. This is a natural step in making yogurt to thicken it. But as you may know, there are lots of other fermented foods that have healthy bacteria too, such as kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut.

Plus, eating healthy in general encourages a good gut microbiome. Studies have shown that eating a diet high in processed foods and alcohol has a negative effect on gut health. Bad gut health can cause inflammation, which leads to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Mental Health

So we get it, you should go with your gut and realize that eating well to have a healthy gut is very important. But did you know that having the right gut bacteria can help you get rid of anxiety and depression?

And on the other hand, having too much bad gut bacteria from a diet low in fermented foods, and high in processed foods, can have a negative effect on stress and mental health.

This is definitely a new and emerging scientific field that is still being studied...But, basically, scientists have noted something called the gut-brain highway, which connects your brain stem to the digestive system.

Your gut and your brain communicate with each other, which is super important, because of course your brain needs information about what you're digesting, and how to best digest your food.

This communication is also what tells your brain whether you're hungry or full. But being stressed out can shut down communication on this highway, and have a negative effect on your gut health.

That makes sense, but studies are showing that this works the opposite way too ā€” that, when your gut health is bad, it affects the messages communicated to your brain. Gut inflammation can make you depressed, whether that's because of the brain-gut highway, or because of the negative physical symptoms you are experiencing.

And, again, it works both ways. Gut inflammation can cause depression, and depression can cause gut inflammation.

What Should You Do?

Well, to sum up, avoiding anxiety and depression is just another very good reason to watch what you eat, and to try to have good gut health. But more specifically, one study showed that having the bacteria lactobacillus rhamnosus or lactobacillus farciminis helps decrease stress hormones!

It's understandable if you're wondering what exactly to do with that information! Here's what I recommend:

Many fermented foods (such as kombucha) will list the types of good bacteria inside them, as part of the nutrition facts.

There are many types of lactobacillus good bacteria, but lactobacillus rhamnosus and lactobacillus farciminis are the ones that should reduce your stress!

I know when Iā€™m feeling anxious or down about something my stomach hurts, but I never imagined there was a such an intimate connection between my gut health and brain!

It just goes to show that the old adage, "You are what you eat," is extremely true.

Are you a fan of getting probiotics through fermented foods or pills? I'm curious what you guys are doing for a healthy gut! Let me know in the comments.

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