The Link Between Gut Health and Mood/ Mental and Physical Health
We are all learning how interconnected our health is – how psychologists, gastroenterologists, naturopaths, nutritionists, and other healthcare professionals know that physical and mental health are very connected. The health of your gut microbiome is directly related to your mental and physical health – and may even be linked to the development of certain psychological conditions.
Gut Health Impacts Mood
A growing body of evidence indicates that gut health influences mood. By understanding the connection between gut health and mental health, we can start to make informed decisions about our diet and lifestyles that can positively impact both our physical and mental health.
The trillions of bacteria in our guts (microbes) help to break down food, extract nutrition, and excrete waste; but they also affect our mood, energy levels, and mental health. For many, a healthy gut is the foundation of health. An imbalanced gut microbiome is linked to a plethora of conditions, including but not limited to obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, allergies, skin conditions, digestive problems and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
This two-way communication between our brain and our gut is called the gut-brain axis. Our brain controls digestion and communicates with the gut through the vagus nerve. Hormones released in the gut, in response to what’s eaten, can also alter our mood and cognitive functioning. This is why it is so important to pay attention to what’s going on in your gut.
Ways to Optimize Gut Health for Improved Mental Health:
- Eat Probiotic Rich Foods – Probiotics are essential for maintaining good gut health, as they create more good bacteria in the digestive tract and help keep bad bacteria in check.
- Manage Stress – Chronic stress has been linked to an increase in the risk and severity of conditions like depression and anxiety. Meditation, yoga and deep breathing are some simple yet effective ways to reduce stress on a regular basis.
- Get Enough Sleep – Stress is one of the leading causes of insomnia, and poor sleep often precedes depression and anxiety. Aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.
- Increase your Intake of Healthy Fats – Healthy fats can help keep your gut microbiome in balance and reduce inflammation in your body.
By understanding the connection between the gut and mental health, we can make informed decisions about our diet and lifestyle that can play a role in both our physical and mental health.