It might be surprising to you that your gut health and your mental health are actually quite closely related. In fact, I could even argue that they are the same thing. The science out there surrounding the mind-gut connection is growing by the day. So far we’ve learned that your gut produces around 95% of the serotonin in your body, along with many other neurotransmitters, many mental health issues can be linked to gut dysbiosis, and there is a “second brain” in your gut called the enteric nervous system that regulates mood and thinking. There is so much more to share about this research, but, today, I’d like to skip right to the good part – What we actually do with this information! How can you heal your gut in order to heal your brain?
So, the answer to this is actually as vast and complex as the mind-gut connection itself. However, I’ve put my health coaching skills to use for you and narrowed them down to a few steps that I believe to be the most actionable. It can take a long time to fully understand this connection (I’m not even there yet), but I hope this information helps you begin taking the first steps.
Step One: Avoid as many inflammatory foods as you can – these are things like gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and any processed foods. For most folks, inflammatory foods are the primary culprit when it comes to causing dysbiosis and other gut health issues. Even if you are not sensitive by definition to these foods (e.g. you don’t experience symptoms consistently when you eat them), they can still be causing damage to your gut. Your body might not be yelling at you when you eat gluten, but it’s still having to handle digestive that inflammatory food when it rather wouldn’t. The less your gut has to deal with, the better it will be able to heal.
Step Two: Help your gut repair by making sure you are getting an adequate amount of good fats! Thanks to our fat-shaming society, many people out there believe that any and all kinds of fat are bad for them. However, this just isn’t right! Our bodies NEED fat just as much as they need protein and nutrients from fruits and veggies. Healthy fats, like those from wild-caught salmon, avocado, coconut oil, and nuts, are essential to a healthy intestinal lining and help our bodies repair damage from leaky gut and many other gut health ailments.
Step Three: Care for your gut bacteria. You have trillions of bacteria in your gut, and they are responsible for the most important jobs in both your gut health and your mental health. These little bugs are your best friends in healing the gut-brain connection and deserve some lovin’. Replenish the good types of bacteria by adding fermented and probiotic foods like kombucha, quality yogurt, kefir, and kimchi. Pro tip – many of the commercialized probiotic foods have tons of sugar, so check the label before you put it in your body! These friends are alive and need to be fed, so keep them happy with prebiotic foods like garlic, chicory, and onions.
There you have it, folks! Keep those inflammatory foods out, help your gut heal with good fats, and take care of your bacterial friends with pre and probiotics. Your gut health and your mental health are so closely related. Both are severely damaged by inflammatory foods, require healthy fats to function, and benefit tremendously from healthy gut flora. When your gut is happy, so is your brain.
It’s easy to think that you have to heal your gut in order to heal your brain, but I think it’s more accurately said that the processes of healing your gut and healing your brain are actually the same thing. One will always improve with the other. So, get out there and be good to your whole being, bacteria and all!