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Mental Health & It’s Direct Link To Gut Health

What you eat can not only determine the state of your physical health, but also the state of your mental health. Eating food in general has shown evidence of releasing dopamine & activating your brains ‘reward system’. Eating food, quite literally gives us the feeling of ‘instant gratification’.

Not to mention the age old statement, “eating chocolate will make you feel emotionally better”

It’s science! Chocolate actually releases endorphins! And you know exactly what that does – just like exercise, sex and other activities which release endorphins, they make you feel good!

Healthy gut function has been linked to normal central nervous system (CNS) function. Hormones, neurotransmitters and immunological factors released from the gut are known to send signals to the brain either directly or via autonomic neurons. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. 2021)

What you eat & how that food does or doesn’t damage your gut, really determines a range of health situations. For example, poor gut health can lead to skin conditions, IBS, Stomach bloating and cramping, and other serious digestive and organ issues.

Apart from the food you ingest, other external & internal factors can cause havoc in your gut. Such as, chronic stress, lack of sleep, medications & drug use, food sensitivities to caffeine & acidic fruits, alcohol consumption, and extreme physical activity (HIIT workouts can be harmful to some individuals, as it spikes their cortisol levels (stress) too much and too often).

Stress has been shown to cause:

  • Delayed wound healing
  • Gut damage
  • Decreased gut immunity = increased risk of infection
  • Decreased blood flow to the digestive system
  • Decreased intestinal mucous membrane = leaky gut
  • suppression of stomach acid secretion
  • Slowing of stomach & small intestine motility

On another note, it also works the opposite way – if your gut health is impaired, it could actually be what is causing your anxiety or clinical depression. Depressive disorders are characterized by both neuroplastic, organizational changes, and neurochemical dysfunction. The study established a direct correlation between increased levels of IL-6 and TNF-a with symptoms of depression and anxiety, indicating that pro-inflammatory cytokines play a role in the development of anxiety and depression. These effects correlated with a state of chronic inflammation and altered immune cells in the peripheral blood. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. 2021)

If you have gut issues, IBS or inflammation you may wish to look at an anti-inflammatory diet.  Research shows that switching from a mostly animal-based diet to a mostly plant-based diet (and vice versa) can change the makeup of your microbiome in as little as 24 hours.

Foods that may help your gut:

  • Collagen-boosting foods. 
  • High-fiber foods. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oats, peas, avocados, pears, bananas, and berries are full of fibre, which aids in healthy digestion.
  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. flax seeds, almonds, avocados are packed with omega-3s,which may help reduce inflammation and in turn help improve your digestion.
  • Probiotics! Eat living fermented food filled with probiotics.
  • Turmeric – anti-inflammatory.
  • Wholefoods, avoid processed food.

The Bottom Line:

The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected. (Harvard Health. 2021)