How gut health messes with your mood and what you can do about it

-Jun 27, Hannah Hargrave , Health -

Gut feelings and butterflies in your stomach don’t just evolve from your belly, they’re a sure fire indication that your brain and your gut are connected. So it makes sense that the health of your gut can directly affect your brain and therefore your mood too.

Your gut is home to just a few – ok more like 100 trillion – microbes and they do more than just the good stuff like assist metabolism, digestion and fight off infection. They release neurotransmitters such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which can alter your brain function and change your mood too. 

It’s even been suggested that some gut bacteria impacts areas in the brain connected to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. 

There’s a two-way connection between the two organs and it’s called the gut-brain axis.

So just as those microbes in your gut influence you up top, your brain’s neurotransmitters send signals to your belly which explains why you get a feelings of nervousness, butterflies and you can sometimes even feel physically sick with worry.

While a healthy gut doesn’t necessarily mean your mood is automatically uplifted and your mental health problems evaporate overnight it can go a long way towards improving your overall wellbeing.

We want beneficial bacteria in the gut to block those harmful microbes from making your belly their home and to help do this you can make some simple lifestyle changes.

Take some steps towards balancing out the brain and gut for a much healthier and happier existence. Here’s how:

Reduce stress

To get your brain and your gut working in harmony one major thing you need to do is reduce your stress levels. Neither belly nor brain function well when you are worked up or worried for extended periods of time.

Learn how to manage your stress levels. Take up meditation, add some exercise to your life, discover me-time or calming yoga too.

Related: Dr. Rangan Chatterjee explains everything you need to know about reducing stress

Eat yoghurt or kefir

Introduce healthy bacteria into your gut by adding yoghurt or kefir into your diet. These cultured dairy products are tasty and healthy and as they pass through your gut they’ll give it a beneficial boost. 

Related: The potent, age-busting, mood-lifting, energy-boosting superfood

Brush your teeth

Maintaining healthy pearly whites can help your gut stay clear of bad bacteria too. Harmful bacteria can grow in your mouth and finds it’s way into your gut. Regular brushing can keep those bad microbes away from your belly and keep your breath fresh too.

Fill up on fibre

Fibre feeds healthy bacteria and makes them positively thrive but most of us don’t get enough of it in our daily diet. Nuts, wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and pulses are all fantastic sources of fibre so try to increase your intake of these healthy foods to better your gut and your body overall. 

A word of warning though; it might be worth gradually building up your fibre intake because do it too suddenly and you can be stuck with a nasty case of wind or bloating. 

Eat fermented foods

Sauerkraut, kimchi and unsweetened kefir might not be on your current weekly food menu but if you’re concerned about your gut health and want to make a change, then it could be time to give them a whirl.

These fermented foods contain live bacteria and yeasts, called probiotics, which are beneficial to your gut. 

They’ve even been shown to ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea too.

Reduce intake of sugar and processed foods

Not a lot of good comes from too much sugar and processed foods and certainly not where the gut is concerned. 

Related: How to beat sugar cravings for good

They can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your tummy and high amounts of refined sugars have been shown to increase inflammation as well. 

If you found this article interesting and want to improve your gut health then you might also like to find out how to make your own healthy probiotics at home and learn everything you need to know about inflammation.

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