Thanks to the recently proven gut-brain link, what you eat can make a huge difference to your mental health and wellbeing. With stress and uncertainty governing most people’s lives right now, improving your mental health where possible is a positive step you can take. Here’s how:
How a gut health diet can make you happier in 2020
Your gut works like a second brain
You’ve heard of neurotransmitters in your brain like serotonin and dopamine. But did you know these same neurotransmitters are produced in the gut too? In fact, new research shows around 90% of serotonin originates in the digestive tract.
The importance of gut health
When you have an abnormal gut microbiome, the gut-brain link becomes dysfunctional. This can lead to mood swings and low motivation.
Serotonin & dopamine matter when it comes to wellbeing
Serotonin is important in mental health as it helps regulate sleep, mood, appetite and even pain. It’s so important to mental health, research has discovered most people with depression have lower levels of serotonin transmission.
Dopamine works differently to serotonin, regulating reality perception and how we see the world. If you’ve ever had a low day, you know the world seems a little less bright. It’s dopamine that has a huge impact on this view, and just like serotonin, it’s produced in the gut.
The link between gut health and mental health explained
Now you know how important clever neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are to your mental health. But how do you ensure they’re doing their job? It’s all about your gut microbiome.
How to boost your happiness with what you eat
Establishing a healthy gut microbiome isn’t as easy as drinking kombucha everyday though. A healthy gut needs three things to function well. To help explain these things, we’re going to use a metaphor of a flowerpot.
Increase your collagen intake
Dietary collagen is one of the most effective ways to enhance gut health. Collagen is a vital part of the gut’s connective tissue, plus it helps regulate the gastric acid inside your stomach.
Your gut’s microbiome needs a safe place to grow, and having healthy connective tissue in your gut helps create this safe place. One of the best ways to ingest the collagen your gut needs is with quality powder supplements like this one.
In the flower pot metaphor, your gut’s lining acts as the terracotta pot. A sturdy, strong pot means a better home for your flower.
Prebiotics like artichokes, algae, garlic, onion, asparagus, beetroot, wheat bran and legumes work to stimulate the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
Prebiotics are a type of fibre, but not all fibre are prebiotic. To be classified as a prebiotic, the fibre must pass through the GI tract undigested. Red marine algae is a potent prebiotic found in quality supplements like this one.
In the flower pot analogy, consider prebiotics as the soil. They help make the soil conducive to healthy flower growth.
Consuming good bacteria in probiotic foods immediately boosts your gut health. Good bacteria help balance the bad bacteria we can develop when we’re sick or battling inflammation.
Fermented foods are powerful probiotics. Before you scrunch your nose up at the term fermented, don’t forget tasty treats like raspberry kombucha, yoghurt, miso soup, tempeh and curry sauerkraut. All of these foods are powerful probiotics, but the live bacteria in them will die if you don’t have a healthy gut lining, and prebiotic ‘soil’ for your bacteria to flourish in.
In the flower pot metaphor, probiotics are the flower. They’re the good bacteria you’re aiming to grow so your gut-brain link is functioning well.
When you address the three points above to boost your gut health, you’re enhancing the production of serotonin and dopamine in your gut. Thanks to the gut-brain link, they can be used to enhance your mental health. In other words? By eating collagen, prebiotics and probiotics, you’re making yourself happy. So give them a try!