Our gut health has a profound impact on our physical and mental health. When most people think about the gut, they usually think of the intestines and digestive issues. However, in reality the gut is much more powerful. The gut-brain connection is drawing even more attention lately. Take these 4 steps to maximize your gut-brain connection diet.
The gut actually has an even larger impact on our mindset and mental health than most people realize. You see, in the gut is where our bodies manufacture 90% of our serotonin, or our happy chemical.
This means that your gut health has an impact on your mood and how happy you feel.
Gut-Brain Connection Diet to Benefit Your Mental Health
So, if you’ve ever heard the term you are what you eat, it might ring more true than you originally thought!
One of the great things about the impact of gut health on our mood, cognition, and sense of well being is that we can use this tool to our advantage. We can actively play a role in our mental health by taking care of our gut-brain connection.
What creates a healthy gut?
The gut likes colorful, whole foods from the earth. Our bodies are meant to get nutrients from foods that are naturally full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.
In the Standard American Diet (often referred to as the SAD diet) we often resort to many packaged foods which are leached of nutrients and contain chemicals, toxins, and preservatives. These foods are more likely to have unhealthy oils and sweeteners that our body cannot use for energy, so they often get stored as fat.
These types of ingredients are harmful to the gut and can create illness or disease.
Because of this gut-brain connection, when we eat a proper diet, we are able to optimize our health.
What happens if the gut is unhealthy?
The gut can become unhealthy for many reasons. Food sensitivities, antibiotics, stress, toxins, chemicals, disease and daily diet are a few common culprits. When the gut lining gets small holes in it, food particles, toxins and chemicals are able to leak through the lining and into the bloodstream. This is known as leaky gut, which creates inflammation in the body.
Inflammation in the gut is directly tied to inflammation in the brain. This means that you could be unfocused, anxious or depressed in reaction to what is going on in your intestines or digestive system.
This is one of the reasons why eating a gut-brain connection diet is so important. What we put into our body truly matters!
Gut-Brain Connection Diet
To have a healthy gut, we need to remove the bad and bring in the good. This is a simple start to a healthier gut. We have trillions of bacteria in our gut. We get into trouble when our gut environment, or microbiome, becomes imbalanced. We end up having more bad bacteria than good. We want to change that to have more of the good bacteria to create a healthy microbiome.
Step 1: Cut out Processed Foods
A quick way to boost gut health is to cut out packaged and processed foods that do not come from the earth. These are often void of key nutrients and are packed with additives, many that are difficult to pronounce! This is a sign that they are not natural.
Step 2: Eat Organic
When traditional produce is grown, they have all kinds of pesticides and chemicals. These can throw our hormones into imbalance and cause all kinds of issues with our gut health.
Opt for organic produce and meat whenever possible to avoid all those chemicals.
Step 2: Get Probiotics
We also need prebiotics and probiotics in our diet. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that nourish our gut. Prebiotics are the food that probiotics eat to flourish.
Step 3: Don’t forget Prebiotics!
You can find prebiotics in many fruits and vegetables from the earth such as apples, bananas, and asparagus. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as homemade pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso. You can also get probiotics in supplement form to aid in a healthy microbiome.
Positive Benefits of Following a Gut-Brain Connection Diet
As we discussed before, a healthy gut positively impacts both physical and mental health. When you improve your gut health, you often get these benefits:
- Weight loss
- Increased energy
- Improved focus
- Clearer skin
- Positive mood
- Decreased anxiety
We get these mental health benefits because our gut is known as our second brain. We actually have more nerves that go from the gut to the brain than from the brain to our gut! This shows how big of an impact our gut has on our brain function.
Research has shown that many neurological diseases including Parkinson’s have been shown to start in the gut rather than the brain. For years, we have believed that we have little control over these devastating neurological diseases. However, research shows that we do have control over our gut health which has a profound impact on our cognition and brain health.
Thus, it is key for us to take care of our gut health as soon as we can.
How Do We Start Taking Care of Our Gut Health Today
In summary, eating foods from the earth is a great, easy place to start. Ditch the packaged foods and go for naturally occurring fruits, veggies, legumes, lean meats and proteins. Next, skip the toxins. Try to eat organic produce when possible. There are many pesticides that create havoc on our hormones and harm our gut health. Next, add in prebiotic and probiotic foods. This will enrich your gut microbiome and allow healthy gut bacteria to flourish.
If you would like to learn more about the exact steps to take to eat a gut-brain connection diet to positively impact your mental and physical health, you can check out my Gut Health Reset Guide here.
This guide walks you step by step through the gut healing protocol that will help improve your physical health and mental health.
It’s time to take your mind body health into your hands today!
Dr. Sarah Corcoran founded her company, Mind Body Aligned, to empower women in their holistic health and wellness. After overcoming her own thyroid and gut health issues naturally, she pursued further education through the Institute for Functional Medicine to help more people improve their health using nutrition and lifestyle techniques. This has allowed her clients to lose weight, gain energy, overcome autoimmune issues, support the thyroid naturally, and improve their gut health!
When she is not helping her clients, Dr. Sarah loves trail running and hiking with her rescue dog, Cali.
Have a question? You can reach out to her at DrSarah@mindbodyaligned.org