Is Your Gut Health Quashing Your Mood?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so of course we need to discuss how this ties into our gut!

The Gut-Brain-Mental Health Connection 

The gut and brain are connected through the “gut-brain axis”, a communication network that allows for the exchange of information between the two. The health of your gut, including your gut bacteria and all organs and glands involved (liver, pancreas, small intestines, I’m looking at you!), can directly impact your brain chemistry and mood. It can even increase or decrease your risk of depression and anxiety. ​

This connection is made through the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), our older, “original” brain that is composed of over 100 million neurons (more than in the spinal cord!). When we experience stress or fear, we do actually feel these emotions in our brain as well as our gut (e.g. “butterflies”, nausea, diarrhea) plus the rest of the body. Same goes for calm and happiness. ​

The vagus nerve is the main thoroughfare for the ENS to allow communication between the gut and the brain. Around 90% of the nerve fibers in the vagus nerve travel from the gut to the brain, rather than the other way around, highlighting the huge influence that the state of the gut has on the brain, as well as cognitive and mental health. When things go awry in the gut, such as bacteria that are imbalanced and generating too much inflammation, or insufficient production of neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin), the brain is informed of “danger” by the vagus nerve. ​

By improving your gut health, you can often boost your mental health, too.​


6 Tips to Improve Your Mood

  1. Eat a balanced diet similar to the Mediterranean diet (colorful vegetables and fruits, oily fish like salmon & sardines, healthy oils such as olive, avocado, and coconut oils, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats) to reduce inflammation and obtain a wide range of nutrients and antioxidants
  2. Restrict refined sugars, which will help decrease inflammation
  3. Remove highly refined seed oils (e.g. soybean, cotton seed, canola/rapeseed, vegetable oil, shortening, margarine, deep fryer oil) to decrease inflammation and promote cellular health 
  4. Consider going fully gluten-free for a 3-4 weeks trial to see how you feel; some people find this improves brain fog as well as anger (especially in men)
  5. Take the correct probiotic for your unique body (if you need a bit more guidance, see my webinar here
  6. Get sunshine daily, 20 minutes without sunblock (increases vitamin D and serotonin production). While vitamin D is absorbed through the skin, it’s really important for gut health, keeping the gut cells healthy and preventing bacteria from escaping the gut ​

Trying these 6 items for about a month can make a huge impact in how you feel!

And if you need focused, customized help improving your gut health? Check out my newest min-program, Inner Balance. Learn more here!

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