Have you ever “felt butterflies in your stomach” on a first date? Have you ever had a “gut feeling” about something? Have you ever “felt your stomach drop” when you get bad news? We use these expressions for a reason: our guts and our brains are connected. Today, we’re going to discuss the mind-blowing relationship between the gut and the brain and share ways that you can support your gut health for optimal mental well-being. Let’s get into it!
How are gut health and mental health connected?
Your gut (also known as your gastrointestinal tract) is a group of organs involved in digesting food and processing it into waste, including your esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
The lining of your gut is often called “the second brain” because it communicates back and forth with your actual brain via chemicals like hormones and neurotransmitters—kind of like a really advanced game of telephone. The chemical messages that pass between the gut and the brain can be affected by the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in the gut called the “gut microbiome.” These little organisms can be beneficial, harmless, or harmful.
This is where it gets really interesting: more and more studies are showing that changes in the gut microbiome and inflammation in the gut can affect the brain and cause mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. In fact, gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of our serotonin—the neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy!
How you can support your gut health
Now that you understand just how important a healthy gut microbiome is when it comes to your mental health, let’s discuss how you increase the good bacteria in your gut and decrease the bad.
Eat probiotic-rich foods
There are certain probiotic-rich foods that can help influence the balance of good bacteria in your microbiome (also known as your “gut flora”). Happy gut foods include sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, high-quality yogurt, and apple cider vinegar. You can also include prebiotic-rich foods, such as onion, garlic, leeks, and asparagus, which feed the good bacteria in your gut (just be sure to brush your teeth before kissing your boo!).
Take a probiotic vitamin
One of the easiest and most reliable ways to support your gut health is by taking a probiotic vitamin, such as slf love’s probiotic gummy. Containing five million CFU (colony forming units) of a friendly bacteria called (Bacillus coagulans), this delicious gummy will help repopulate the good guys and serve an eviction notice to the bad guys. With regular use, you’ll notice an improvement in digestion and immunity and a decrease in uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea (TMI? Sorry!).
The gut-brain connection goes both ways—a troubled gut can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. In order to digest your food properly and absorb its nutrients, you need to be in a parasympathetic (or “rest and digest”) state. When you’re stressed out and running around like a mad woman, you’re unable to produce the gastric juices that properly absorb your food. In order to get into that restful state, take a few moments to practice deep breathing or do a quick five-minute meditation before eating.
The bottom line
Gut health is important for a number of reasons, including your mental well-being. Consider adding the above suggestions to your diet and routine to encourage a happy, healthy gut and mind.