Many of us take up nutritious eating for the physical health benefits, but the health of our gut has an imporant connection to our mental health. The function of our gut has been linked conclusively to normal central nervous system (CNS) function. Our brain has a direct connection to our stomach. When we think of food, messages are sent to our stomach telling it to get prepared. Messages flow in the other direction via the vagus nerve, immune system, our enteric nervous system and neuroactive chemicals.
The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut. Therefore, a person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.
Research shows that psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract causing or making inflammation worse. Diet alterations can have a significant impact on the gut bacterial composition in as little as 24 hours. Here are some things consider:
- Have you heard the term Psychobiotics? They are probiotics and prebiotics that can improve your mental health by changing the mixture of bacteria in your gut. Probiotics provide a neuroprotective role by preventing stress-induced synaptic dysfunction between neurons. Look into incorporate more lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium into your diet as they produce GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) that reduce anxiety.
- Fibre is important; it feeds the microbes we want in our gut, that fight off pathogens, inflammation, and depression.
- For those with a sweet tooth, use good quality maple syrup and honey as alternatives to sugar. Both of these provide a psychobiotic boost.