When caring for mental health, don't forget about your gut.
There is something referred to as the gut-brain axis, which is communication between our gastrointestinal (GI) tract and our central nervous system.1 Studies are researching the extent of this gut-brain connection, focusing on how gut microbiota — the bacteria, archaea and eukarya in our GI tract2 — may affect mental health.3
Often when we feel anxious or stressed, our gut also becomes upset. The idea is that this connection works the opposite way, meaning when our gut is off-kilter, our mental health is negatively affected. Therefore, if you are looking for more ways to care for your mental health, add gut health to your list.
Of course, these are not lone solutions for mental health care nor cure-alls for gut ailments, but here are a few recommendations for promoting better gut health:
- Remember probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms whose primary role is to help reset and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your body.4 If you require probiotics, they can be taken as supplements or consumed in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut.5
- Eat more fiber. Fiber is a plant-based nutrient your body cannot digest that helps normalize bowel movements and improve overall bowel health. Dietary fiber is also thought to help diversify gut microbiota.6 To get more fiber in your diet, eat whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables and legumes.7
- Get enough exercise. Regular moderate exercise can positively affect the gut microbiota, increasing the beneficial microbial species.89 Frequent physical activity can also improve your cardiovascular health, bone and muscle strength, and mood!
- Monitor your vitamin D. There is an increasing amount of research into vitamin D's effects on gut health.10 Ensure you are not vitamin D deficient with imaware's at-home Vitamin D Monitoring Test.
- Annals of Gastroenterology. The gut-brain axis: Interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- Biochemical Journal. Introduction to the human gut microbiota. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 4 Fast Facts about the Gut-Brain Connection. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- Cleveland Clinic. Probiotics. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- Harvard Health Publishing. How to get more probiotics. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- Nutrients. Dietary Fibre Modulates the Gut Microbiota. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- Mayo Clinic. Nutrition and healthy eating. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- Frontiers in Nutrition. Interplay Between Exercise and Gut Microbiome in the Context of Human Health and Performance. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- Acta Histochemica et Cytochemica (AHC). Vitamin D and the Host-Gut Microbiome: A Brief Overview. Accessed January 17, 2023.