This Mental Health Awareness week we wanted to focus on the role your gut can play in increasing or inhibiting your happiness hormones and the ways in which you can impact your overall wellbeing through food.
The gut and its microbiome do not only play a role in the way that we digest our food or effect our immune system; but it can affect how we think, feel, and make decisions. By adding certain foods to our diets, like probiotic ferments, foods that are high in fibre and focusing on good digestion we can impact our overall mental health wellbeing.
The gut and the brain are connected both chemically and physically. They communicate and are connected through the chemical use of neurotransmitters which play a key role in regulating the gut. But additionally, they are physically connected through our 10th Cranial Nerve called The Vagus Nerve, which is the longest and most complex.
A disrupted gut microbiome increases your risks of low mood, anxiety, depression and can even affect your ability to sleep well. Your gut plays a key role in the production and regulation of three major happiness hormones linked to your mental health.
Serotonin – your happy hormones. Low levels of Serotonin will increase your likelihood of experiencing low mood, food cravings and even depression. A staggering 95% of Serotonin is produced in your gut and by your gut.
Dopamine – your motivation and reward hormone. Low levels of Dopamine are associated with low motivation, difficulty concentrating and mood swings. When your gut microbiota is disrupted, it can inhibit the cells that make Dopamine, causing a decrease in the level of this important hormone.
GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) – your calming hormone. Low levels of GABA are linked to anxiety and restlessness. Your gut microbiota can increase GABA receptors in your brain, which essentially means your brain can utilise more of this amazing hormone.
We have the ability to positively affect our gut microbiota through the food we consume and the way in which we consume it. Many foods contribute to a healthy gut beside ferments & probiotics. Try increasing foods that are collagen boosting (Citrus Fruits & Berries), rich in fibre (Beans, Broccoli & Avocado) and high in omega -3 fatty acids (flax seeds).
Mindful eating is one of the best ways to promote gut health in how you eat. Try taking deep breaths before a meal, relaxing your parasympathetic nervous system, and stimulating your Vagus Nerve. Imagine you’re on a date with the plate of food you’re about to consume. That means being present, engaging with what food flavours and textures you are consuming and not being distracted by your phone, tv etc. Take time to enjoy each mouthful and put your cutlery down. You wouldn’t rush your dinner with a date you were trying to impress so treat your plate with the same manners.
This Mental Health Awareness Week we hope you take some time to consider your gut. The changes that can be made are very simple, yet very effective. You can make big improvements through small changes and in turn you can make great improvements to your mental health.