All about your gut health, its links to mental health and what you can do to nourish your gut bacteria.
Research has now confirmed that our gut microbiome could be the key to our health. The microbiome is a collection of 100 trillion micro organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi which live in our gut. They are so vital to our health that the microbiome is now being considered as another vital organ that can affect digestion, mood, hormone balance, the immune system and cognitive function. The gut supports a healthy immune response, and in turn helps to fight off harmful bacteria and viruses and maintain a healthy and balanced state of health.
There is strong evidence that suggests an indisputable link between our gut health and mental health. The microbiome and central nervous system interact with each other to help regulate stress, anxiety and memory. It is no coincidence that we often feel ‘butterflies’ in our stomach when we are nervous or excited and use the phrase ‘trust your gut’; this is because scientists are now finding that there is in fact, a direct link between the two organs.
Research has found that one bacteria in particular ‘bifidio bacterium longum’ dampens down the stress response, which decreases anxiety and can help to improve overall mood. This strain can be found in most probiotic supplements as well as in a variety of food. This suggests that by nurturing our gut microbiome we are in fact also helping to improve our general mood, reduce anxiety and live a happier, healthier day to day life.
One of the key factors in supporting the gut bacteria is diversity- this means eating a wide range of foods and increasing fibre intake.
5 ways to support your gut health
Fermented foods: Increase your intake of fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut. You can do all of these at home, as a starter you may need kefir grains or a kombucha scoby. Plenty of people give them away, so do check in your local community.
Check our other post for our recipe on homemade kimchi- you can experiment with any ingredients you have in your fridge (I have even included seaweed in one of my krauts- it was incredible!).
Fibre: Eat a fibre rich diet, including as many wholegrains as possible, plenty of fruit and lots of nuts and seeds. Foods especially rich in fibre include lentils, chickpeas, artichokes, broccoli, chia seeds and oats amongst others.
Avoid processed foods: Avoiding foods with lots of chemicals and artificial sweeteners- making recipes from scratch at home is a good way to do this. Try to reduce your refined sugar intake as much as possible. If you do have a sweet tooth, you can substitute with a natural sugar lower on the GI (glycemic index) such as coconut palm sugar or agave syrup.
Get dirty: Scientists are recommending farm visits, getting hands dirty in the soil and playing with animals. Introducing our microbiome to varied forms of bacteria helps to strengthen it which in turn strengthens the immune system. As if we needed another excuse to get in the garden!
Probiotic Supplements: Taking a daily probiotic supplement is a great way to ensure your body is getting as much good bacteria as possible.