Poor gut health has become increasingly more common thanks to modern day stress, increased consumption of processed foods, alcohol intake and medication use. While it’s well known that the health of our gut has an influence on our digestion, what’s not so well known is the major impact it has on our mood and mental health too.
Sometimes, the balance of bacteria in our gut can get disrupted. Too much sugar, coffee, alcohol, along with chronic stress and the use of antibiotics, are all factors which can create an imbalance of bacteria, known as dysbiosis. This tends to weaken the gut barrier and can allow small food particles and toxins to pass through into the bloodstream which then triggers the immune system and causes inflammation. This is commonly referred to as leaky gut. When the gut barrier is ‘leaky’, it can result in issues such as food intolerances, bloating, skin problems, and mood issues such as anxiety and depression.
Serotonin, your happy hormone
Serotonin is known as our ‘feel good’ hormone in the body. Responsible for the regulation of our mood, sleep and appetite, altered serotonin levels have been associated with low mood, depression and anxiety in some people. Considering around 95% of our body’s serotonin is made in the gut, it makes sense that any disruption in the microbiome can potentially cause mood related issues.
Tips for a healthy gut and mood:
Reduce and manage stress levels. Research shows that stress directly impacts our gut bacteria, which can lead to dysbiosis and impact on our mood and digestion. Take time out for yourself, enjoy low intensity exercise such as walking and yoga, and try meditation and mindfulness techniques to bring down your stress levels.
Eat a variety of probiotic rich foods. Fermented foods such a sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir and yoghurt are great sources of probiotics which helps to support a healthy and balanced gut microbiome.
Include prebiotic and high fibre foods. Prebiotic and high fibre foods help the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut and may also help improve mood related issues. Eat foods such as bananas, apples, asparagus, leeks, as well as dark leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Supplement with collagen. Collagen plays an important role in building and repairing the connective tissue that makes up our gut lining. Rich in amino acids glycine, proline and glutamine, supplementing with collagen can support digestive health by providing the building blocks needed to repair and protect the gut barrier. Our natural collagen production can be decreased by stress, so supplementing with a high quality marine collagen may be of extra benefit for those feeling overwhelmed.