There are a lot of things that can affect our mental health. Stress, sleep habits, diet and exercise. There is also a growing body of evidence supporting the gut/brain connection. Diet plays a vital role in our overall health, especially as we age, but we are learning just how important it is to sustain good gut health in order to support our mental well being.
Research has shown that gut bacteria can affect our mood, concentration, anxiety and more, by producing neurotransmitters that cause changes in how our brains react. An imbalance in our gut microbiome can affect the levels of these neurotransmitters, and in turn, affect our mood and brain functions. Which brings us back to diet.
Everyone knows that yoghurt is a great source of probiotics, but there are lots of other food choices that can help maintain a proper balance of good gut bacteria. Yogurt is considered a fermented food, and this category includes cheese, keifer, and sauerkraut, all offering healthy microbes. Prebiotics are found in high fibre foods, and have been shown to reduce stress hormones. This includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Enjoy that turkey sandwich, the tryptophan that makes you sleepy afterwards is also helping to support your healthy gut! Even better, your morning coffee is a source of polyphenols, plant chemicals that increase good gut bacteria. Green tea and cocoa also make the list, and polyphenols have been linked to improved cognition. Omega-3’s are healthy fats that are found in fish. They are also found in high levels in the human brain and can increase good gut bacteria, making them beneficial in maintaining good brain health too.
Taking care of your gut microbiome can be one of the easiest ways to help maintain good mental health. A healthy gut has been shown to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety while improving cognitive functions. While research continues in this field, we can control our dietary choices and make healthy eating a habit that will only benefit both our physical and mental well being. However, if you’re concerned about your mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out to your physician to address your concerns, especially during these uncertain times.