You slept through your alarm. On the way out the door, you realize you left your curling iron plugged in. And your gas tank is empty, so you have to get gas. How are you feeling?
More specifically, how is your gut feeling?
The Gut-Brain Axis
Under stress, the connection between your brain and gut is disrupted, leading to digestion and absorption problems. Communication also goes back to the brain!
You know how we’re always talking about the gut microbiome? That’s the 100 trillion bacteria living inside our digestive systems. They do a lot of beneficial things for us, like producing hormones and making certain vitamins. Having a diverse and healthy gut microbiome is linked to good emotional health by producing GABA, a neurotransmitter that decreases anxiety and depression. An unhealthy gut microbiome can lead to inflammation by producing LPS, which is associated with depression and other mental-health problems.
I like to think of the microbiome like a garden. It starts with planting a variety of seeds (probiotics). The seeds take root and begin to grow. You have to water and fertilize your plants to keep them alive. But you also get weeds that you have to remove. The same is true for gut health! You have to feed the good stuff and remove the bad stuff.
Encouraging a diverse, healthy microbiome
The key to a diverse and healthy gut microbiome is prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics: “Fertilizer” for your microbiome! Prebiotic foods contain lots of fiber, like fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
Probiotics: “Seeds” for your microbiome. Probiotic foods contain bacteria cultures- like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, and tempeh.
You don’t have to eat prebiotics before or with probiotics, despite the name. You probably have your favorite kinds of prebiotic and probiotic foods but try to eat as many different ones as possible to make sure you’re getting a bunch of different strains. The goal is to get in two different probiotic sources twice per day.
Weeding out the bad stuff
Eating less processed foods, eating less sugary foods, exercising, and getting enough sleep are ways to “weed” out unhealthy strains.
Let’s sum up what we’ve learned!
- The gut and brain communicate with each other
- Eating a variety of probiotic and prebiotic foods can help with mental health
- Reducing stress, getting more sleep, and eating less sugary and processed foods can help heal the gut
Want to learn more? Check out these articles!
The Gut-Brain Connection by Healthline
Prebiotics & Probiotics by Eatright.org