The Gut-Brain Connection: The Importance of Healthy Digestion on your Mental Health
Written by Tara Mansler
“All disease begins in the gut” – Hippocrates
Did you know that our digestion, our mood, our thought processes and our overall health can be traced back to a healthy and well-functioning gut?
Our gut health is fundamental to our holistic well-being and is also known as our “second brain”. Not only is it responsible for supporting our digestive and immune systems, but our gut flora in our GI tract has the capability of affecting the nutrients we absorb, our hormones, our ability to eliminate and eliminate toxins, our mental health and much more.
To put it simply, our GI health is determined by integrity of our gut and the quantity and types of bacteria that make up our microbiome in our gut. Ideally we would like to have a balance, and it is important to remember that what we eat and the way we live our lives has a tremendous effect on the makeup of our gut bacteria and the ratio of these little microbes. See our post on Probiotics for more on these important little guys!
Some incredibly interesting research has been done on the gut-brain connection which has led to the understanding that our brain sends signals to our gut. This is why during times of stress we can “feel” this in our gut as GI symptoms. Further, another fascinating gut-brain connection, deals with serotonin. Just as serotonin is produced in the brain, it is also produced in our guts! In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin is actually found in our intestines. Serotonin is involved in helping to control our moods, depression, aggression, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and so much more. It has such an impact on of physical and mental health is is known as the “happy hormone”!
So what can we do in order to revitalize our gut health for optimal physical and mental health? With some time and a bit of planning it is completely possible to balance your mind and body. Here are 3 ways to help improve the health of your gut-brain connection:
- The 4 R’s: Meeting with a holistic nutritionist is also a great way to learn more about gut health and its connection to the body. A holistic nutritionist can help you create a personalized and detailed gut healing protocol which will outline the 4 R’s:
- Removing problem foods from your diet,
- Replacing crucial digestive enzymes and HCL (stomach acid) which will allow you to easily digest and break down foods,
- Restoring balance to your gut flora, and
- Repairing and healing the gut lining by supporting it with nutrient-dense diet and supplementation.
- Starting a food journal will help you keep track of the foods that are making you feel great (and vice versa). A food journal is also a great way to start creating a more intimate relationship with your body as you become more in tune with how it feels and reacts to foods.
- Take a step away from the Standard American Diet (abbreviated as SAD for a reason!) and incorporating whole foods, organic produce, fresh juices and probiotic-rich foods. Fermented plant based foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh are rich in probiotics, and foods containing Tryptophan (a precursor to serotonin) such as nuts & seeds, lentils, fish and eggs are a few options to include in your diet for promoting a happy gut.
Maintaining gut health and nourishing your body is the greatest accomplishment of health as healing your gut will synergistically restore balance to your entire body mentally, physically and emotionally. Happiness really does start from within!
Tara Mansler is currently studying to be a Holistic Nutritionist. Her interest in nutrition began after facing a myriad of health issues that were greatly affecting her quality of life. After a lot of independent research, she began to understand the importance of nutrition and the interrelationship between our GI system and health issues. Her passion is gut health as she has been able to first hand see how it can affect our bodies for better and for worse. Every day she is thankful for her health and her choice to nourish and love her body for how far she has come in her journey for healing. Her wish is to help others achieve a balance of mind, body and spirit with a focus on how gut health plays a major role.