You've probably joked that someone you know thinks with their stomach - but did you know that what we eat can influence our thoughts, feelings & emotions?
The gut is home to a vast ecosystem. We hear mainly about the beneficial bacteria that live there, but this ecosystem also houses yeasts, fungi, viruses and protozoa.
Yes, even in a healthy gut. According to the Human Microbiome Project, 90% of the cells in the human body are not actually human - they belong to bacteria, fungi & parasites. Doesn't that blow your mind?!
And we now understand that the relationship between the brain and the gut is bidirectional (ie. it goes both ways). This means our gut microbiota can influence the messages that are sent to our brain, and our brain can also alter the microbial composition of the gut.
But what does that actually mean with regard to health??
It means that for our mental health, we need to play close attention to nurture & nourish our gut flora. And the more we actually learn about the microbiota, the more one thing becomes very clear - with regard to both physical and mental health - the more diversity in the gut microbiota, the better.
So how do we best support microbial diversity in our gut?
- Get outdoors daily
- Take off your shoes and walk barefoot on the grass
- Choose organic produce where possible, and avoid washing it!
- Eat a wide variety of fruit & vegetables - the fibre content is food for bacteria
- Have pets around
- Avoid using alcohol hand gels (outside of a healthcare setting)
- Let kids get dirty!
- Manage stressors
- Include more activities in your life that bring you joy
Sounds so simple, doesn't it?
I think being afraid of germs is a modern crux. The very things we are afraid of could actually be beneficial to our health? Shock horror!
Mounting evidence suggests that depressive & anxiety thoughts & behaviours can actually be reduced following a change in diet. Avoiding packaged foods and re-introducin a wide variety of fruits & vegetables can turn the tables on these debilitating mental health conditions, and allow sufferers to see the light again.
If you or a loved one suffer from mental health issues and would like some guidance on how to utilise diet & lifestyle to positively impact health, then please get in touch.