Did you know that the wellbeing of your digestive system can influence your moods and mental health? We are used to thinking of our minds and our bodies as being separate. However, scientific research confirms that the mind and body are inseparably linked.
The gut and the brain are connected through a bidirectional communication pathway called the gut-brain axis. Physically, the vagus nerve connects the brain with the gut. Biochemically, they communicate with hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemical messengers.
Trillions of bacteria that live in our digestive tract, collectively known as the microbiome, produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Neurotransmitters affect digestive function, but also have profound impacts on our mood. For example, serotonin makes us feel happy, while GABA helps us to feel calm.
Short-chain fatty acids, produced by gut bacteria from the fermentation of fibre, play a vital role in maintaining the structure and function of the blood-brain barrier. Gut bacteria also promote the production of Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF). These substances reduce inflammation in the brain and encourage the growth and repair of neurons in the brain. Together these effects support better brain health.
When our microbiome gets out of balance, it can trigger the immune system to react and create inflammation. Inflammation in the gut can cause inflammation in the brain, which has been associated with low mood and poor mental wellbeing.
It is apparent that our gut, brain and moods are tightly linked. Maintaining a healthy gut and microbiome may be vital to keeping your brain healthy and your mood happy.
Scientific studies show that healthy diets are associated with healthier moods, whilst unhealthy diets are associated with poor mental health. To further examine this relationship between diet and mood more closely, researchers ran a trial called the SMILES study. They developed a diet called the ModiMed diet for the trial and found that after three months of following the diet, participants were significantly happier.
Follow these five points, let me know what you think.
The ModiMed Diet recommends having at least 3 serves of fruit and 6 serves of vegetables every day. This is more than the current Australian recommendations of 2 and 5 serves, and significantly more than the average Australian intake of 1 serve of fruit and 2 serves of vegetables per day.
Choosing wholegrains over refined or white grain products and including plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds significantly increases fibre intake. The daily fibre intake in this diet is 50g, compared to 20g in the average Australian diet.
Olive oil, nuts and seeds and oily fish are emphasised. These foods are rich in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, which play an important role in keeping our brains healthy.
Many Australians eat too much red meat. This diet balances lean red meat consumption with other forms of protein including poultry, fish and eggs.
Researchers found that what was left out of the diet was just as important as what was left in. The ModiMed diet limits sugary snacks, fried foods, processed meats and alcohol other than red wine without banning them completely. This makes sticking to the diet more achievable for most people.
Digestive health is linked to mental health – Bio-Practica. https://biopractica.com.au/digestive-health-is-linked-to-mental-health/
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