Mental health has become a forefront of the medical society and with psychologists and therapists. Anxiety, depression, ADHD, you name it. These mental health concerns have been skyrocketing lately. Did you know the brain is connected to the gut? They call it the gut-brain connection.
Gut health is extremely important to mental wellness. Did you know a large portion of serotonin is produced in the gut? (1) Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that aids in controlling mood, sleep, memory, and cognition (2). GABA is another neurotransmitter produced in the gut that aids in controlling feelings of fear and anxiety (3). These neurotransmitters are important because they travel along with the body’s nervous system and sends signals to the brain.
Many of these neurotransmitters as well as other chemicals that affect the brain are created by gut microbes (4). You may be familiar with the term “probiotics,” this is the good bacteria in the gut. The microbes in the gut are also responsible for producing short-chain fatty acids, absorbing dietary fats, and metabolizing bile and amino acids (5,6). Proper gut microbe levels and diversity can significantly impact mental health in addition to immune system health. Supplementation with a quality probiotic is highly recommended as well as a diet that is full of nutrition for the microbes.
Which Foods Aid the Gut-Brain Connection?
Omega-3’s: These are fats found in fish and provide energy and nutrition for the brain. Ingesting omega 3’s has been shown to reduce brain disorders and improve the gut microbiome (7). These can be supplemented with high-quality fish oil supplements.
Polyphenols: These are plant-based chemicals that are digested by microbes in the gut. These are found in cocoa, green tea, olive oil, and coffee. Polyphenols could improve cognition and do increase healthy gut microbes (8).
Fermented Foods: These include yogurt (with live cultures), sauerkraut (with live cultures or fermented at home), Keifer, and cheeses. These foods contain healthy bacteria that aid the gut.
Fiber-Rich Foods: Nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetables (fresh or lightly steamed is best) contain prebiotic fiber that feeds healthy gut bacteria and can even reduce the stress hormone, cortisol (9).
Tryptophan: Foods rich in tryptophan include turkey, eggs, and cheese. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted to serotonin.
If you are looking for a way to reset your gut microbiome and strengthen the gut-brain axis, try taking this Mental Wellness Assessment to see where you stand. Consider a supplement regime that will strengthen this connection and increase healthy microbes in your gut! Comment below to ask Dr. Ryan for his recommendations.