Can Your Gut Health Impact Your Mental Health?
If you or someone you love has battled with mental health problems, you may be surprised to hear that your diet may have something to do with it. Although the direct relationship between your gut microbiome and mental health disorders is not yet fully understood, mounting evidence suggests a causal relationship.
Your gut microbiome can affect your mental health by relieving or worsening the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Studies show that your brain and your gut communicate with each other and link gut dysbiosis and inflammation with mental illnesses.
Therefore, you might improve your mental health by adopting a diet rich in prebiotics for a healthy gut. Keep reading to learn more about how your gut microbes may be responsible for your mental health woes.
How Your Gut Microbiome Impacts Your Mental Health
You know how sometimes you just get a ‘gut feeling’? Turns out that the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut may have something to do with it.
The enteric nervous system (ENS) is made up of between 200 and 600 million neurons that line our digestive tract. Think of these neurons as a ‘second brain’ in our gut. These neurons are in charge of gastrointestinal regulations that help us absorb the food we consume and also have bidirectional communication with our brain.
Gut bacteria have a symbiotic relationship with the ENS that allow it to develop and stay in homeostasis. In other words, our gut bacteria influence our ENS, which communicates with and influences our central nervous system (CNS), or brain.
This is what is commonly referred to as the gut-brain axis. Our food influences our gut health, which in turn influences our ENS, which affects our CNS, and ultimately our mental health.
What Is The Vagus Nerve?
The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve, connecting the brainstem to the abdomen. It is one of the main components of the gut-brain axis as it allows communication between your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and brain.
This link is one of the key findings that suggest that your gut microbiome may directly impact your mental health. Although mental health issues and gut problems like IBS and constipation have been associated for decades, the vagus nerve has been instrumental in showing a causal effect in more recent studies.
As mentioned earlier, the ENS and CNS communicate with each other, allowing your gut to influence your brain. The vagus nerve is the highway that allows these two nervous systems to communicate with each other, which suggests that a damaged vagus nerve would have a negative impact on both of them.
The Link Between Gut Health and Depression
Depression is a very serious mental disorder that affects over 1 in 20 people in Singapore. If you have first-hand or second-hand experience with depression, you understand that this is a severe disease that can affect every aspect of someone’s life.
So, can the food you eat impact a disease as forceful as depression? Science says yes.
Animal studies have recently shown a causal relationship where rats displayed decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety after consuming probiotics. These studies suggest that increased probiotic consumption positively affects GABA mRNA in the brain, which is one of the neurotransmitters most closely linked with anxiety and depression.
The same effects on GABA could not be replicated in vagotomized mice in the same study. As we know, the vagus nerve leads to communication between the ENS and the CNS. This can help us understand how healthy gut microbiota can be instrumental in treating and preventing mental illnesses by maintaining healthy communication between our gut and our brain.
How to Get a Healthy Microbiome for Improved Mental Health
Now that you’re aware of the very real impact that your gut health can have on your mental health, you’re probably wondering how to work on keeping your gut flora healthy. It’s no wonder Forbes referred to gut health as the “next big wellness trend” and why so many Singaporeans are becoming interested in gut health.
Here are some of the best ways to keep a happy microbiome.
Eat Probiotic Foods
Before you go out and buy a probiotic pill, you need to change your diet first. Plant diversity has been linked as the number one predictor of a healthy gut, so the best thing you can do is consume a diet rich in plant fibre.
Prebiotic food is what your gut bacteria use to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs are responsible for many of the health benefits that we are looking for with an improved microbiota, so that is what we should aim for.
To get a healthier gut, you should add the following foods to your diet:
- Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
- Fruits and vegetables rich in fibre like kiwi, broccoli, avocado, artichoke, and brussels sprouts.
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, chia seeds, and cashews.
- Beans and legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans.
- Whole wheat and grains like brown rice, oats, and quinoa.
Remember that the key is to get a wide variety of fibre-rich foods, as these will keep your gut bacteria alive and healthy.
Test Your Gut for Improved Gut Health
People in Singapore can now access a revolutionary at-home test to learn more about their gut health. OSbiome offers affordable gut health testing kits that will let you become intimately aware of your gut flora and microbiome.
After receiving your stool sample, we will send a personalised report of your gut bacteria genus and food recommendations that you can implement in your diet. Invest in your gut health and experience the mental health benefits you can get from a happy gut flora by ordering a Gut Health Test Kit today.