It’s common knowledge that our dietary and other lifestyle choices significantly affect our bodies and physical health. Did you know that these choices also affect your mental well-being? In fact, there’s solid evidence supporting an intimate relationship between the health of your digestive system – or “gut,” as we say – and your mood and mental wellness.
This connection is largely due to our microbiome – the community of the many different kinds of bacteria that live inside of us. In truth, there are more bacteria in our bodies than there are cells that make up all our tissues and organs! As a result, we are innately in relationship with our microbiome and this relationship has a significant impact on many aspects of our health. This is because the bacteria that call our body home aren’t lifeless tenants. Rather, they are constantly sending messages to us from the inside out that affect many different aspects of our physical and mental health. For example, gut bacteria produce many of the neurotransmitters – things like dopamine, serotonin, GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid), and norepinephrine – which are critical to good mood and mental well-being.
In recent years, the connection of our microbiome to our mental health has come further into the light. We now know that what we eat affects the bacteria in our bodies in ways that directly impact our mood and mental well-being. Researchers have found that depression, anxiety, sensitivity to stress, focus, and motivation can all be affected – positively or negatively – by the foods we choose to put into our bodies.
As you might have guessed, foods that contain chemical additives, unnatural ingredients, and unhealthy fats disrupt the healthy relationship we need with our microbiome. If you find that your diet could be a little cleaner, and you suspect that this may be contributing to any decline in your mental health, there’s good news: The microbiome is quickly and easily nurtured.
Health professionals agree that the best thing you can do is clean up the diet. Try to stay away from processed foods and those high in sugar. At the same time, increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans. All these things contain fiber: the food that bacteria love! Drink plenty of water and do your best to get enough rest.
In addition to making smarter dietary choices, you might consider getting an extra mood-friendly boost from your microbiome by taking a fiber supplement or good probiotic. These feed the friendly bacteria in your body, which help protect your mental health and promote a stable mood.