We’re all familiar with the term “gut feeling”. Emerging evidence is now showing just how important this term is to our overall health and wellbeing.
Here I give a brief summary on just how our gut influences our state of mind. The full article can be found in a recent article I published in The Latch
The gut-brain connection
Often referred to as the “second brain” the gut is the only organ to house its own nervous system. This communication system operates independently from the central nervous system sending two-way signals from the gut to the brain via certain neurotransmitters.
Focus on fibre
According to Australian researcher Associate Professor Felice Jacka, who heads up the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University shows that certain foods could actually be dragging us down.
Her recent study examined data from MRI scans of approximately 250 older Australians, then studied their diets to see if the quality of their diets was linked to the size of their hippocampus – a region of the brain thought to be central to learning, memory and mood.
The results showed that people consuming food and drinks high in added sugar and sodium are more likely to develop mental health conditions such as depression. In comparison, participants who had higher intakes of fibre from fruit, vegetables, and whole grains had larger hippocampi compared to people eating more highly refined and ultra-processed foods. High-fibre dietary patterns were also linked to the participants’ risk of depression over time.
So, there is emerging evidence that the amount of fibre in your diet might impact your mood, via your gut health.
Simple ways to get more fibre in your diet?
Up your grain game
Where possible, house whole grains over refined grains. wholegrain varieties retain many essential nutrients and bioactive substances, such as healthy fats and fibre. Starting your day with a nutritious breakfast, including wholegrain oats will help to actively nourish your gut bugs.
Eat plenty of prebiotic-rich foods
Not all fibre is created equal so it’s important to eat a diverse range of fibres. You can easily achieve this by eating a range of plant-based foods. What is unique about the prebiotic fibre type is that it serves as fuel source for the gut bugs.
Feed the gut bacteria enough prebiotic fibre and they’ll not only thrive on the nourishment; they’ll ferment some of those fibres into short-chain fatty acids — a type of neuroactive chemical which can affect brain function in a number of ways. Prebiotic-rich foods include onion, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, and whole grains.