Your mental health starts in your gut.
If you haven’t already heard of the gut-brain connection, there is a great deal of scientific research that has emerged over the last decade or so that now proves the direct connection between gut health and mental health.
What you need to know:
- You have trillions of gut microbes including bacteria, viruses, yeasts and parasites.
- They impact all aspects of your body including your hormones and brain chemicals (neurotransmitters)
- They are easily modified with diet, supplements and lifestyle
You may be aware that inflammation in general is a bad thing, but inflammation actually contributes to mental illness. The newest theories of depression state that it is an inflammatory brain condition.
So how do you gut micrboes affect your mental health?
Your gut bacteria do a number of things including:
– final step in digestion: harvesting calories from your food
– modulating your immune system
– producing compounds that are used as building blocks for other hormones. This includes absorbing proteins such as tryptophan and converting it to 5-HTP which is the building blocks of serotonin, one of our feel good brain neurotransmitters.
Healthy bacteria help balance your immune system and provide building blocks for your happy hormones (neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine), whereas unhealthy (dsybiotic) bacteria do the opposite.
Many people have dysbiosis: an imbalance, or overgrowth of dysbiotic microbes that produce inflammation in the gut.
This develops from poor diet (high carbs, low fiber), medications and stress.
These microbes trigger inflammation in the gut, which circulates throughout your body and enters your brain.
Inflammation contributes to poor mental health by reducing your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and use them to build brain chemicals.
This leads to brain fog and low mood due to imbalanced serotonin, dopamine and GABA, among others.
How your gut bacteria trigger brain inflammation:
Your gut bacteria interact with your intestinal cells and trigger the release of a number of compounds that trigger inflammation including:
– LPS: lipopolysaccharides are toxins that are released from inflammatory bacteria that trigger inflammation in the body, including the brain.
-histamine: certain bacteria produce histamine which is inflammatory.
– cytokines: inflammatory immune signalling molecules
How your body builds neurotransmitters
– tryptophan: from protein rich foods, gets converted to 5-HTP, which gets converted to serotonin
– tyrosine; from protein rich foods, gets converted to dopamine
– B vitamins: B12 and B6 used as cofactors to build neurotransmitters
Optimizing gut health for mental wellness
1. Reduce excess sugars: aim for no more than 25 g of added sugar per day (not including fruit).
2. Focus on whole foods: avoid processed foods as they contain preservatives, artificial colours and flavours and other chemicals that contribute to gut inflammation
3. Include fermented foods: fermented foods contain acids, enzymes and probioitcs that reduce inflammation by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria
4. Fibre: aim for 30 grams or more per day. Go slow and be sure to drink lots of water.
If fibre upsets your stomach you may need a custom protocol to balance your gut microbiome.
5. Optimize absorption: you need adequate stomach acid, bile and digestive enzymes to digest and absorb your food.
When you have dysbiosis you can’t absorb nutrients that are required to produce neurotransmitters for your mental health.
If this is an issue for you, you may become deficient in vitamins and amino acids that are needed to build happy brain chemicals.
These include B vitamins, iron and amino acids such as tryptophan and tyrosine.
Ready to take control of your mental health?
Gut healthing is a very individual, specific process that requires professional guidance and support.
Ditch the quick fixes and begin the process of root cause, evidene-based healing.
Holly is now offering a 3 month intensive package: Mind Your Gut
This package sets you up for success by providing you with a personalized protocol as well as the support and accountability to finally be free of your digestive health issues.
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