While we already know that what we eat can have a huge impact on our weight and general well-being, we may not be quite as familiar with the connection that exists between our gut and our brain. Our bodies are literally teeming with millions of bacteria that collectively make up the human microbiome. When this microbiome is healthy, beneficial bacteria typically reign supreme. With the help of a nutrient-dense diet consisting of heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds and grains (such as our very own superfood, quinoa!), this helpful bacteria can help prevent an influx of bad bacteria in the body. This bad bacteria can cause a range of conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and ulcerative colitis.
What is the connection between your gut and your brain?
Apart from general health concerns, it has also been established that changes in the microbiome may lead to neurological and psychological concerns such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. This connection between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract is known asthe gut-brain axis. While the use of antibiotics, chemotherapy and radiation can all interfere with this connection, a poor diet is probably the biggest culprit. It is also important to remember that while food can be a great source of good bacteria, what you eat can also transfer bad bacteria to the body. Due to this, it is of the utmost importance to practice good food hygiene at all times, and to refrain from eating any food that could potentially be undercooked or spoilt. Meal-prepping ahead of time can make this process easier.
Optimising your gut and mental health
There are a number of things you can do to optimise both your gut and mental health simultaneously. Aim to follow a diet that is rich in wholefoods like quinoa prebiotic fibre, and consider taking a probiotic supplement to replenish the good bacteria in your gut swiftly. To learn how to cook quinoa, click here! Make an effort to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, as recommended by the CDC. Not only does exercise change the composition of your microbiome, but it also increases your serotonin and dopamine production, which will leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Your sleep quality is as important as your diet when it
What foods are best for the gut?
Although you will greatly benefit from following a healthy, balanced diet, the inclusion of certain foods will boost your gut health significantly. Quinoa is a superb source of dietary fibre and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help protect your gut against inflammation. By whipping up a delightful salad using quinoa alongside other gut-friendly ingredients such as miso, garlic, ginger or peas, you can give your gastrointestinal tract a potent healthy boost with a single meal. Other foods to incorporate into your diet for improved gut and brain function include kefir, kombucha, yogurt, olive oil and bananas.
As unlikely as the connection between your brain and gut may seem, it is important to not disregard it. By making healthy food choices, exercising and sleeping enough, you can give yourself the best possible chance at both physical health and mental well-being.
Author: Ali Sharpe.