Gut Wisdom & Mental Health

May 6, 2021

emotional Literacy

Health & wellness

Mental health & addiction

neurodivergent support

Gut Wisdom & Mental Health

minute read
Lisa Lewis

I’d like to introduce you to a concept called Gut Wisdom and the idea of tapping into our own natural intuition – our trust in what we know to be true. Yet, often we outsource our intuition, doubting our own. The truth is YOU are your own best health expert, and can be the authority on what your body needs.

Learning how to tap into your own gut wisdom, strengthens your awareness and allows you to really take care of yourself.

Now following your “gut instinct” can direct you towards a better path, but you might wonder whether it’s safe to put so much trust in a feeling you can’t often explain. Though gut feelings often seem to come out of nowhere, they aren't random and they actually don't originate in your gut.

The Brain-Gut Connection

The gut microbiome is home to the largest collection of microorganisms in the human body. Literally, trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms live inside the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach, the mouth, esophagus, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, and colon. After the brain, the gut contains the body’s largest number of neurons.

How is the Brain Affected when the Gut is out of Whack?

Did you know, almost 90% of our serotonin is produced in our gut! So, our gut is indeed responsible for a large portion of our serotonin and melatonin production.

Mood disturbances

Certain bacteria in the our gut might feed depression, according to a new study. Researchers found that among over 2,100 adults, those with depression showed differences in specific groups of gut bacteria. An unhealthy balance or nonexistent gut bacteria is also linked to anxiety.

Studies indicate that not only does stress reduce the health of the gut, but the gut bacteria are critical for optimal mental wellness. In addition, gut-related health conditions such as IBS are highly common with mood disorders and lowered stress resilience.

So a troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut.

A lack of certain gut bacteria has also been associated with psychiatric disorders ranging from anxiety and depression to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Improving Gut Wellness and Health

Probiotic supplements can be a great way to begin improving the health of your gut. For best results, choose a supplement that contains several strains, which can help to repopulate your gut with a variety of beneficial bacteria improving the overall health of your gut microbiome. This is helpful in many cases of gut health imbalance, but please take note that there are some more severe versions of gut imbalance and these can be made worse by taking probiotics. This makes it important to discuss with your doctor and work with a holistic nutritionist to determine what might be best for you.

Eat probiotic and prebiotic foods

Probiotic foods contain healthy bacteria themselves, while prebiotic foods contain what the bacteria need to thrive.Foods that contain probiotics are often fermented foods, for example: Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Yogurt, Kefir, Fermented Pickles.

Some prebiotic containing foods include: Asparagus, Onions, Garlic, Bananas, Artichokes, Apples, Leeks A solid variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet will also provide a healthy variety of prebiotics for your gut.

Try Superfoods

These foods are super rich in nutrients and well absorbed by our digestive systems. Some Superfood examples include: Apples, Blueberries, Oats, Asparagus, Green Tea, Spinach & Leafy Greens, Chicory Root, Green banana/plantain, Flaxseed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Leek, Rye,Onions, Chia & Hemp Seeds.

No reason to go spending loads of money on ‘fancy’ superfoods when you can also get so much from other less expensive standbys like carrots, spinach, or broccoli. Feel free to go for fresh or frozen options. And as important as all these gut healthy foods are, none of them alone can stand up to the benefits of drinking enough fluids and being well hydrated.

Movement Plays a Crucial Role

Studies have shown that aerobic activity increases the diversity of certain gut bacteria. You’ll benefit most when incorporating movement and exercise that challenges but still feels enjoyable.

It’s important to note that if we over-exercise or we do activities that stress us out, we may be depleting our gut bacteria instead of helping it thrive. If you feel exhausted and chronically stressed, it’s probably best to rest and incorporate breathing exercises to provide calm.

Connect with a Health & Lifestyle Coach for guidance around how to assist with pivots that increase energy and improve your lifestyle.

Sleep is Always Important

Lack of sleep may also cause poor gut health and make it more likely to succumb to stress. So, in addition to a healthy diet, other lifestyle pivots may also be necessary for more sustainable outcomes.

Try mind and body activities that include meditation and breathing exercises

Take the time to learn how to modify habits to divert the need to procrastinate and you’ll find yourself curbing stress, anxiety, and possible nausea. Since the gut is responsible for important cognitive actions, its maintenance is essential to curb pains and improve energy levels and mental health.

Other Impacts on the Brain-Gut Connection

Poor diet. Genetics. Lack of food diversity in general or quantity in chronic dieters is another issue when it comes to the gut microbiome. Many chronic dieters eat the same foods over and over again and are probably NOT ingesting a healthy variety of the foods required for beneficial bacteria.

So, what Does it Mean to Trust your Gut?

All this research shows us that trusting our gut is meaningful when it comes to both our mental and physical health. It seems those gut feelings do mean something, and they can often help you make good choices.

So next time you feel that flash of clarity oran unexplained tension or tightness in your body, stomach “butterflies”, a sinking sensation, sweaty palms, or thoughts that keep returning to a specific situations or concerns, goosebumps, or prickling – Your brain is encouraging you to take notice!

Gut feelings can lead you in a clear direction

You may not recognize right away what fueled a gut feeling, but time and consideration can lead to deeper insight. Gut feelings can be very real things, grounded in observation and experience. So, if something feels off or doesn’t seem quite right you might just need some support in lifestyle modification.

If you find yourself suffering, chronically dealing with serious digestive distress or prolonged bouts of depression and anxiety, always consult a medical specialist.