The gut microbiome, the community of microorganisms (bacteria, yeast and fungi) impact our digestive health, circadian rhythm, immune system, hormones, mental health - and, well, basically everything. Trillions of these microorganisms call your gut home.
In order to have a healthy gut microbiome, we need to feed the bacteria in our gut with nourishing foods and healthy lifestyle practices. When we eat unhealthy foods, or have unhealthy lifestyle habits, this can lead to gut dysbiosis and inflammation over time, which then leads to inflammation in the brain. Research has now shown that inflammation is an underlying factor of depression, anxiety and cognitive issues.
So, the gut microbiome and brain are connected through a bi-directional axis. When something is “off” in the gut, the brain will subsequently be impacted, and vice versa.
Gut bacteria produce key neurotransmitters (chemicals that brain cells use to talk to each other) that play a role in regulating mood, such as serotonin and dopamine.
So how do you keep your gut bugs happy to keep your mind happy?
- Diversify your diet - include a wide variety of foods - especially different fruits and vegetables, different types of meat, different types of nuts and seeds, and get creative with herbs and spices.
- Include probiotic foods - fermented foods such as natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, sourdough, kimchi and miso.
- Include prebiotic foods - such as asparagus, leek, onions, garlic, beans and berries.
- Chew your food - chew each bite 20 to 30 times! It may seem like a lot, but it takes some of the pressure off your gut to break down your foods by giving.
- Avoid things that harm your gut - these usually harm your brain too. Things like excessive caffeine and alcohol, smoking and vaping, lack of sleep and exercise all contribute.
Did you know you can boost your mood with food?
There is now so much evidence that what you eat affects your brain, but if you needed more evidence - the SMILES (Supporting the Modification of lifestyle in Lowered Emotional States) trial explored if improving the diet had an effect on mood. The participants of the study followed a Mediterranean diet, consisting of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, extra virgin olive oil and seafood. After just 3 months, depressive symptoms were reduced.
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