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The Diet-Gut-Brain AXIS

The Diet-Gut-Brain AXIS

How to support better mental health through dietary choices.

This World Health Day we thought that we'd look at the connection between our physical health, what we consume and our mental health on a deeper level.

Our dietary habits and what we consume directly affect the way we feel, mentally as well as physically even if we don’t realise it. The gut and brain are intimately connected through the ‘Enteroendocrine’ and ‘Enteric Nervous System’.

Our mental health and well-being is affected by the state of our gut microbiome and our ability to digest and absorb vital nutrients; so it's a given that our diet and the choices that we each make are the biggest influencers of gut health.

Have you ever had a ‘gut’ feeling?

We should always listen to it! Why? We have a highly intelligent second brain in the gut that is made up of trillions of cells, our commensal microbiota; meaning tiny organisms that were passed to us from birth and the ones we have collected and learned to live symbiotically with. These communicate with the nervous system in the gut directly and through the immune system which affect mood, brain function and general well-being. The messages between gut and brain can be disturbed by lack of health promoting microbes that produce SCFAs (Short chain fatty acids) that nourish and protect the gut lining and play a vital role in communication in the gut-brain axis.

Dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, healthy fats and high-quality proteins lay the foundation of a healthy microbiome and this is where good mental health starts.

How to take care of our Microbiome on a daily basis?

We can make the right steps by making food choices that feed the good and starve the bad.

I.e:

  1. Avoid or reduce all refined carbohydrates, sugary foods, processed meats and poor-quality fats.

  2. Select plant foods that are high in fibre and prebiotics like green leafy veg, stalky brassica, squash, celery, onions, leeks, brown rice, oats, root veg, pulses, quinoa, fruit, berries, sesame, pumpkin, flaxseeds and chia seeds.

Looking after our mental health by getting enough sleep, reducing stress, taking exercise and learning to meditate can influence the microbiome to be healthier and we are more likely to make better dietary choices if we feel good about ourselves!

Invest time and effort into your Diet-Gut-Brain AXIS, it will pay dividends when it comes to your mental health.

Written by Sam Bourne, Registered Nutritional Therapist  

References:

Montiel-Castro AJ, González-Cervantes RM, Bravo-Ruiseco G, Pacheco-López G. The microbiota-gut-brain axis: neurobehavioral correlates, health and sociality. Front Integr Neurosci. 2013 Oct 7;7:70. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2013.00070. PMID: 24109440; PMCID: PMC3791857.

Parada Venegas D, De la Fuente MK, Landskron G, González MJ, Quera R, Dijkstra G, Harmsen HJM, Faber KN, Hermoso MA. Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs)-Mediated Gut Epithelial and Immune Regulation and Its Relevance for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Front Immunol. 2019 Mar 11;10:277. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.00277. Erratum in: Front Immunol. 2019 Jun 28;10:1486. PMID: 30915065; PMCID: PMC6421268.

Bourassa MW, Alim I, Bultman SJ, Ratan RR. Butyrate, neuroepigenetics and the gut microbiome: Can a high fiber diet improve brain health? Neurosci Lett. 2016 Jun 20;625:56-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2016.02.009. Epub 2016 Feb 8. PMID: 26868600; PMCID: PMC4903954.

Helpful books:

‘The Pyschobiotic Revolution’ by  Scott C. Anderson. John F Cryan, Ted Dinan

‘Brain Maker, The power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your brain’  for Lifeby Dr David Perlmutter, with Kristin Loberg

‘The Mind Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices,Our overall Health’  by Emeran Maya.

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