Health & WellnessOptimising Digestive HealthHappy tummy, happy mind?

Happy tummy, happy mind?

September 2017

Mental Health Week – October 10-17

Forget the NBN! Your ENS ‘enteric nervous system’ is your personal high-speed, communication super highway linking your gut to your brain and it may control your mood and mental health.

Hidden in the walls of your digestive system, your ‘enteric nervous system’ (ENS) is made up of more than 100 million nerve cells and it controls digestion, mood, health and even the way you think. Scientists are rapidly discovering how good gut bacteria may influence our mood and mental health.

Healthy gut bacteria helps to

Produce neurotransmitters like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin. These neurotransmitters may trigger cells to signal brain function and affect behaviour

Influences our stress response through the brain and adrenal glands

Helps the brain controlling inflammation which is an underlying cause of depression and other mood and cognitive disorders

In a 2017 Canadian study[i], scientist found probiotics had positive results on all measures of depressive symptoms. The systematic review, by Queens University, looked at 10 studies on the use of probiotics for mood, anxiety, and cognition. “Five studies assessed mood symptoms, seven studies assessed anxiety symptoms, and three studies assessed cognition. The majority of the studies found positive results on all measures of depressive symptoms; however, the strain of probiotic, the dosing, and duration of treatment varied widely,” the study said.

Diet plays a pivotal role in your health and mental health.

A diet high in fibrous vegetables will increase your prebiotics which acts like food for good bacteria. Try chicory roots, Jerusalem and globe artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, celery, bananas, apples and pears.

The microbes in your gut also feed off foods containing antioxidants called polyphenols found in seeds, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, coffee, dark chocolate and wine (for gut-friendly diets, a varied Mediterranean diet wins).

Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria themselves. They can be found in whole, natural fermented foods and high quality supplements. Think yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha and other fermented vegetables.

Aim for a diet low in simple sugars, rich in healthy fats with lots of healthy prebiotic fibre.

Regular exercise, getting a good night’s sleep, lowering exposure to chemicals and reducing stress can also help to restore digestive balance. 

References available on request