Your gut is like your second brain. If it's not happy and out of balance, it can lead to depression, anxiety, a lowered immune system, and many other disorders.
The system in your gut responsible for all of this is called the enteric nervous system (ENS). It's two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells help drive digestion, mood, health, and even the way you think. No wonder we feel butterflies in our stomach and get sick when this system is run down!
The good news, is that the best way to support a healthy gut is through eating food - the right ones.
1. Avoid/Limit Processed Sugars, Carbs & Alcohol
One of the reasons I became a holistic health coach was due to my struggles with anxiety. I discovered many studies about how sugar caused my mood to swing, giving me that rush and then crashing. When you add in bad carbs and alcohol, they turn into even more sugar (glucose), making things even worse, especially if they both contain even more sugars and carbs! This cycle can increase your chance for depression and weaken your response to stress, among many other unwanted side effects. But I can help! Your body may not like that you are withdrawing from sugar, and you can experience more anxiety, confusion, or fatigue. But, patience, education, and the right food will get you to your happiest place! Some of my favorite sugary food replacements are sweet potatoes, berries, high-quality protein bars, and dark chocolate - many of these also contain polyphenols! More about that later.
2. Add Food-Based Probiotics
Good, quality supplements are a great way to get beneficial probiotics into your gut microbiome - the system of trillions of good bacteria, fungi, and other microbes that help manage your digestion and immune system. However, the best way to support your gut with probiotics is through fermented foods. Some of the best probiotic, fermented foods to choose are kombucha, kimchi, kefir, and yogurt. Make sure they say "raw" or are produced without heat, which can lessen their strength and benefits.
3. Add More Fiber
Fiber doesn't only contribute to weight loss and disease prevention. Not surprisingly, it helps our gut as well by feeding the good bacteria microbes! This helps them thrive, create more microbes, and a stronger barrier wall in our intestines. This strong wall helps lower inflammation and improve digestion. And, a strong intestinal wall is one of the best ways to fix a leaky gut!
The best fiber sources are non-processed seasonal fruits and vegetables from local sources, such as kale, carrots, and beets. The darker the color usually means higher fiber content and more.
4. Eat Your Veggies: Eat the Rainbow
You've probably heard "eat your veggies" numerous times, and for many good reasons already stated. But did you know that the color of fruits and veggies often signifies what types of nutrients they contain, and how much? Orange and yellow fruits get their color from the antioxidants alpha- and beta-carotene. Many vegetables with an underlying or pronounced purple/blue hue (like eggplant and kale) contain high levels of phytochemical's - believed to protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer. So, do your best to include every color of the rainbow in order to get every nutrient required for a great gut!
5. Eat More Polyphenols
Polyphenols are micronutrients - essential elements our bodies need - that come from plant-based foods. These vitamins and minerals are required for healthy development, disease prevention, and overall well-being. Several studies have found that seasonings (cloves, star anise, and dried peppermint), cocoa powder, and dark chocolate rank as some of the richest sources of polyphenols. Berries, non-berry fruits, beans, beans, nuts, vegetables, soy, black and green tea, and red wine are some other foods that also make this yummy list!
Finding my way back to a healthy gut and overcoming anxiety was not always easy, but it was one of the best things I've ever done - mentally and physically. It's also something anyone can do, even if they need help. I love supporting people as a Holistic Health Coach.
Remember, keeping a healthy gut is key to a healthy brain and good mental health. If you need support, sign up for a free consultation!