We’ve all experienced times when we feel “out of sorts” or “in a funk.” While mental health is multi-faceted, there’s one surprising part of our bodies that is being shown to exert a significant impact on our mood—our gut! Inside our gut lives our microbiome, a vast collection of microbes that we’re discovering impact not only digestion, but many other of our bodies’ functions, including our mood.
The Science Behind Our Mood-Gut LinkThe theory here revolves around something called the gut-brain axis. The gut microbiome, on top of impacting how we digest, also communicates with the brain. You probably already see this in action without even thinking about it. Ever see a really delicious meal in front of you and start salivating? This is a link between the brain and gut in action, preparing your body for a meal.1 What we’re discovering, is that this may be a two-way street, and disruption of the gut microbiome may have an impact on mental health.
Several studies on the subject have shown a correlation between certain changes in the microbiome and a variety of common mental health issues.2 While it can’t be said for certain that one causes the other, there is sufficient evidence suggesting a healthy and diverse microbiome is good for more than just our digestion. Here are four ways that are shown to maximize microbiome health:
Supporting Your Gut Health
Chances are that you’re probably already familiar with probiotics and their role in introducing healthy bacteria into your body, helping your microbiome stay balanced. Did you know that the strains of probiotics can make a difference too? Enzymedica’s Pro-Bio has eight non-competitive strains for example. Other natural supplements like Omega-3’s can also play a role in benefitting our microbiomes*.
There are ways to encourage healthy microbiomes through what we eat too. Non-processed, clean eating is a great start! Also, fermented foods like kimchi, kefir and sauerkraut all are created by different bacteria as a part of the fermentation process, which are still present in the finished product. You can either buy the product off the shelf or even make it yourself, but look at the labels closely. Pickles made with vinegar, for example, have no probiotics—look for those made with salty water.
The gut microbiome isn’t only impacted by what we eat, but how we eat. If food digestion is slow or incomplete, it can result in discomfort and other issues. One major culprit behind this is a lack of certain digestive enzymes. Trying out products like Enzymedica’s Digest Gold to ensure your gut has all the tools it needs to digest smoothly can be a great step forward.
Meditation (Yes, Really!)
This last point may strike you as a surprise, but mindfulness meditation, a secular form of meditation that focuses on the current moment, has some proven benefits for gut health. In one study, people with irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disease practiced mindfulness meditation or yoga for two months. In both cases, they experienced reduced symptoms.3
Gut and Mood In Review
When it comes to a positive mood, you may be surprised how much a little change can do in terms of your day. Perhaps you’re a little more productive at work, get interested in meeting up with friends more often, or even work up the energy to tackle that home project you’ve been putting off. A lot of the time, supporting mental health is a case of finding the best solution for your situation. Supporting your gut health may be a surprising way to do just that*.
1Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli MA, Severi C. The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Ann Gastroenterol. 2015;28(2):203-209.
2Clapp M, Aurora N, Herrera L, Bhatia M, Wilen E, Wakefield S. Gut microbiota's effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clin Pract. 2017;7(4):987.
3Househam AM, Peterson CT, Mills PJ, Chopra D. The Effects of Stress and Meditation on the Immune System, Human Microbiota, and Epigenetics. Adv Mind Body Med. 2017;31(4):10-25.