The Gut Health and Mental Health Link

It’s National Nutrition Month, and I want to shed some light on a popular topic that affects all of us, the gut-brain axis. Have you ever heard that the gut is your second brain? It’s true. The balance of bacteria in our gut can not only impact food sensitivities and gastrointestinal issues (hello constipation, gas, diarrhea) but also your mental health. Depression and anxiety are some of the most common mental health illnesses worldwide, and it all starts in the gut.
The gut-brain axis is two-way communication between the central nervous system (the nervous system of the brain and spinal cord) and the enteric nervous system (the nervous system in the gut). Have you ever had a ‘gut feeling’ or were in a stressful situation only to feel like someone punched you in the gut? These are perfect examples of this direct connection between the gut and brain.
The balance of bacteria in our gut, called the microbiota, directly impacts this gut-brain connection. Bacteria in our guts interact with cells in our intestinal nervous system, directly interacting and sending messages to our central nervous system in the brain. These bacteria also have the power to activate the vagus nerve, and chronic activation of the vagus nerve contributes to anxiety and depression. These bacteria can also influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which controls the body’s response to stress. Having the right balance of bacteria in your gut is crucial for harmony in mind and body.
To add to the guts impact, bacteria in the gut induce the production of serotonin. We make a whopping 95% of our serotonin in the gut! Serotonin is a good feeling neurotransmitter that helps us enjoy life. The balance of bacteria in our gut is impacted by stress, so if you’re stressed, your gut is more likely to be imbalanced, which affects brain health even more, and there goes your cycle.
So what do you do to build a healthy gut and promote mental and physical health? Check out these two main nutrient tips below.
Pack in the Prebiotic Fiber
Foods high in prebiotic fiber help feed good bacteria, helping them thrive. Research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that low fiber diets are directly linked to depression while high fiber diets may reduce symptoms of depression. Including high prebiotic fiber foods in your daily diet will help ensure you’re providing your gut with what it needs for optimal health. Check out the list below for some excellent sources of high prebiotic fiber foods.
  1. Designer Plant: Vegan Essential Meal Replacement- (10 grams)
  2. Designer Whey: Meal Replacement Protein Powder (8 grams)
  3. Designer Lite (4 grams)
  4. Designer Wellness Collagen (3 grams)
  5. Designer Whey (3 grams)
  6. Designer Soy (3 grams)
  7. Aria (3 grams)
  8. Dandelion Greens
  9. Leeks
  10. Artichokes
  11. Apples
  12. Onions
  13. Garlic
  14. Chicory Root
  15. Onions
  16. Asparagus
Boost the Probiotics
Probiotics may reduce inflammation, anxiety, and stress. Healthy gut bacteria produce short-chain triglyceride butyrate, which is neuroprotective. This means butyrate help protect nerve cells against damage, promoting seamless functioning. Bacteria in the large intestine ferment fiber and produce these short-chain fatty acids. Ingesting probiotics may help replenish bacteria in your gut and encourage butyrate production. Regularly including foods with probiotics in your diet can help keep your gut bacteria balanced. Excellent sources of probiotics include:
  1. Kimchi
  2. Yogurt with active cultures
  3. Saurkraut
  4. Kefir
  5. Designer Plant: Vegan Essential Meal Replacement
  6. Designer Whey
  7. Aria
  8. Designer Whey: Meal Replacement Powder
Bottomline
You can change your gut environment within 24 hours. Staying on course with a healthy gut for mental wellness is crucial. Consider feeding your gut daily with both pre-and probiotics. Designer Wellness’s Designer Plant, Aria, and Designer Whey powders include both pre-and probiotics. Try this Healthy Gut Smoothie recipe for a fun way to feed your healthy gut.

Designer Wellness Healthy Gut Smoothie
  • 1 ½ cups dairy-free plant milk or kefir
  • ½ cup frozen or fresh berries
  • 1 cup spinach
  • Two scoops Designer Plant: Vegan Essential Meal Replacement
  • One tablespoon flax seeds ground
  • One teaspoon peeled ginger root
  • ½ cup dandelion greens
Sources:

Nutrition Review. 2020 May 1;78(5):394-411.Dietary fiber and its associations with depression and inflammation Olivia G Swann 1, Michelle Kilpatrick 1, Monique Breslin 1, Wendy H Oddy 1
February 2017 Issue: Brain Health: Exploring the Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis. By Carrie Dennett, MPH, RDN, CD. Today's Dietitian. Vol. 19, No. 2, P. 14

Nutrients. 2016 May; 8(5): 281. Published online 2016 May 12. DOI: 10.3390/nu8050281

Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals Sabri Ahmed Rial,1 Antony D. Karelis,2 Karl-F. Bergeron,1 and Catherine Mounier1,*

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Ginger C. Cochran, MS, RDN, CDCES, ACSM-CEP
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
IG: @nutritious_ginger


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