Published on September 18th, 2017 | by Ian Clark0
Mental Health and Gut Health: The Surprising Connection
You may know that your gut is full of a wide variety of bacteria. To be more specific, your gut is actually home to somewhere between 10 and 100 trillion microorganisms. You may even know that gut health is important and has a lot to do with the quality of your overall health.
What you might not know, though, is that the health of your gut directly impacts your brain and mood. More specifically, the microorganisms that call your gut home have a major impact on your mental health.
“Rats given the probiotics expressed fewer signs of anxiety and depression. Dinan and his colleagues would go on to coin the term “psychobiotics” for microbes that can benefit the brain or behavior.”
Your enteric nervous system (ENS), according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. […] The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset.”
To sum it up, where there’s mental distress, there’s often digestive upset, too.
Dr. Leslie Korn, an integrative medicine and mental health expert, told Good Health that “‘the brain is not always the cause of mental illness.’ More specifically, she says, research now shows, ‘that low levels of inflammatory process in the body underlie depression, anxiety’ and other mental and cognitive disorders.”
So, how do you make sure you’re maintaining a healthy gut for good mental health? We’ve got a few tips and tricks for maintaining gut health and boosting your mood.
Vitamin B deficiency could be part of the reason you’re experiencing mood issues.
Sometimes, even if you’re eating a balanced diet, you can experience vitamin deficiencies. According to Livestrong, “this happens when the vitamins you eat reach your intestines but do not get absorbed. Chronic disorders that affect the bowels, such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, could lead to this reduced absorption or non-absorption of nutrients. Chronic deficiency of vitamins B6, B12 and other B vitamins may lead to depression and other mood disorders. Other effects include fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbances, dementia, agitation, nervousness and hallucinations.”
Taking a B complex vitamin supplement can definitely improve your mood, in part by improving your digestive function.
According to Everyday Health, B3 or niacin is key for your digestive system, as it helps break down carbs, fats and alcohol. B6 helps your digestive system break down proteins you eat. B1 helps change carbs into energy and helps regulate your appetite. Finally, the B vitamin known as biotin helps your digestive system make cholesterol while processing carbs, proteins and fatty acids.
When you start getting your fair share of B vitamins through food or a B complex supplement, your mood and digestive system are both likely to improve.
Fermented foods contain wide varieties of natural probiotics. By adding a variety of fermented foods to your diet, you can also provide your body with multiple strains of good bacteria.
University Health News Daily says “the process of fermentation also increases the availability of B-vitamins, magnesium, and zinc, which can impact mood. Researchers believe that fermented foods may be a great dietary option for people wishing to fight anxiety and depression. One study found that women who drank fermented milk showed altered activity in brain regions related to emotional processing compared to those who drank normal milk, reinforcing the idea that strategies to alter our microbiome can alter our mental state as well.”
Fermented foods include sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, ginger beer, miso and sourdough bread just to name a few tasty options. Just make sure you’re getting unpasteurized products since pasteurization kills all of the friendly bacteria.
Want to learn more about fermented foods? Check out our Fermented Foods for Gut Health blog post.
Just as fermented foods contain probiotics, dietary fibers can work as prebiotics. Prebiotics are food for the probiotics, working together to create a healthy gut and a good environment for the bacteria your digestive system — and mood — needs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium. Insoluble fiber. This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools.”
For the most part, our bodies can’t digest fiber, which is why it passes through our systems quickly, encouraging regular bowel movements.
According to a study published in The Journals of Gerontology, people who ate more fiber in cereals, breads and fruits lowered their risk of age-related disabilities, like dementia, depression and functional disability.
There it is again, the gut connected to the brain. In this case, boosting your fiber intake will also keep you sharp mentally.
Finally, we have coriander.
In terms of mental health, coriander is known to reduce stress due to its linalool content. Linalool is a volatile compound found in coriander seeds.
Volatile compounds evaporate quickly, so in order to benefit from them, the seed must be consumed immediately after it is ground or you can take a cold-pressed oil made from coriander seeds. Coriander essential oil is effectively pure volatiles distilled from the seed but essential oils are not safe for oral consumption. Adding some coriander essential oil to a carrier oil (or using cold-pressed coriander seed oil) is a good choice if you’re seeking a stress-relieving massage oil.
In addition, according to a study published by the Journal of Digestive Diseases and Sciences, a group with digestive issues who took a preparation containing coriander experienced a reduction in the frequency and severity of bloating compared to the placebo group. Other studies have shown benefits for preventing and treating food poisoning associated with the volatiles in coriander oil.
Coriander oil coats the insides of your gut and also keeps bad bacteria that can crowd out the good guys at bay. This combination works wonders for overall gut health, which in turn is vital for good mental health.
Check out our Coriander for Stomach Upset: Tame Your Tummy blog post to learn more about how coriander helps to heal your gut with volatile compounds and healthy fats.
If you’re looking to work coriander into your daily routine, give Perfect Press® Coriander Oil a try. This edible coriander oil is made from the best coriander seeds in the world — prized for having the highest concentrations of volatile oils of any variety. These organic, non-GMO seeds are pressed using proprietary Perfect Press Technology. This technology means our seed oils are never damaged by heat, grinding or friction.