Why Your Gut Health Matters and How It's Connected to Your Mental Health
Did you know that your gut has an enormous impact on your health?
The gut—also known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract - includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. It works together with the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder to form the digestive system.
Think of your gut as the essential gatekeeper for your body. When running properly, it makes sure you absorb nutrients, prevents unwanted substances from entering, and more! Your gut even impacts your mental health, mood, and skin.
For this blog, we have partnered with Launch My Health, a company focused on helping people achieve optimal gut health through cooking and functional nutrition. We asked their team to break down the connection between a healthy gut and a healthy mind. Here’s what we learn from these experts:
What does the gut do?
The GI tract has many essential functions, going beyond simply digesting & absorbing nutrients from the food we eat. This tract is the gateway to the rest of our body, so, dysfunction there can lead to many chronic conditions in other areas of the body.
GI tract functions:
- Break down food and absorb the nutrients needed to thrive
- Protect our body by blocking harmful substances from getting in
- House 70-80% of our immune cells
- Balance the helpful & harmful gut microbes, which impacts blood sugar regulation, appetite, metabolism, hormone health, energy and more
- Help with detoxification to eliminate the unusable parts of food and toxic metabolites from the body through stool
Your GI tracts hosts 100 trillion individual microorganisms that impact your immunity, metabolism, mood, inflammation, and digestion. The food you eat can help or hinder these microorganisms. That is why it is imperative to ensure the food you eat is working FOR you, not against you.
How is the gut connected to mental health?
Have you ever gotten butterflies in your stomach or had a nervous stomach? These are signals you are getting from your second brain. This ‘brain’ is called the Enteric Nervous System or ENS and is housed in your gut. It is comprised of 2 thin layers made of more than 100 million nerve cells that line your GI tract.
“Researchers are finding that irritation in the GI tract may send signals to the brain that trigger mood changes. These findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with functional gut disorders like IBS develop depression and anxiety. By recognizing the brain-gut connection and focusing on healing the gut, we can work toward improving symptoms.” Megan Green, Launch My Health RD.
“90% of your serotonin and 50% of your dopamine are made in your gut. These are your happiness hormones. If your gut is out of balance or lacks ‘good bacteria’, these hormones will be out of balance too.” shares Brenda Navin, Founder of Launch My Health.
How to optimize your gut health
Yogurt—a good way to get a portion of your daily probiotic intake
Fermented foods—contain probiotics; best options are organic, raw, unpasteurized; label will say “active, live cultures”
Ginger—stimulates digestion and reduces inflammation
Garlic—contains sulfur compounds that support detoxification
Veggies—contain helpful fiber for motility & regularity; some contain prebiotics
Prebiotics + Probiotics
Probiotics are the healthy bacteria in your GI tract. Prebiotics are the foods or ingredients that feed these healthy bacteria. We need both to thrive.
It’s important to consume these foods regularly to maintain colonization in the GI tract and achieve the health benefits. The recommended amount of probiotics for general health is 10-20 billion colony-forming units (CFU) per day, with even higher amounts recommended after being on antibiotic therapy or for specific GI conditions.
“Eating yogurt daily? Great! Continue to do so, but make sure that isn’t the only probiotic source you’re consuming. Most yogurts only have around 1 billion CFU, leaving you with 9-19 billion more to get from other sources.” shares Megan, Launch RD.
For the most benefit, eat a variety of food sources from each category regularly. This will ensure a variety of nutrients and probiotic strains.
The Gut-Brain Connection is important!
Have you plateaued in reaching your health goals?
Do you have symptoms that affect how you feel regularly? Like a skin condition, headaches, chronic condition, and/or GI discomfort like gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc.
By healing your gut, you can improve many areas of your life and back to feeling fantastic!
For more information on programs and tools to help you optimize your gut health check out Launch My Health: https://launchmyhealth.com/
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