Gut and Brain Health: How To Heal Our Mind-Body Connection

Did you know that your gut health is directly correlated to your brain health? In fact, it goes both ways. Just as your brain affects your gut, your gut can affect your brain. 

According to Harvard Health Publishing, “a troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.”

We all know the feelings of uneasiness in our stomachs before a job interview, hopping on a plane, or moving to a new place. On the other hand, when we are not nurturing our body with things that are good for it, we oftentimes feel anxious, out of sorts, or even depressed. 

How can we hone in on our mind-body connection to ensure we are putting our best foot forward for our physical and mental well-being? 

Gut Health: How Do We Nurture It?

It goes without saying that substances such as sugar, alcohol, and processed foods can be damaging to the health of your gut. Robert T. Jones, Founder and CEO of Roots Food Group says it best, “food is medicine” and “food is poison.” 

According to MD Anderson Cancer Center, “prebiotic and probiotic foods like whole grains, onions, garlic, fermented foods, miso, and yogurt feed the good bacteria in your gut” and “a diet rich with fiber and prebiotics ensures that the [good] bacteria grows.”

Just like everything in life, maintaining and encouraging positive gut growth is all about balance. There is a time and place to toast with champagne or a pint. It would be a shame to not enjoy a slice of birthday cake or a spontaneous ice cream cone by the pool. And sometimes, you need to allow yourself to have a bag of Doritos or M&M’s when you’re on a road trip with your loved ones. Gut health is going to prove irrelevant if your mental health suffers from restriction. 

That being said, fueling your body with whole, nutrient-dense, foods from the earth is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body. Experts at MD Anderson explain that “eating a plant-based diet that includes fermented foods and fiber from colorful fruits and vegetables, having healthy sleep habits, and managing stress levels” are the best practices in supporting a healthy gut. 

What Foods Are Good for Your Gut?

As gut health has become more of a concern and top-of-mind subject for many consumers, companies have decided to play into this important health trend. There are countless kombucha, sauerkraut, probiotic yogurt, and even probiotic teas that you can find lining your grocery store aisles. 

According to Harvard Health, “the most common fermented foods that naturally contain probiotics, or have probiotics added to them, include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sourdough bread, and some cheeses.” 

Herbs known to elevate our favorite recipes are also good for improving our gut health.  Our microbiome, the trillions of bacteria living in our gut can have a major impact on our health. A few of our favorite food boosters that also support healthy digestion- Ginger, Turmeric, Bay leaves, and  Oregano.

It turns out gardening is also good for your gut health.  Exposure to connecting with the microbes in the soil and exposure to vitamin D when you are outside gardening are good for your gut health. Plus, when you eat the vegetables and herbs you have grown it exposes you to a wide array of microbial diversity.