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Food & Mood – a Happy Gut Affects our Wellbeing

The longer, dark days of the winter can often affect our well-being so this month I want to give you some tips to boost your mood.

You probably already know that our food choices affect our digestion, weight & immunity – all aspects of our physical health. But did you know that the food you eat has a direct impact on our minds as all as our bodies? The medical journal The Lancet says that ‘nutrition may be as important to mental health as it is to cardiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology.

It’s becoming more & more widely known & accepted that the healthy bacteria, fungi & other microbes – known as ‘microbiome’ or ‘gut flora’ – that live in our gut, send messages to our brains via what’s known as the gut-brain axis. These messages come from our microbiome and significantly affect our mental wellbeing.

A healthy & happy gut affects our mood & wellbeing

A healthy microbiome has a large number & diversity of gut bacteria. Studies have shown that the absence of varied gut bacteria decreases our abilities to manage stress. Some scientists term our gut flora as ‘our brain’s peacekeepers.

However, a healthy gut not only affects our moods, but it also positively affects our immune system and reduces a condition called ‘inflammation’, which can be a root cause of many serious complaints such as insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, depression & auto-immune diseases.

How can we increase & maintain our gut flora to support our health?

It’s simple & enjoyable! We eat the types of foods that support our gut health and avoid those that diminish our healthy gut bacteria. The more plentiful & diverse your gut bacteria, the healthier you’ll be and the more psychologically resilient!

Here are some suggestions:

Quit highly processed food

Convenience food at lunchtime, ie sausage rolls etc, ready meals, takeaways, sugary snacks (biscuits, cakes, sweets etc), refined bread, some cereals, anything with a long list of ingredients, foods containing ‘E’ numbers, ingredients with chemical-sounding names, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers (these are added to highly processed foods to keep the texture consistent & to increase the shelf life). Also, too much alcohol & too many sugary or fizzy drinks.

Vary your diet

Try new recipes. In a restaurant, order something you haven’t tried before.

Batch cook

Homemade soups you can have at lunchtime. Casseroles etc you can come home to after work.

Increase your Plant Fibre intake

Gut bacteria love plant fibre. If cooking meat stews, curries, casseroles etc, reduce the meat by half and add lentils, beans, pulses, legumes etc to make up the quantity. Research plant fibre foods.

Mediterranean type foods

These tend to be minimally processed foods and are very effective in supporting our immune system & reducing inflammation. Foods such as oily fish, olive oil, colourful fruit & vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds. Clinical studies have shown that these types of foods can help people to reduce depressive symptoms.

Fermented Foods & Drinks

These are becoming more and more popular as people become more aware of their benefits. Kimchi, sauerkraut (not made with sugar or vinegar), miso, natural yoghurt, kefir & kombucha are all naturally probiotic foods that introduce beneficial bacteria into your body.

A 12-hour Fasting Window

If you finish dinner at 7 pm, don’t eat again until breakfast at 7 am to allow your digestive system to digest your dinner & then rest. This enables the microbiome to clean up the gut for optimum gut health.


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