Mental illnesses are amongst the most prevalent health conditions in the whole world. According to the World Health Organization, 450 million people are currently coping with mental health problems ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia. Medication and therapy can help to manage most mental health issues; however, for an easier and more natural approach, you may want to start taking care of your gut. Recent scientific evidence has shown that a healthy gut can translate to better mental health. Find out how to keep your digestive tract in good working condition, and how your gut health can have an impact on your mental well-being.
Understanding the gut-brain connection
Your gut and brain are more closely linked than you might think. If you have experienced having a queasy stomach before a major class presentation, or if you’ve felt depressed after a night of binge drinking, then you have a general idea on how the two are connected. According to Harvard Health, a distressed brain can send signals to the gut and vice versa, which is why you may feel intestinal pain when you’re feeling anxious. It’s also the reason why those who regularly experience digestive problems end up feeling restless or depressed.
Are your stomach problems related to stress?
Stress is one of the most common mental health problems experienced by the young and old alike. Having constant heartburn or abdominal pain can be a sure sign of stress, and it is common among school-aged children and unhappy office workers. As a result, some turn to stress-eating to find comfort, but some of the foods you eat can exacerbate the problem. For instance, foods that are high in lactose and sugar (such as ice cream) can cause pain, bloating, and diarrhoea, especially among people who are unable to digest lactose well. Instead of indulging in a dairy treat, pick the right foods to help you feel better, both physically and emotionally.
Foods to eat for better gut health
Eating high-fiber foods such as berries, pears, bananas, broccoli and oats can help to improve gut health. Meanwhile, those with digestive problems can eat foods like salmon to strengthen the intestinal wall, which can lead to better digestion. If you’re always in a hurry, try incorporating high-fiber foods in your diet by juicing or drinking smoothies. Whichever way you choose to process your fruit and veggies, blending or juicing can help to increase your fiber intake in a convenient way. Blending might have a slight edge, as blended drinks contain more fiber and can help you feel fuller for longer.
Probiotics and its role in gut health
Nowadays, people are touting the benefits of probiotics and its role in improving digestive health. In an interview with Forbes, Dr. Liping Zhao said that probiotics contain live bacteria that can be beneficial to gut health, as it can lead to reduced inflammation and even better appetite control. Moreover, the scientist, who spent almost two decades researching gut health and microbiota, said that food, not medicine, is the most powerful tool to care for one’s digestive health. Try eating probiotic-rich food, such as yoghurt, kimchi, kefir and kombucha – these can all help to promote better gut health, which can result in improved mental health.
Apart from taking care of your gut and eating the right foods, getting enough rest and doing mindful workouts such as yoga and tai-chi can all benefit your mental well-being. Being socially active and interacting with loved ones can also help to avoid isolation and reduce stress and anxiety. By changing the way you eat and living a healthy lifestyle, you can improve your digestive health and live a healthier, happier life.
Author: Ali Porter