Are you experiencing anxiety or depression? There’s a direct connection between these mood disorders and your gut health. Gut bacteria plays a big role in how you feel, not just physically, but mentally as well.
How does it work? As your “second brain”, the gut sends signals to the brain through the many nerves also known as the gut-microbiome-brain axis. The microbiome is made up of the many microbes (bacteria) found in the gastrointestinal tract (GI). These microbes include a balance of both good and bad bacteria, with good bacteria keeping the bad from taking over and negatively impacting your health.
When this balance of microbes is disturbed with an overgrowth of bad bacteria, your mental health may be affected, causing anxiety and depression. And this can lead to a cycle of health issues. Anxiety and stress can affect your body by triggering cravings for sugar and fatty foods. It can also cause IBS and other digestive problems.
You can reduce your anxiety by eating foods that improve your gut health to maintain an optimum level of good bacteria in your GI tract. Choose foods that are rich in probiotic and prebiotic ingredients to restore the balance. Probiotic foods are those that already contain good bacteria, while prebiotic foods help to promote the growth of probiotic bacteria.
You can begin improving your gut health and reducing your anxiety by eating a well-balanced diet. Avoid processed foods and those that are high in sugar and fat. Reduce your consumption of red meat and eat more fish, such as wild salmon which contains healthy fat and amino acids that can help to reduce stress.
Here are some other gut-smart foods to add to your diet to reduce stress and anxiety:
Fermented foods are high in probiotics and help to maintain the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. Good options are sauerkraut and yogurt – both can also decrease bloating and aid digestion.
Reach for blueberries to satisfy sugar cravings without upsetting the balance of bacteria in your gut. Or grab a banana to help lower your heart rate when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.
Avocados are high in B vitamins. B6 helps the body produce serotonin, which has a direct impact on your mood. Other B vitamins include niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin – all play a role in decreasing anxiety.
Kale and other dark, leafy greens are high in antioxidants, which can decrease inflammation and help you sleep better.
Add gut-healthy snacks to your daily diet to regulate your digestive system and balance your mood. Good options are almonds, dark chocolate, and pumpkin seeds.
All of these foods on the list are mood-boosting and can improve your gut-brain health. Try adding some to your diet to lower your anxiety, manage depression, and reduce stress.
Take a look at the infographic from Snap Kitchen below for additional mood-boosting foods, along with the best times to eat them.