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Gut health and mental wellbeing

By Olivia Carinci, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Remedy Healthcare

Did you know that your gut and brain have a bi-directional relationship that allows information to flow between them?

For example, when people are stressed, they can often experience reduced gut function, and similarly, poor gut health has been associated with lower mood levels and a decrease in mental health and wellbeing.

Adding certain foods to your diet may assist you in balancing out stress and anxiety and improving your overall mental health.

Essentially, a happy gut equals a happy mind and vice versa!

Food for thought
So what foods can improve my gut health and therefore my mental wellbeing?

The main fuel source for your brain is glucose, which is broken down from carbohydrates, so it makes sense that the consumption of high-quality carbohydrates in your diet is linked with improved and stabilised moods.

Be sure to include foods such as wholegrain breads and cereals, oats, barley, nuts, seeds, lentils and legumes, and cooked and cooled potato/rice/pasta. These types of carbohydrates release glucose into your body slowly, allowing stabilisation of energy and mood levels.

These types of foods also contain fibre, which feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, resulting in improved gut diversity and health.

Improved mental health
Prebiotic and probiotic foods affect the same pathways as antidepressant medications and studies have found that a diet rich in these types of foods could have a similar effect.

These ingredients are found naturally in foods such as yoghurt, grains, some vegetables such as legumes, asparagus, onions and cabbage, as well as fermented foods including sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, and sourdough bread.

Foods high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and B group vitamins also play an important role in the production of your brain’s happiness chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine and are associated with improved mental functioning.

Try to include foods such as brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as beetroots, bananas, beans, green leafy vegetables as well as foods that contain omega-3 including oily fish, nuts, seeds, and eggs.

There is still a lot of research being done around gut and mental health, and at this stage there are still further studies and discoveries to be made. With that said, a well-balanced diet that is high in plant-based foods including wholegrains, a variety of fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds is likely to have a positive effect on not just your gut health but also your mental wellbeing.

Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest. 

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