How gut health impacts your mood and 5 ways to improve it

What does your stomach have to do with your mood? You may have heard about gut health and how it directly influences your mental state but not really sure how. You may not even have stomach issues but if you really care about how you feel and your overall health and wellbeing then anything going into your body is impacting your body whether you know it or not.

Your stomach is at the center and has a lot to do with how you’re feeling in your head. Also known as your second brain, your gut feelings influence your mood and head feelings.

It might surprise you then that food intolerances are a big cause of the emotions you experience. How your body digests food and what it digests has a big impact on your mood. The root cause of food intolerances are digestive imbalances, toxins, and stress. Removing food intolerances from your diet is a great first step to a better mood, but healing your gut will allow you to achieve long-term mental health and well-being according to New Scientist. 

Imagine yourself on your sickest day in bed with the stomach bug. This is called sickness behavior and it’s kind of like short-term depression. The bacteria infecting you isn’t just making you nauseous but it’s associating those feelings and controlling your mood, too. 

Here are 5 top ways to improve your gut health, help to heal your food intolerances, and improve your mood.

Take a Quality Probiotic And Eat Prebiotic Food

The good news about bacteria is that it doesn’t just make you feel bad, the good bacteria can also improve your mood. The World Health Organization estimates depression and anxiety as the number one cause of disability, affecting at least 300 million people worldwide. I can imagine that the number increases during a pandemic. Taking a quality probiotic daily nourishes your healthy gut-brain connection and the release of feel-good compounds that promote a healthy mood. Prebiotics are a special type of soluble fiber that is used mostly by the beneficial good bacteria as fuel. Both prebiotics and probiotics are good bacteria that produce substances that acidify the colon, which is a good thing, and serve as a nutrition source for the colon’s own cells. Prebiotics can be found in foods like kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, yogurt, and other fermented foods. Start munchin’!

Although yogurt has been shown in studies to enhance the function and composition of the microbiota, it’s important to check the flavored yogurts because many of them contain high levels of sugar.

Eliminate Sugar and processed foods from your diet

It sounds like a simple step but it can honestly be challenging. Our society is known for eating a SAD diet - Standard American Diet which is full of processed foods, sugars, toxic oil, and refined flour. Healthy eating is often not encouraged in schools or made easy in today’s world, especially in western culture. We’re quickly learning that a simple diet made full of whole foods including fruits, vegetables, and grains has more nutritious value and is better for our body in the long run. One way to approach this step is to make small changes like swapping the sugar in your coffee to local honey. Then you can see where else you can swap and it becomes easier over time to remove the toxic foods in your diet and fully go to an enriched and whole foods diet.

Increase your fiber intake

Fruits and vegetables are the best source of nutrients for a healthy microbiota and great for building a healthy gut. Beans and legumes also contain high amounts of fiber. Andrea Hardy, RD, recommends including at least 30 different plant-based foods a week. It sounds hard but when you add it up, it’s actually quite easy. Here’s a list of fiber-rich foods that are great for your gut bacteria:

  • Raspberries
  • Artichokes
  • Green peas
  • Broccoli
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Brown Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts and seeds

Drink bone broth or meat stock

Bone broth has many benefits to your gut health, but not all bone broths are created equal. Pick the bone broths you find in the freezer sections because of the nutrient density and with zero preservatives. You may wonder if there is a difference between meat stock and bone broth and there is. Meat stocks can have a higher healing effect on the digestive system because of the meat and ligaments that are used to make the stock. Meat stock recipes have shorter cooking times and use meat on the bone to get more collagen and gelatin in your stock. These serve as the glue to fill the holes in your leaky gut which are causing food intolerances and acne.

Stop snacking to give your colon a break 

Snacking is a SAD (Standard American Diet) habit, no pun intended. Allowing around 3-4 hours between meals allows your body to fully digest your food and gives your colon a break. If you snack in between, your colon is constantly working to digest your food which may cause bloating and indigestion. When foods are not fully digested, undigested food can start to feed opportunistic bacteria which create imbalances, toxins, and infections in the gut and makes you irritable and in a bad mood.

Improved gut health will not only boost your mood but improve immunity, balance hormones, balance weight, improve skin, and speed up recovery from stress. We are what we eat and if our gut is improved it will digest better. The building blocks of our skin cells, neurotransmitters, hormones, and muscles come from the food we eat and how we prepare to digest it.  

This journey to better gut health to improve your mood is not a one and done, meaning that you won’t see immediate results. You will start to see improvements in your mood and mental clarity until after 3 to 6 months after implementing these changes into your diet and routine. Improvements in your digestion usually occur within 30 days…So, it’s a process! Despite your desperation, it will be well worth it. Healing your gut and improving your mood takes time because there’s usually YEARS of toxins built up that are absorbed in your body. Everyone’s microbiome is different so it also may take more time because you will have to find out what works best for you. But once you start, and you make note of what works well for your digestion, the improvements in your mood and energy will roll in.