Ever noticed how after a period of overindulging on junk food, your mood plummets? It’s no coincidence – the foods we eat affect our gut health, which researchers have unveiled is deeply interconnected with our mental health.
What is the gut microbiome?
Our gut health revolves around our microbiome, and this complicated structure is based upon trillions of bacteria which have the power to make or break the health of our whole body. To get these microbes working to your benefit, you’ll need to tip the balance in favour of the good gut bacteria. These bacteria help to protect our digestive health, strengthen the stomach lining and reduce inflammation.
The gut-brain link
The gut is also known as our “second brain”, and this is because our gut relies on those same neurotransmitters as our brain, creating a link between these two parts of the body. You may not have known that issues with your gut can seriously jeopardise our mental health, with studies showing an unbalanced gut microbiome spikes our risk for mental health illnesses like anxiety and depression.
An inadequate diet is often to blame, as we need a range of foods, from healthy fats to probiotics and antioxidants, to ward of inflammation and keep our hormones in check.
Digestive issues are a sign that something’s wrong between our gut and brain, take a look at some of the common warning signs:
- Heart burn and acid reflux
- Constipation and bloating
Stress can also cause changes to the microbiome which then disrupts our brain. Research suggests that the inflammatory defences our gut produces in response to infection interrupt our brain chemistry and leave us open to anxiety and depression.
The effect of sugar on the gut microbiome
Diets high in sugar can lead to changes to the gut bacteria, with research finding it can lower microbial diversity, which puts us at risk for infection. Studies have found it causes higher levels of Proteobacteria, and this is an indicator of an unbalanced microbiome, known as dysbiosis. This then skyrockets our risk for a host of conditions, from autoimmune conditions to metabolic diseases and, of course, mental health illnesses.
But with Aussies consuming around 15 teaspoons of added sugar per day, this puts us squarely in the firing line for these conditions. With a can of coke packing 9 teaspoons of sugar, it’s no wonder so many of us are flying past the limit every day – but here’s where it gets worse for our mental health.
Studies have shown rates of depression are greater in those who eat a high-sugar diet and another study shows anxiety is reported in higher numbers in people over 60 who consume sugar in excess. One study found people who drank 2 soft drinks a day had stress hormone levels 22% higher than those who did not, showing an undeniable link between mental health, the gut and sugar.
What to eat for a healthy gut and brain
If your gut is the cause of your mental health condition, healing your gut will have a knock-on effect in healing your mental health symptoms too. Here are the foods to put on your plate:
Healthy fats: These are essential for providing our gut with those essential nutrients like vitamins A, D and E, the reason being that we need these fats to absorb them. They also help maintain blood-sugar levels, brain health and appetite regularity – making them the ideal gut and brain-boosting food. You’ll find these fats in the following:
- Olive oil
- Coconut milk
Probiotics: No gut-health diet is complete without a dose of probiotics – these good bacteria help us tip the balance back in our favour. This works by strengthening our gut lining, promoting growth of good bacteria and improving our digestion. Fermented foods are packed with these living nutrients and the options are extensive. Here are a few to look out for at the supermarket:
- Yoghurt and kefir
- Sauerkraut and kimchi
- Tempeh and miso
But it’s not just what you eat – it’s what you don’t eat. Inflammatory foods like sugar wreak havoc on your gut, so it’s essential to reduce or cut out your consumption of foods rich in this ubiquitous substance. Need a little help with the cravings? We're here to help. Join us for our 8-Week Program where we'll be cutting out sugar and learning the tricks to a balanced diet.
When you sign up to our program you’ll have access to clear-cut plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of expert-crafted meal plans and shopping lists.
- 90+ member-only recipes.
- Community forums to share your journey.
- Support from the I Quit Sugar team, plus our panel of experts.
- Mental and physical health benefits that last a lifetime.
If you’re ready to bid farewell to low moods and excited for a future of health, happiness and motivation – JOIN NOW!