Surely you have heard the saying “you are what you eat”. And while we know that you don’t literally turn into a watermelon if you eat a piece of melon, it is true that eating certain foods and following certain dietary patterns can have a profound impact on how you feel.
Keeping your core happy can help make your entire demeanor and mood happy too. More specifically, maintaining a healthy gut microbiome and focusing on gut health may help keep your spirits right where you want them to be.
What Is Your Gut Microbiome?
The term gut microbiome seems to be a hot topic these days, and rightfully so. As we learn more about the gut microbiome, we are seeing that having a healthy one is incredibly important when focusing on our overall health and wellness.
But what exactly is the gut microbiome?
To understand the gut microbiome, let’s take a step back and think about our gastrointestinal system. Within our intestines, trillions of live bacteria are present. And while it may sound strange or even gross to think about bacteria living inside our gut, the presence of certain strains can actually help your body in various ways.
The species and types of bacteria that are in our gut are referred to as our gut microbiota. And a healthy gut microbiome means that you have a diverse and rich presence of live and beneficial bacteria, and your gut isn’t housing large quantities of potentially harmful bacteria, like e.coli.
These beneficial bacteria that live in your healthy gut microbiome can offer a host of health benefits, including supporting your mood.
Can Your Gut Microbiome Really Impact Your Mood?
So, you have these live bacteria living in your gut. But what does this have to do with your mental state? How in the world does your gut health impact what is going on in your mind?
To understand this connection, you need to understand the gut-brain axis connection, or the way the gut and the brain communicate and influence each other. Yes, there is a direct line of communication between your emotional and cognitive centers with your intestines. More and more evidence is showing that a healthy gut with many varieties of beneficial bacterial thriving is key for normal brain function and positive well-being.
If your gastrointestinal system’s microbiota is out of balance, also known as dysbiosis, a person may experience a wide variety of symptoms, from harmless effects like bad breath to more serious conditions like type 2 diabetes and gastrointestinal discomfort. And when it comes to mental health, data shows that dysbiosis is also linked to symptoms like anxiety and depression.
Dysbiosis can occur for many reasons, including eating a diet limited in live probiotics or prebiotic fibers, taking certain medications, and even living a stressful lifestyle.
So, while your mental health can be impacted by many factors, with some being completely out of your control (like your genetics), your dietary choices and your ability to support a healthy gut microbiome may be one factor you can impact that may offer some benefit in this department.
How To Keep Your Gut Happy
There are many ways to support your mental health. And it is quite empowering to know that choosing the right foods and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome may be one way to help keep depression and anxiety symptoms in-check.
The name of the game when eating to support gut health is to eat in a way that promotes a healthy, diverse, and thriving population of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics.
And this can be accomplished in two ways:
- Eat foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics.
Probiotic-rich foods can be a part of an overall health diet and including them can be quite simple with a little know-how. Focusing on fermented foods like kimchi and saurkraut, foods made with live cultures, like yogurt, and even drinks with live bacteria like kombucha can all be positive additions to a gut-health-supporting diet.
To fuel these live bacteria, prebiotic fiber needs to be included in the diet too. Prebiotics are indigestible by humans, but they are what the beneficial bateria use to thrive. Foods that contain prebiotic fiber include a slightly underripe banana, garlic, onion, and Jerusalem artichoke.
Adding foods with prebiotic fiber and live probiotics at snacktime can be a habit that, over time, can help you keep your gut full of exactly what you want it to have. CORE bars are protein-packed bars that contain a perfect balance of both prebiotic fibers and live probiotics, thanks to ingredients like inulin and bacillus coagulans. Enjoying a CORE bar can help you include these important factors in your diet to help keep your core happy, especially if you aren’t a huge fan of other probiotic-containing foods.
- Take a supplement that contains prebiotic fiber and probiotic bacteria
Supplementation is always an option if you are not taking in enough of these important factors via your diet. Prebiotic/probiotic supplementation combinations can be found in pill, gummy, powder, and even juice shot-form. These options are simple to take, and they can be a nice addition to an overall healthy diet.
Along with choosing the right foods to support a happy core, managing stress levels, prioritizing sleep, and staying hydrated. Overall, implementing some of these tips to keep your core happy may help make your overall self happy too. And we can all use a little more happy these days, right?
~Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD