Did you know that your gut contains 100 TRILLION organisms in it?? We’re probably more bacteria than human since there are 10 times more bacteria than human cells! We call these organisms in your gut the gut microbiome which comprises of fungi, viruses, and bacteria and collectively weigh a total of 3 pounds!
We feed these organisms by the food we eat and they produce chemicals to the vagus nerve in our brains which in turn signals our internal organs. It not only controls the contractions in our gut called ‘peristalsis’ but also controls our heart rate.
That’s how our gut microbiome controls our chief operating officer – the brain!
‘Good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria
Studies have shown that people who are depressed and anxious tend to have different microbiomes and host a less diverse microbiome. This was proven through certain studies by faecal matter transplants! This means that they transferred the faeces of one person who had a healthy, thriving microbiome to another person who did not have a healthy microbiome. They found out that after transplantation, the person who previously had a poor microbiome, started to feel less depressed and anxiety levels dropped!
So the key to improving depression is to increase the biodiversity of the microbiome!
So what makes you have ‘bad’ bacteria?
Diets high in refined sugars, excessive red meat, and processed food promote the ‘bad’ bacteria. Using antibiotics can also affect the population of your microbiome by killing off the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria like a grenade. So avoid using antibiotics excessively or try to repopulate them with ‘good’ bacteria.
With depression, people tend to have a higher proportion of ‘bad’ bacteria which produce inflammatory chemicals which send these inflammatory chemicals to the brain and get distributed to the body.
Poor sleep and low activity levels can also promote ‘bad’ bacteria!
So how can we improve our ‘good’ bacteria and improve the diversity of the gut microbiome?
Consuming foods high in fibre which are known as ‘Prebiotics’ improve the quality of your gut microbiome. Examples. of foods high in fibre are rye bread, bran flakes, oats, brown bread, brown rice, whole fruits and vegetables, beans, chickpeas and the list goes on! Click here for more examples on foods that improve our mood and why!
Consuming foods high in fibre feed the gut bacteria which are fermented to produce short chain fatty acids. These short chain fatty acids reduce inflammation, controls appetite, increases immunity, improves cell-signalling, and can combat ‘bad’ bacteria! That’s just the benefits to the gut microbiome, also remember that fibre can help manage blood sugars, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, and improve constipation!
Consuming ‘Probiotics’ adds to the quantity of beneficial bacteria to your gut microbiome! Probiotics are helpful to consume especially when you have consumed some antibiotics which reduce the population of your gut microbiome!
Probiotics can be found in probiotic strain drinks in such as Yakult, Actimel, Symprove, or other brands. Probiotics can be found. kefir, kombucha, yogurt, kimchee, and pickles for example. You may also take a probiotic supplement if you wish!
Because of the beneficial effect of probiotics to the gut, some people prefer to call them as Psychobiotics
If you plan on taking a probiotic supplement, make sure you take them according to their manufacturers instructions. Most probiotic supplements are meant to be taken on an empty stomach so they can survive getting past the stomach acid. When we eat, our body produces stomach acid which can affect the amount of bacteria reaching our intestines – which is where most of our gut bacteria are found.
The most common ‘good’ bacteria strains are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli as they can survive stomach acid but if they’re not exposed to the acid for too long
Sleep and physical activity improves our gut microbiome too!
The National Health Service in the UK and the Department of Health and Services in the US recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. Keeping our bodies moving keeps our gut moving! Did you know that being sedentary for too long can cause constipation? – Which is the slowing of our gut. Physical activity can mean anything from walking your dog, going for runs, having a walk in the park, playing tennis, or whatever gets you moving!
Make sure to also get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Even if you are not depressed or anxious, everyone would benefit to the health benefits of sleep. It may be difficult to fall asleep if you are anxious but activities such as having a good sleep hygiene before bed can help you reach the goal of 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
One tip to normalise your sleep schedule is to try to wake up at the same time each morning no matter how difficult it is, it can tell your body clock ‘This. is the time to wake up’ and it will get easier once your body settles to that time. You may also turn off blue light-emitting electronics such as phones or laptops or turn on ‘night mode’ if your laptop or phones have that setting.
So it looks like the simple adage still holds true! Eat your fruits and vegetables, get moving, and sleep well. Who knew it would have more benefits to our health than we thought!
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