Maintaining focus can be difficult, especially when uncertainty and mental chatter is taking up your brain space — which is common given the goings-on of the last year. But, if you’re really struggling to focus and you can’t seem to figure out why, it might be related to your gut. In fact, the gut can cause physical and physiological distractions that wreak havoc with your concentration.
While the physical manifestations of your gut — like bloating, indigestion and gas — can be uncomfortably distracting, it’s the physiological impact the gut has on your concentration that is the most interesting. And, it all comes down to the gut-brain axis, which is basically the communication system between the two organs.
According to mindbodygreen (mbg), research has shown that an imbalance in the gut microbiome can affect your brain and lead to changes in mood, affect your memory and learning function and can also cause inflammation in the brain.
“A chronically unhealthy gut can lead to an altered microbiome with an imbalance of pathogenic bacteria species. This can impair metabolism, leading to too low or too high neurotransmitters, then cause difficulty with focus, concentration, and lack of mental clarity,” integrative neurologist Ilene Ruhoy, M.D. Ph.D., told mbg. “It can also lead to lack of substrates for optimal mitochondrial function, which then does not provide enough energy for the brain to perform.”
When you treat your gut well, it has flow-on effects to your brain and changing your gut bacteria has actually been found to improve brain health. The easiest way to nurture both the health of your brain and gut is through food. Healthline recommends eating the following foods for the sake of your gut-brain axis:
— Omega-3 fats: Research has shown omega-3s to increase good bacteria in the gut while also reducing the risk of brain disorders, so aim to add oily fish to your diet where possible.
— Fermented foods: These are great for your gut health and have been shown to positively alter brain activity. Reach for yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir to up your intake of fermented foods.
— High-fibre foods: Nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies and wholegrains all contain prebiotic fibres, which have been shown to be good for your gut bacteria while also reducing the stress hormone in humans.