We’re all familiar with the term “gut feeling”. Emerging evidence is now showing just how important this term is to our overall health and wellbeing. Nutritionist, UNCLE TOBYS Ambassador and Founder of The Right Balance, Kathleen Alleaume explains how our gut influences our emotional state.
The life inside our gut
The human gut harbours a complex ecosystem composed of trillions of microbes. These bacteria are thought to play a key role in metabolism, food cravings, sleep and regulating the immune system and, in recent years, have also been found to be associated with a range of conditions that affect our mental state, including depression and anxiety. So, while certain gut bacteria might leave you feeling down, the right ones can also boost your mood and ward off negative emotions.
The gut-brain connection
Often referred to as the “second brain” the gut is the only organ to house its own nervous system. This communication system operates independently from the central nervous system sending two-way signals from the gut to the brain via certain neurotransmitters. Interestingly, up to 90% of serotonin — a key happiness neurotransmitter — is produced by our gut bacteria.
Focus on fibre
A recent study of approximately 250 older Australians conducted by Professor Felice Jacka at Deakin University showed that the quality of people’s diets was linked to the size of their hippocampus — a region of the brain thought to be central to cognition, memory and mood.
Participants who had higher intakes of fibre from fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains had larger hippocampi compared to people eating more highly refined and processed foods. High-fibre dietary patterns were also linked to the participants’ risk of depression over time.
So, there is emerging evidence that the amount of fibre in your diet might impact your mood, via your gut health. But how do you get more fibre in your diet?
- Up your grain game
Unlike refined grains, wholegrain varieties retain many essential nutrients and bioactive substances, such as healthy fats and fibre. Starting your day with a nutritious breakfast, including wholegrain oats will help to actively nourish your gut bugs. An excellent source of wholegrains, high in fibre and boasting an extra dose of prebiotic fibre, UNCLE TOBYS Oats Super Blends Prebiotic Fibre sachets help super start your morning to support a healthy digestive system and nourish the good bacteria in your gut*.
- Eat plenty of prebiotic-rich foods
Feed the gut bacteria enough prebiotic fibre and they’ll not only thrive on the nourishment; they’ll ferment some of those fibres into short-chain fatty acids — a type of neuroactive chemical which can affect brain function in a number of ways. Prebiotic-rich foods include onion, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, and wholegrains.
- Balance the PREbiotics with the PRObiotics
While prebiotics act as a sort of fertiliser for bacteria, probiotics are the living bacteria itself. Eating foods rich in gut-friendly bacteria will top up your digestive tract with the ‘good’ bugs and help your gut flora flourish. Live probiotics are commonly found in a range of dairy products, including yoghurt, kefir, and cottage cheese, as well as fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha or miso, and some sourdough breads.
*as part of a healthy varied diet