Gut health affects more than your digestion. The health of your gut, and specifically the microbiome held within it, has a great influence on your brain and how it functions. As more research is being conducted, we are finding that the gut communicates to the brain via many pathways, including through microbial metabolites. This gut-brain communication is one factor that can influence our mental health, and the bacteria in our gut play a big role.
Ensuring you have a diverse and robust microbiome is one way that you can support your gut-brain axis. Many foods today, like sugar and highly processed foods, can have negative impacts on our gut health. Luckily, there are also ways to support your gut-brain health through nutrition. Here are 5 tips for nourishing your microbiome:
Fermented foods are nutrition powerhouses. Fermentation is a process carried out by the friendly bacteria that we want hanging out in our gut. These bacteria play a critical role in communication along the gut-brain axis. Adding fermented foods to your diet can boost the diversity and concentration of your microbiome. Sauerkraut and Kimchi are classic options, but you can also find fermented pickles, carrots, salsas and more.
Most of us are familiar with PRObiotics which can help colonize the gut with strains of bacteria. Lesser known but equally important are PREbiotics. Prebiotics refer to specific fibers that your friendly gut bacteria like to eat. Some prebiotic foods include garlic, onions, asparagus, oats and apples. Eating a diet high in probiotic fiber foods keeps your microbiome fed and strong.
To maintain a thriving colony of bacteria, you must have a friendly environment for them. This is why it’s important to nourish the lining of your gut (aka intestines). Bone broth is full of collagen and other nutrients that your body needs to maintain a strong, healthy gut lining and provide the perfect home for all the good guys you want hanging around.
The most common nutrient deficiency is water. It seems crazy, but it’s true. Most of us are not getting adequate hydration throughout the day. Why is this especially important for gut health? Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation. If we aren’t keeping everything moving down and out, we are backing up. This can lead to dysbiosis by introducing strains of bacteria that we do not want in the gut. Staying hydrated is an easy way to keep the gut functioning properly and maintain the balance of bacteria.
Alcohol is a major enemy of a healthy microbiome. It causes inflammation, which can compromise the integrity of the gut lining, and it also decreases the diversity and concentration of bacteria in the gut. If your goal is to optimize your gut health and communication along the gut-brain axis, limiting alcohol consumption is a good idea.
These are my favorite ways to start consciously caring for your gut health and microbiome. Through mounting evidence, we continue to learn the important influence that gut bacteria has on brain function, mood and mental health. By picking microbiome-friendly foods, you can use nutrition to support your gut-brain axis.
About the Author
Megan Wiley is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Certified Yoga Teacher. She founded Wiley Wellness to empower people to take charge of their health through a full mind-body approach. By addressing the root cause of symptoms, she helps clients reclaim their physical and energetic health. For more great nutrition and mindset resources, find her on Instagram @wileywellness.