Heal your gut for great mental health and energy

By Sally Evans

I suspect that many of us have never given our gut a moment’s thought.

But the importance of our very precious gut cannot be overemphasized. It plays a crucial role in the overall wellbeing of human beings because directly and indirectly the gut is linked to our immune system, heart health, body mass, body weight, as well as our brain.

The really important thing for us to know though is that the quality of our gut health has a real effect on our mood. The hormone that triggers happiness is secreted in the gut. So, it is quite possible to experience a feeling of sadness or unhappiness if the operation and activities of our gut is inhibited.

So, what is the gut microbiome?

Not all bacteria are harmful. Some of these pathogenic organisms are really helpful and they form a large chunk of the gut microbiome. Useful bacteria help to prevent indigestion and they help to eliminate harmful substances from the body. Studies have shown that the gut controls about 70% of the human immune system, so ensuring that we get our gut health in the best shape is an important investment for our physical and mental health.

What are the signs of an imbalanced gut?

The gut microbiome can be thrown out of order by various factors. Stress, poor sleeping habits, and obviously a poor diet (especially the consumption of junk and beige food) have an adverse effect on the gut. One way of considering if you have dodgy gut health is if you have any of these common signs of an impaired gut microbiome:

  • Frequent pain or swelling in the abdomen and lower stomach region 
  • Itchy and dry skin 
  • Brain fog
  • Irregular pattern of sleep
  • Uncontrolled weight changes
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Food intolerances

So, let’s take an in-depth look at some of the causes of an imbalanced gut.

- Excessive alcohol intake: Drinking too much alcohol has a really undesirable impact on the gut. To prevent gut imbalance, reduce your alcohol intake. 

- Unhealthy food: Some food substances are just no good to the human body. In fact, they are really disruptive. Excessive intake of processed and sugar-rich food does so much damage to our gut health. Ideally, we need to make sure our diet consists of nutrient-rich food – put as many colourful vegetables and fruit, as well as nuts and seeds on to your plate as possible.

- Stress: Stress is a silent killer. To improve our gut health, we need to make sure we get enough rest and try and manage the causes of stress. Otherwise, we could be doing ourselves a real disservice.

- Medicine Overdose: When we take certain medication too often, the lining of our intestines may become displaced. One example is Ibuprofen and other pain relievers.

So, what can we do to build a healthy gut?

To build and maintain a healthy gut, there are some really easy things we can do: -

- Drink plenty of water: Hydration helps the gut health. The walls of the intestine benefit a lot when we drink plenty of water. A hydrated environment also helps the useful bacteria to thrive.

Do regular exercise: Regular exercise (especially stomach exercises) reduces the chances of inflammation. It also makes the body stronger and more energised. 

- Maintain a healthy diet: Strictly speaking, we would not ingest sugary substances if we really cared about our gut health. Eat more fibre and green and coloured vegetables. What also works brilliantly are fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut, because they are a good source of probiotics. If you are really keen to do more, try eating bone broth as it is rich in collagen and a fantastic food for helping our gut repair. Most importantly, avoid junk and processed food as much as you can and eat fresh.

The link between our gut health and our mental health and energy levels is undeniable – so make a start today and give your gut a break!

Sally is the Founder of LifeBuddy. She is an Organisational Development consultant and is a Practitioner with the Association for Business Psychology.