By Sarah Vickers, Registered Nurse & Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
We are learning more and more about the gut brain connection. Let's have a deeper look into the connection between these two incredible organs in the body. Does the gut affect the mind or the mind affect the gut? Perhaps they work synergistically together.
I am sure you can all agree that there have been times where you have eaten a meal and felt very heavy, full and bloated, potentially worse off then before you started. Did you over eat? Perhaps the foods that you consumed were actually causing a stress on your immune system and feeding potentially dysbiotic (imbalanced) bacteria in your gut.
Understanding the importance of the foods we choose to eat on a day to day basis, is so vital to the way we feel mentally, emotionally and physically. How do we break down these foods in a simple way - the easiest way to do this is to focus initially on macronutrients. These are fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Ensuring you have a healthy balance of these with each meal will make sure your cells and bugs are all being nurtured and fed correctly. I suggest half your plate full to the brim with leafy green and brassica (veges with a head broccoli, cauliflower etc.) vegetables, then aiming for 80-100g of protein (a palm full) and a decent serving of good fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, bone broth!).
“So, how does my gut and the foods that i’m putting in it impact my mental wellbeing?” Not only is your brain talking to your gut, but your gut is talking to your brain. This communication happens in lots of different ways via the gut brain axis (enteric nervous system). A lot of this is done through the millions and millions of microbes living in your gut. This communication pathway affects how we feel on a day to day basis. Up to 70% of neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine) are made in the gut. Neurotransmitters are little messengers that allow us to feel emotions - happy, sad, excited, scared, worried, in love and many more. If we have an unhealthy gut then we will have less happy signals to the brain (like when you reunite with your best friend).
Another important thing to note is the potential for leaky gut - this is where collagen and bone broth really come into play. Over time, if we have consumed a processed diet, experienced high levels of stress and been exposed to toxins then our little microbes won't be able to keep up. This can result in ‘leaky gut’ (this is when the tight junctions of the gut wall loosen. This may allow bad stuff (food proteins, bacteria and viruses) to pass into your blood- doesn't sound good right?). This impacts us in many ways, from anxiety, depression, irritability, IBS and many more symptoms. The saying “ leaky gut, leaky brain” isn’t far wrong!
How do we support leaky gut, therefore nurturing our mental wellbeing?
Bone broth and collagen are the winners here. Bone broth is nutrient dense and full of amino acids.
- Glutamine, glycine, gelatin, collagen (the list can go on) all support healing and sealing the gut.
- These are building blocks that support the mucosal barrier (which is the protective layer in your tummy) between the intestinal wall and the blood stream.
A strong mucosal barrier is the most important process to ensure a healthy barrier between your gut and blood stream (keeping the bad stuff out of your bloodstream). This is so you can have more energy and mental clarity to do what you love. The healthy fats in bone broth (in particular if it's made with marrow bones) provide a source of fuel and raw material for the brain. After all, more then 60% of the human brain is composed of fat!
Your mental wellbeing is so precious and needs oodles of nurturing. Eating a whole food balanced diet, consuming bone broth and collagen are the starting points. Also, never forget the importance of getting out and doing the things you love with people that fill your cup up!
Volia, happy gut, happy mind.
So go on, get some broth in your bones!
Written by Sarah Vickers, Registered Nurse & Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach