There is a lot happening in the world at large lately. There’s a lot happening in your personal world all the time. Sometimes we get overwhelmed with what we see on the news, social media, and in our daily lives. Oftentimes we get sucked into routines and habits that don’t support our wellness goals due to a variety of reasons - too tired, too busy, not enough energy.
This can leave us in a rather gloomy state and in a constant state of wishing for better circumstances. And, while we can’t control a good number of factors in the environment surrounding us, we do have complete control over several pieces of our lives that can make an immense impact on our circumstances. We have the choice to elevate our state of wellness through conscious, daily decisions.
Your Gut and Mental Wellness
It is one hundred percent possible to improve your mental wellbeing through caring for your whole body. We have at our fingertips plenty of scientific evidence that proves how effective we can be as people when we support our mental health. We can achieve this by adopting habits that support the health of our gut, and therefore the production of good gut bacteria.
What Does the Research Say?
There are a handful of key points to understand about our physiology in order to make the best choices for our mental health and overall wellness.
First, everyone’s gut contains what’s known as the enteric nervous system. This basically means that there is an entire network in your gut, known as “the second brain”, that keeps your digestive system running all on its own1. You don’t have to tell it what to do. This part of your nervous system communicates with your central nervous system through what’s known as the vagus nerve.
Did you know that when we form as embryos, the same cells that make up our gut also make up our brain? As we continue to develop in the womb, the cells begin to divide into the two separate organs2. The vagus nerve is what keeps them connected after they split3.
It’s through this communication via the vagus nerve that we know our gut produces a huge majority of serotonin4, a hormone that stabilizes your moods, also known as the “happy hormone.” It also produces cortisol, the “stress hormone.” On top of mood management, the vagus nerve also helps our brains manage our immune response and the quality of our digestion. The link between our gut and brain (known as the Gut-Brain Axis) is a huge advancement in understanding how our gut microbiome plays a part in our immune, endocrine, and nervous systems.
The Gut-Brain Axis, formed by the vagus nerve, acts as a two-way informational street. The bacteria in our gut (good or bad) can support or compromise both vitamin and hormone production, and also affect our circadian rhythm and mental health. Even further, conditions like depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson’s are all psychiatric and central nervous system disorders that scientists associate with an imbalance in the gut microbiome5. If you are someone with a low diversity in gut bacteria or have an imbalance within your gut microbiome, you are more likely to experience depression and anxiety and develop these degenerative diseases.
Caring for Your Mind Through Your Gut
Consuming ultra-processed foods that are high in added or artificial sugars, foods with processed oils, and excessive alcohol can not only alter your microbiome composition, but can also damage the lining of your gut. These kinds of foods react with your gut bacteria by feeding the bad bacteria more than the good, leading to dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria within your gut which is what contributes to inflammation. Inflammation in the gut likely means inflammation in the brain. The result from this is chronic or severe inflammation is the same kind associated with depression, anxiety, and other cognitive disorders, according to scientists.
On the other hand, focusing on healthy, nutrient dense foods will have a different impact on the environment in your gut. These types of foods interact with your gut bacteria to result in the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These enzymes are pivotal to the health of your cells found within your colon. They contribute to lower levels of inflammation in the gut and help ease the symptoms of chronic digestive issues such as IBD and Crohn's Disease. The production of SCFAs is essential for smooth and easy digestion to take place due to the postbiotic organisms that emerge from consuming pre and probiotic foods6.
6 Ways to Improve Your Gut & Your Mind
So what can you do to gain the benefits of a healthy gut that contributes to a healthy mind? Begin incorporating foods that suit your lifestyle and in which you find enjoyment, but that will also improve the environment within your gut microbiome. Our suggestions for gut-friendly foods include:
Fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and tempeh. These help fight gut inflammation7 through the production of SCFAs, which we now know helps control inflammation in the brain.
Vitamin D found in salmon, herring, sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna, egg yolks, and mushrooms. Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, can help with anxiety and mood regulation8.
Leafy greens, especially those that are high in folate. Folate is one of two naturally occurring forms of vitamin B9. This essential nutrient can help individuals experience a decrease in depressive symptoms and improved cognitive performance. Leafy greens are also high in fiber which helps feed the bacteria in your gut for more production of SCFAs9. Some examples of rich leafy greens include:
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
Spices that contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to ensure support for strong cells inside your gut. This can include ginger, cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom, and oregano.
Omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression10. Our favorite sources of omega-3s are:
- Fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, & sardines
- Flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
The OWL Reset Cleanse
If you’ve experienced the effects of an OWL Reset before, then you know exactly how boosting these programs are for your body and your brain. Granting your gut plenty of time to rest and restore while also pumping your body full of the nutrients it needs to thrive, the OWL Reset can help you reach your wellness goals the right way.
Say goodbye to bloating, sugar cravings, brain fog, inflammation, and sluggish digestion. Waiting for you on the other side: an energy boost, mental clarity, balanced blood sugar, and clear skin. The OWL Reset Cleanse is a game-changer for those looking for a deeper, more complete and effective way to take control of their wellness, and to align their body with their mind.
The More You Know
It’s important to understand how your body works, and even more important to know how to support your body when it speaks to you. It’s easy to get distracted with all the noise happening on the outside. It’s healthy to focus on all the things that matter to you on the inside.
- The Enteric Nervous System - Neuroscience - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
- Enteric nervous system development: A crest cell’s journey from neural tube to colon - PMC (nih.gov)
- Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain–Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders - PMC (nih.gov)
- Indigenous bacteria from the gut microbiota regulate host serotonin biosynthesis - PMC (nih.gov)
- Gut Feelings on Parkinson’s and Depression - PMC (nih.gov)
- Intestinal Short Chain Fatty Acids and their Link with Diet and Human Health - PubMed (nih.gov)
- Gut-microbiota-targeted diets modulate human immune status: Cell
- Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin - PMC (nih.gov)
- Effects of high-fiber diets enriched with carbohydrate, protein, or unsaturated fat on circulating short chain fatty acids: results from the OmniHeart randomized trial - PubMed
- Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Inflammation and Anxiety in Medical Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial - PMC (nih.gov)
Julie is a self-made writer on a forever journey of fitness and health. As a high school music teacher, she has seen and experienced the challenges of maintaining good health while simultaneously balancing a career and healthy relationships.
Julie has always lived a healthy and active lifestyle. She loves the outdoors, hiking, and camping. Over the years she has continued to learn smarter and better ways to take care of her body while continuing to do the things that make her smile. Naturally, all of her teacher friends wanted to know how she did it - what was her secret?
Julie found herself explaining over and over everything she'd learned in her research, and sharing her experiences through trial and error. Her friends would take her advice, try some new things, and then come back to ask how to take it to the next level.
"You should charge for this kind of information!" Became a constant phrase, and so began her career of writing to share her knowledge with the world through health and wellness companies looking to spread healing and healthy habits within their communities. Now Julie gets to combine two of the things she enjoys most - writing and wellness - and use them to affect change in a real way.
When not making music with her kiddos, or writing wellness tips for a higher quality of life, you can find her reading, hiking, drumming, and fitnessing