Did you know that your gut and brain are linked? Think about recent “gut-wrenching” moments or “following your gut”— the brain-gut connection is scientifically backed!
That’s right – the state of your digestive system can influence the health of your brain.
So, caring for your tummy is uber important to our mental health, yet it often gets overlooked. When I was at the deep end of my chronic illness battle, doctors didn’t offer any help or advice on diet & nutrition as part of my healing journey. (I had to do it myself, and that’s why I’m so passionate about sharing my story and experience!)
And, research confirms bacteria in the gut can be positively affected through specific diets. And may help to treat stress-related and neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, hyperactivity, and depression. That’s huge!
- How to Heal Your Gut (5 Steps)
- The importance of gut & brain health
- My gutting experience
- Best Gut Health Testing Kits
- The Wrap- Gut Health for Brain Health
How to Heal Your Gut (5 Steps)
Ready to improve your gut health and mental well-being? And don’t worry; you don’t need a degree in biology to understand how to start healing your gut (and brain!)
Here are five simple steps that you can take today to start!
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission, at no cost, if you purchase through a link.
1. Eat Healthy Whole Foods
The first step toward better gut and brain health is eating well. That includes listening to your body’s needs and being mindful of when and what you eat. The best way to start is by simply adding more whole foods to your meals.
Whole foods are those that come from nature rather than a factory package without yucky seed oils and preservatives – think fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains. Whole foods improve gut health by supporting the growth of good bacteria in the gut. And try and choose organic whenever possible, if you can!
Feeding healthy whole foods to your gut can improve mood, decrease inflammation and decrease oxidative stress in the body. WIN-WIN!
2. Include Healthy (Animal) Fats & Protein
Animal fats and proteins are critical for gut health and brain function. Consuming good fats, such as monounsaturated fats found in animal sources like fatty fish and nuts, encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which helps promote strong cognitive function.
Also, animal protein contains essential amino acids that are important for building and repairing tissues in the body, including the gut lining.
By combining clean protein with healthy fats, you can benefit from both nutrients and give your body the right fuel it needs for not only brain health but for better energy levels, diabetes support, heart disease prevention, injury repair, and so much more! Pass the protein!
REMINDER: Choose meat wisely: If you eat meat, make sure to choose meat that is free of pesticides, chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones that can disrupt gut bacteria.
Some people with poor gut health or absorption issues (like me!!) may benefit from eating organ meats. But before you get grossed out, let me tell you that these organs are concentrated in minerals and vitamins in a form the body can better utilize.
(As a matter of fact, that’s why the ketovore/carnivore diet is so popular for those wanting to heal from disease!)
Where’s the beef? (And liver?)
3. Get Your Probiotics
You may have heard a lot about probiotics and their benefits but are still, wondering why? These friendly bacteria help support digestion and balance the microbiome in our guts and keep things in tip-top shape!
If you want to improve your gut and brain health, don’t be shy about adding probiotic foods to your menu. Foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut contain natural probiotics. Or pick up a supplement. My favorite is by Standard Process – you can snag it on Amazon right here!
4. Avoid Inflammatory Foods
All food has some sort of effect on our bodies – good or bad – so it’s important to be aware of which foods tend to cause inflammation in our guts, especially if we want optimal mental and physical health.
Personally, I’ve found this to be very individualized – it seems everyone has varied inflammatory reactions based on bio-individuality. But there are some things we know should be avoided for all of us…
Examples of inflammatory foods include processed foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats, refined carbohydrates, fried foods, and foods high in artificial sweeteners.
Try cutting out inflammatory foods such as these for two weeks and see how you feel afterward!
Eliminating inflammatory foods from your diet can help improve gut and brain health by reducing inflammation, promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, and preventing various health issues.
5. Exercise Regularly
As if you didn’t need another reason to move your body!! But it’s true, regular exercise has numerous benefits for both gut and brain health.
Exercise can reduce levels of stress hormones, which can have a positive impact on gut health, and it can increase the thickness of the cerebral cortex and improve the integrity of the brain, leading to improved brain function.
Working out can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, impacting gut health.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day; this could be anything from going for a walk outside or doing yoga at home!
Note: While regular exercise has been shown to improve gut health, excessive exercise, such as endurance sports, can lead to a weakened immune system and increased stress hormones, ultimately harming the microbiome and causing decreased gut function.
Image via Deposit Photos
6. Reduce Stress Levels
Speaking of stress hormones… Stress is a major contributor to poor gut health because it causes inflammation throughout the body, leading to leaky gut syndrome (when harmful toxins leak from the small intestine into other parts of the body).
I know firsthand how awful leaky gut can be and am here to tell you it takes FOREVER to heal – so it’s best to take preventative measures to lower your cortisol and stress levels NOW.
I know it’s easier said than done, but simply adding things like walks, yoga or meditation to your morning routine can make a HUGE difference. Promise!
7. Get Good Sleep
Last but not least on our list is sleep! Obviously, getting enough quality sleep each night is key for overall health since it allows us time to rest and recharge before tackling another day.
During sleep, the body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain physical health, and this includes supporting gut health. Inadequate sleep over time can raise the risk for chronic health problems, including those related to the gut! Yikes!
Also, sleep and circadian rhythms are closely linked to brain health, and research suggests that improving sleep quality can potentially prevent and treat brain diseases.
Aiming for 7-9 hours per night will help keep cortisol levels low with less stress on your gut and brain.
And keep up those sleep hygiene habits, such as avoiding screens before bedtime or sleeping in complete darkness! I wear a sleep mask every night and swear by it! Grab mine here on Amazon
The importance of gut & brain health
This dynamic duo communicates seamlessly through a complex web of hormones, neurotransmitters, and immune cells, making the phrase “gut feeling” quite literal.
So when your gut is feeling fabulous, it’s likely to send good vibes upstairs, positively impacting your mood and cognitive functions. In contrast, when the gut is down in the dumps, it can kickstart a chain reaction of mental distress.
I know it can seem like a lot but gut health isn’t just about nurturing a happy belly dance within you, it also plays an instrumental role in your brain health and mental well-being! Like BFFs, your intestines and your noggin share an intimate connection — the “gut-brain axis.”
My gutting experience
I know how important gut and brain health are from devastating chronic illnesses (partly) stemming from a compromised immune system. My gut was so impaired that they thought I had Crohn’s disease! (Among other things!)
But let me tell you, there is hope! Sometimes inflammation, high cortisol, and tummy troubles just become ‘the way it is’ – but it shouldn’t be!
You deserve healthier. You deserve better.
Best Gut Health Testing Kits
If you’re struggling with gut health, or everything you eat seems to hurt (or explode out the other direction!), you should start by testing your stool.
Viome is a highly recommended gut microbiome testing kit and provides a comprehensive analysis of multiple biomarkers, offering clear and concise results with recommendations for a cost of $249. It is a stool sample-based test that provides quick results. Get it on Amazon here (on sale!)
But if you’re serious, I highly recommend connecting with a functional health doctor or specialist who can do your testing AND deciphers the results for you with a personalized plan for healing.
The Wrap- Gut Health for Brain Health
So… how are you stomaching all this? I hope these steps have given you some insight into how to heal your gut for brain health—it truly is possible when we make conscious decisions about what we put into our bodies every day!
Remember that healing takes time, so don’t expect instant results; just keep making small changes over time until they become second-nature habits that benefit both your physical AND mental well-being long term! Good luck on this journey toward a healthier future—we know you can do it!