Do you feel flat or sad?
Does life feel harder than it should?
Are you struggling with mental illness?
Would you like to protect your mental wellness, where possible?
Twenty percent of Americans experience mental illness each and every year. One in 25 live with a serious condition like clinical depression or anxiety. This means we each face significant risk, so taking proactive steps to boost mental wellness is both sensible and important.
So, what can you do… And how is gut function involved?
Gut health and mental wellness
The digestive tract and brain are intimately linked. The gut-brain axis — the way the gut and brain “talk” — includes hormonal, nervous, and immune components. It’s a incredible, complex system that many people don’t realize exists. Yet, its impacts are profound.
As an article in the journal, Clinics and Practice, put it… “Dysbiosis and inflammation of the gut have been linked to causing several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression.”
Dysbiosis and inflammation?
What is dysbiosis?
Dysbiosis in an imbalance in the type and number of gut bugs that live in the digestive tract (the intestinal microbiota), which can lead to illness.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a protective response designed to heal the body. When we experience damage or infection — both of which can happen in the gut — white blood cells and chemical messengers are released. In certain circumstances, this process can become long-term; known as chronic inflammation. This can encourage further damage rather than repair.
Because dysbiosis and inflammation are linked to mental illness, improving gut health is a powerful step that may protect against mood disorders.
With this in mind, these 3 simple steps will help to support gut health and mental wellness…
Supplement with Vitamin D
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is essential for a healthy body and brain. Yet, more than 41% of Americans have low blood vitamin D levels. That is, blood levels that put a person at risk of illness.
When it comes to the gut, Vitamin D is important in a range of ways. This nutrient:
— regulates intestinal barrier integrity. This stops harmful compounds and infective agents from seeping through the gut lining and into the body proper
— controls the two arms of the immune system — innate and adaptive immunity — within the digestive tract
— may improve the gut microbiota (the gut’s “bugs”)
— may increase protective anti-inflammatory effects
— may positively modify immune outcomes
— metabolites, or by-products, from the microbiota may modulate the expression of vitamin D receptors
When it comes to mental wellness, Vitamin D also plays important roles. Low levels are linked to:
— active mood disorder
— minor and major depression
— seasonal affective disorder
— schizophrenia, including acute episodes
How can you ensure sufficient levels?
The first step is to have your level checked. This involves a simple blood test.
If your level is low:
— spend time outdoors to (safely) increase your exposure to the sun
— increase your intake of foods with vitamin D. The choice is not broad, but includes egg yolks, salmon, sardines, swordfish, tuna, and juices and milks that have been vitamin D fortified
— supplement with cod liver oil or a specific vitamin D product
Snack on foods high in omega-3 fatty acids
For a long while, people have been taught to be scared of fat. But this macronutrient is essential for gut and brain function, as well as general health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are what’s called essential fats; essential because your body cannot create them from scratch. This makes them essential to include in your diet. Omega-3s offer wonderful benefits for your gut and your mood.
With regard to your gut, omega-3s:
— positively change the microbiota, rebalancing the gut bugs in those with digestive disease
— increase production of anti-inflammatory compounds
— may work with the gut microbiota and immune system to preserve the integrity of the intestinal wall. Just like with vitamin D, this stops harmful compounds from crossing into the body
— support the healthy function of the gut-brain axis
As omega-3s improve the health of your gut, they also support mental wellness through the gut-brain axis.
Dietary omega-3 deficiencies have been linked with “an increased risk of developing various psychiatric disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and autism.”
Ensuring an adequate intake is incredibly important. To increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake choose foods like:
— fish including herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna
— seafoods like caviar, shrimp, and oyster
— nuts like walnuts
— seeds, such as chia seeds, flaxseed, and hemp seeds
— plant oils including flaxseed oil and soybean oil
— fortified oils and products
Supplements are also a helpful way to easily boost your intake.
Keep lean protein on hand
When trying to shed excess fat and build muscle, protein is often front of mind. But did you know this macronutrient is important for your hormones and mood, too?
The essential amino acid, tryptophan, is converted by gut microbiota into serotonin, often called “the happy hormone.”
Research has shown that — in people with prior mental illness or with risk factors that predispose them to mood disorders — low tryptophan levels can contribute to a low mood, or trigger an acute relapse in those with previous depression. Luckily, increasing the intake of this amino acid increases levels in the body and brain.
Foods high in tryptophan include:
— canned tuna
— cheddar cheese
Supplementing with a high-quality whey protein powder is also helpful as it contains alpha-lactalbumin, a protein with high tryptophan content.
Our Whey Protein Powder contains a generous 1.4 gram of tryptophan per serve! Simply mix one scoop with eight to 12 fluid ounces of cold water or milk and enjoy.
As Camila R. said, “For sure it is the best whey protein I had!”
The mental wellness takeaway
The gut is essential for a healthy body and mind, including a balanced mood. By ensuring sufficient levels of vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein, particularly the amino acid tryptophan, you can support gut function and protect your mental wellness…
This is so simple, yet incredibly powerful.
You deserve to be healthy and happy!