There have been long-standing anecdotal reports of changes to mental health when simple but effective changes to diet are made which is now increasingly being backed by scientific research.
Fun fact: 90% of the body's serotonin (the feel good hormone) is made in the gut!
Unbalanced gut microbiome for example has been linked to mood disorders such as depression. Some studies show It goes as far as cases of schizophrenia simply going away after following a gluten-free diet for example. This suggests how much of an effect diet can have on our mental health.
My personal journey over the past years has led me to truly understand on a personal level how small changes to diet can have a positive effect on mental health, sleep, energy levels and weight.
Small Changes go a Long Way
For some people the decline in mental health can be as a result of an auto-immune reaction to certain foods or a food intolerance. But nevertheless we should never ignore the signs our bodies are trying to give us.
I suffered with severe anxiety and mood disorders and ignored a daily upset stomach for the majority of my life putting it down to “nerves” only to learn in recent times that the upset stomach was in fact a reaction to gluten and greatly contributed to my anxiety and not vice versa like I initially thought.
Cutting out gluten instantly reduced my anxiety, I slept like a baby all of a sudden and my energy levels increased. I stopped getting migraines, I woke up feeling refreshed and positive and 3kg dropped off without dieting all due to a decrease in inflammation.
I have always lived a healthy lifestyle but I truly underestimated the power diet has over mental health.
I’m not saying you should go and give up gluten as everybody's path is unique, but listening to our bodies and gut and solving what the culprit is can go a long way to feeling relief and make the difference between coping and not.
To look after your gut make sure you:
- Cut out foods that are causing your upset stomach (intolerances)
- Eat fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, cultured yoghurt)
- Drink plenty of water (ca. 1.5 litres/day)
- Reduce your sugar intake
- Eat more fiber (berries, broccoli, wholewheat pasta & breads, peas, beans etc.
- Take probiotics
- Eat slowly and in small portions throughout the day instead of a few large meals
- Focus on foods that are closest to nature (not processed)
You may have to do an exclusion diet if you have an intolerance: Reduce your food to just proteins (fish, meat) and vegetables (green leafy vegetables and root vegetables) for 4 weeks and then gradually start to introduce foods one by one a week a time until you find the one that is causing trouble.
The gut brain link - The Science
Studies are increasingly showing the connection between brain-gut suggesting that the microbes in our digestive system indeed have a role in our brain function and structure, influencing mood, emotion, and behaviour along with other important aspects of our personalities and our mental and physical health. There is a microbiome which they are calling the ‘psychobiome’ that can alter the way we think, feel and act.
The gut-brain axis (GBA) consists of bidirectional communication between the central nervous system and the nervous system that governs the gastrointestinal tract, linking emotional and cognitive functioning to the gut.
Take back control
After years of counselling and CBT for anxiety and still suffering from anxiety after, I can say that the change in diet and eliminating an upset stomach was the biggest missing part in feeling somewhat normal again.
Keep in mind that not having an upset stomach doesn’t mean your gut microbiome is healthy. It can be silent with mental health being the main symptom.
I enjoyed taking back control of my health and I am grateful for the changes I have experienced. If you are uncertain about going forward it may also be worth consulting with a functional medicine doctor or a dietician to help figure out the culprit. Always seek somebody who comes highly recommended.
Your Feminapause Team xx