Food & Mood – a Happy Gut Affects our Wellbeing

A selection of healthy food - fruits, vegetables, legumes, on a table

The longer, dark days of the winter can often have an effect on our wellbeing so this month I want to give you some tips to boost your mood.

You probably already know that our food choices affect our digestion, weight & immunity – all aspects of our physical health.  But did you know that the food you eat has a direct impact on our minds as all as our bodies?    The medical journal The Lancet says that ‘nutrition may be as important to mental health as it is to cardiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology’.

It’s becoming more & more widely known & accepted that the healthy bacteria, fungi & other microbes – known as ‘microbiome’ or ‘gut flora’ – that live in our gut, send messages to our brains via what’s known as the gut-brain axis.  These messages come from our microbiome and significantly affect our mental wellbeing. 

A healthy & happy gut affects our mood & wellbeing

A healthy microbiome has a large number & diversity of gut bacteria.  Studies have shown that the absence of varied gut bacteria decreases our abilities to manage stress.  Some scientists term our gut flora as ‘our brain’s peacekeepers’. 

However a healthy gut not only affects our moods, it also positively affects our immune system and reduces a condition called ‘inflammation’, which can be a root cause of many serious complaints such as insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, depression & auto-immune diseases.

How can we increase & maintain our gut flora in order to support our health? 

It’s simple & enjoyable!  We eat the types of foods that support our gut health and avoid those that diminish our healthy gut bacteria.  The more plentiful & diverse your gut bacteria, the healthier you’ll be and the more psychologically resilient! 

Here are some suggestions:

Quit highly processed food

Convenience food at lunch time, ie sausage rolls etc, ready meals, takeaways, sugary snacks (biscuits, cakes, sweets etc), refined bread, some cereals, anything with a long list of ingredients, foods containing ‘E’ numbers, ingredients with chemical sounding names, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers (these are added to highly processed foods to keep the texture consistent & to increase the shelf life).  Also, too much alcohol & too many sugary or fizzy drinks.

Vary your diet

Try new recipes.   In a restaurant, order something you haven’t tried before.

Batch cook

Homemade soups you can have at lunch times.  Casseroles etc you can come home to after work.

Increase your Plant Fibre intake

Gut bacteria love plant fibre.  If cooking meat stews, curries, casseroles etc, reduce the meat by half and add lentils, beans, pulses, legumes etc to make up the quantity.  Research plant fibre foods.

Mediterranean type foods

These tend to be minimally processed foods and are very effective in supporting our immune system & reducing inflammation.  Foods such as oily fish, olive oil, colourful fruit & vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds.  Clinical studies have shown that these types of foods can help people to reduce depressive symptoms.

Fermented Foods & Drinks

These are becoming more and more popular as people become more aware of their benefits.  Kimchi, sauerkraut (not made with sugar or vinegar), miso, natural yogurt, kefir & kombucha are all naturally probiotic foods that introduce beneficial bacteria into your body.

A 12 hour Fasting Window

If you finish dinner at 7pm, don’t eat again until breakfast at 7am to allow your digestive system to digest your dinner & then rest. This enables the microbiome to clean up the gut for optimum gut health.

In conclusion – EAT WELL!!!   FOOD IS FUEL – Fuel for the mind as well as the body and eating well promotes mental & physical wellbeing, stamina & equilibrium.

If you would like to receive my PDF of FOOD HEROES – a variety of foods to promote gut health, then get in touch by emailing gillian@ or call + 44 7593 082 349.