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Gut-Brain Axis

Researchers are looking at the dynamic that exists between the gut and the brain in order to understand how these two separate entities work side by side to profoundly influence cognition and emotion.

Our brain and gut work together through bidirectional neurohumoral communication, with signals going back and forth, creating a dynamic workforce that has a profound influence on human cognition and emotion. The gut is one of the most intricate systems of the human body. Its microbiome consists of trillions of fungi, bacteria, and other microbes which play a principal role in controlling digestion and benefitting the immune system. The gut system when in balance and working optimally also helps in the production of hormones and their precursors that control mental health, immune system, metabolism, nutrition, and physiology.

The bacteria in our gut can activate neural pathways and CNS signaling systems that have an effect on depression and anxiety. This link suggests that mental disorders can be managed via the gut and microbiome pathways, ultimately reducing one’s dependency on pharmaceuticals.

The question then arises: What foods can positively impact gut function and in turn mental wellbeing? The answer is quite simple. Foods like fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, whole grains, legumes, pulses, yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut are considered to be the best foods for nourishing gut health. The gut microbiota thrive in response to these foods. In fact, 95% of the serotonin (the hormone responsible for happiness and mental wellbeing) is produced in the gut. Low serotonin levels make us more prone to emotional and situational stimuli in addition to leading us to make negative life decisions.

Here is a list of gut-friendly foods that should be taken daily:

  • 3- 5 servings of fruits and vegetables
  • 6- 8 glasses of water
  • No more than 3 cups of caffeinated beverages
  • Complex carbohydrates like quinoa, oat, sweet potato, legumes etc.
  • Healthy fats like olive oil, flax seeds, avocado, walnuts, chia seeds etc.
  • Saturated fats like butter, fat and skin on meat in moderation.
  • Low fat dairy products.
  • 4- 8 eggs per week.
  • White meat 3 times a week.
  • Alcohol 3 — 4 times a week.

When the body is in balance and working in an efficient way the ability to make clear headed decisions in all aspects of life is improved.

About the Author

Picture of Justine (Aginsky) Friedman

Justine (Aginsky) Friedman

Justine Friedman(nee Aginsky) RDN, is a South African trained, Licensed Clinical Dietician and Mindset Mentor who has run a successful clinical private practise for over 20 years.

The focus of her treatment with clients is to educate them in developing successful lifestyle habits, eating patterns, and behaviours that will holistically enable them to live lives of wellness.

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