The gut-brain axis – the future of mental health?

The stomach’s relationship with the brain and the impact of stomach bacteria on the mind and behaviour have challenged the classical paradigm.
Mental Health treatments - Optimal Health



The gut-brain axis – the future of mental health?

The gut microbiome has become one of the most exciting fields of medical inquiry of the last decade. Recent findings regarding the stomach’s relationship with the brain and the impact of stomach bacteria on the mind and behaviour have challenged the classical paradigm.

An Overview

The stomach has its own brain – the enteric nervous system aka “the second brain” responsible for co-ordinating and managing all our digestive functions with input and feedback from the brain and central nervous system,via the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve has direct neural links to a variety of brain regions that are associated with processing and regulating mood, emotions, stress, and hunger which explains how the gastrointestinal microbiome can impact, and potentially cause, anxiety and depression.

The Gut-Brain Axis has a bi-directional relationship where our gastro-intestinal microbiome is key. This is the multi-billion strong community of microorganisms (bacteria, protozoa, and viruses) living in our gut that digest our food, synthesise important vitamin and help mount immune responses to harmful pathogens.

Beneficial Bacteria aka “Psychobiotics”

There are a few strains of bacteria known as “Psychobiotics” that have demonstrated beneficial effects in both animal studies and preliminary human studies. When consumed they result in beneficial effects on mood, motivation, and cognition. These include:

Bifidobacteria Species: B. longum, B. bifidum, B. breve,B. infantis, B. bulgaricus

Lactobacillus Species: L. helveticus, L. rhamnosus, L.plantarum, L. reuteri, L. casei, L. bulgaricus, and L. acidophilus

Gut Ecosystem Management

Think of your gut microbiome as a rainforest. The more diverse the ecosystem, the more resilient it is when exposed to pathogens and the less likelihood of unhealthy microbial imbalances. Increase diversity by eating a variety of different kinds of fibre-rich and naturally probiotic foods. 

The Importance of Nutrition

Diversity of diet truly is the key to stomach health and potentially to mental and emotional health as well. Here are a few guidelines that many of the researchers in the field follow themselves:

Eat Yogurt — This is the original probiotic. Make sure it has live bacteria added after pasteurisation. Most “live” yogurt contains psychobioticbacterial strains.

Eat a variety of fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir. These also naturally contain many of the psychobiotics listed above.

Try to avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. They kill off huge amounts of healthy gut bacteria.

Eat a great diversity of high fibre plant-based foods (e.g. fruits and veggies). Different bacteria eat different types of fibre so just taking a fibre supplement will not increase the diversity of your gut biome, which is the key to gut health.

Limit processed foods as much as possible. They get absorbed swiftly in the upper GI tract and stomach and starve the lower GI tract and intestines, where most of the gut microbiome resides. High-fat/low-fibre diets are known to reduce intestinal microbial diversity

Consider the Mediterranean diet which in addition to supporting a healthy gut biome is shown to be antidepressant in nature

Key foods for boosting neuro transmitters like Serotonin and GABA, which impact our mood and wellbeing, are Avocados, Wild Salmon, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Nuts/Seeds, Turkey, Dark Green Leafy Vegetables and Sweet Potato.

How Optimal Health Can Help

It is important to look at the whole person and follow professional guidance bespoke to you in nutrition and synergistic “Psychobiotics” combinations.

We recommend starting with an Initial Health Consultation for new patients. We connect, listen clearly to your health concerns and priorities, ensure our philosophy meets your needs, and recommend an Optimal Health Treatment Pathway© 



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