The food we eat plays a role not only in our physical health but also in our mental and emotional health. It’s all connected, and scientists continually learn new, fascinating things about the gut-brain connection. The gut is even referred to as the “second brain,” which may be the origin of phrases like “gut instinct” or “trust your gut.” So it stands to reason that, in the case of mental health disturbances, we also find disturbances in the gut – and by using the right foods, we can begin to correct both.
Gut Microbiota: A Live Population in the Human Body
The human body is like a mini-planet. Microbiota is to humans as humans are to Earth. There are more microscopic creatures in our microbiome than humans on Earth. We have trillions of them, and they help us break down and digest our food. They can also affect our thoughts and mood. With the right food choices, we can support healthy populations, also known as probiotics, which will help us with good health. We can also use our food choices to suppress unhealthy populations, which might also be known as disease-causing pathogens or parasites.
Although it might seem strange to consider that there are trillions of microscopic organisms teeming in our gut, mucus membranes, and skin surface, it’s a natural and beautiful part of our biology. So it may not be surprising then that the best foods to support these populations and, in turn, support good health are those that come fresh from the Earth.
Fiber Is Good for the Gut
Fiber describes any fruit, vegetable, grains, and legumes. If it grows out of the ground, it has fiber. When consumed in a form that’s as natural as possible, it’s one of the most nutritious foods for the gut. In fact, it can deliver new, healthy colonies of probiotics while serving as food for existing populations.
Based on the ancient history of humans as hunters and gatherers, we may have eaten up to 200g of fiber daily. Compared to the average modern intake of just 11g per day, it may not be surprising why modern humans suffer from various maladies, including mental health disorders. The good news is it’s still easy to correct; include some form of fiber with every meal. It’s even better if it’s a fermented fiber, such as raw sauerkraut, to add a powerful punch of probiotics to your meal.
Just watch out for pesticides because these can kill off probiotic populations in the gut. Pesticides are a hidden cause of many modern digestive disturbances, which certainly isn’t what we’re going for here. To avoid this unintended consequence, buy from farmers who use biodynamic or organic growing methods that minimize pesticide use. Additionally, you can soak produce in a solution of purified water and aluminum-free baking soda to help remove any pesticide residue. The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists can also help you know which products to avoid and buy.
Eat Your Essential Fatty Acids
Interestingly, gut microbiota can form some of its fatty acids. However, there are some essential fatty acids that we cannot make and must get from food, and that’s what “essential” means. You can eat wild-caught salmon or ground flax seeds; Adding eight ounces of hot water to one tablespoon of ground flax seeds, covered and left to brew overnight, yields a delicious energy drink to start your day in the morning.
Alternatively, you can take a high-quality omega-3 EFA supplement to ensure a daily measured amount in your system.
Know and Say No to Disease-Causing Foods
Just as the right foods can support the right gut populations for better physical and mental health, the wrong foods can feed the wrong types of populations, whose overgrowth can contribute to disease in the body, mind, and spirit.
You might already know which foods these are because they are, unfortunately, everywhere. Fast food, ultra-processed food, and mass-manufactured food; are foods only in that they taste good and fill the belly, but they don’t do good for the gut or health. These foods also are highly addictive, which can make avoiding them difficult, but it’s worth it to make the switch.
If you’ve been eating these foods all your life, you might not know how much difference you can think and feel by stopping them and choosing better foods. You can experience more energy, more clarity, and more stable moods just by choosing different foods: the foods that naturally work best with the human body and microbiome. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Depression and other mental health disorders are increasing problems in the modern world. There may be many contributing factors to the rise in these issues, and without a doubt, nutrition is one of these factors. We cannot expect healthy minds and bodies to come from unhealthy diets; however, knowing we can create a significant positive turnaround simply by making healthy food choices is empowering. At Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention, we provide resources and support for depression and mental health recovery through various means. We are aware of the addictive component of fast food, and we work with clients directly to help them find the necessary resources to help them structure their lives around healthy food choices. If you are struggling with depression or other mental health disorders, contact us at (866) 986-1481 to learn how we can help you with a healthy lifestyle approach.