Food for Thought

by Destinee Cushnie-Mason

Welcome to “Food for Thought,” a blog series designed to be exactly that! By delving into the intricate connection between gut health and mental well-being, this blog aims to stimulate your mind and your tastebuds and provoke thoughtful reflection on how nutrition influences mood. We aspire to equip you with valuable insights into taking charge of your gut health and empower you with practical dietary adjustments that can profoundly impact your mental wellness. Follow along weekly and savour the exploration!

6. Gut-Friendly Lifestyle – Beyond Food for Mental Wellness

Of course, what we eat is critical for our gut health. But many other aspects complement nutrition in making sure our tums are as happy as can be. A cumulation of these lifestyle factors over time will have the greatest impact on our mental well-being.

  • The importance of routine: Our bodies can tell the time. They know when we’ve ate dinner at midnight, when we’ve stayed awake until the early hours, when we wake up late. Our body clock has a special rhythm, the circadian rhythm, that keeps all our internal processes ticking correctly. Therefore the body expects certain things to happen at the right time. Our gut microbiomes are also regulated by this rhythm, so a lack of routine and regular sleeping, waking, and eating times confuse the system and cause unhappy guts, leading to unhappy minds. Establishing a daily routine and using tools such as a diary and to-do lists help keep this system regulated.
  • Sleep: Why do our minds race as soon as we try to sleep? This is a tricky, frustrating issue for many. Good quality sleep is associated with more diverse good gut bacteria while trouble sleeping is associated with the less friendly kind. This relationship goes both ways – sleeping helps the gut and a healthy gut helps you sleep well.
  • Exercise: You don’t have to join a gym, own any fancy equipment, or run a marathon to get the benefits of exercise. A 10 minute chair workout or a walk around the block is a great start. Studies have found that regular exercise increases the good bacteria in the gut.
  • Mindful practices: Remember the vagus nerve? Mindfulness techniques like deep breathing, meditation and yoga stimulates this pathway, helping foster harmony between the gut and the brain. Of course, doing anything once won’t have any effect, that’s why it’s called a practice. By tuning into the present moment and setting aside our thoughts and feelings for even 5 minutes a day, we can help regulate our nervous system to better manage stress and enhance our mental resilience. Breathwork practices can also send you to sleep – try breathing ‘in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 6 seconds’ for several cycles while lying in bed. It works for me whenever I can’t sleep, worth a try!
  • Goal setting: Working towards something positive can really boost your mental well-being and achieving that something boosts it even further! Setting small and achievable goals and holding yourself to account is a great way to increase belief in yourself. How about challenge yourself to stick to a bedtime for one week, or to go on a 15 minute nature walk?

Did you know how connected these actions are to your gut? Do you practice any of them currently? Let me know in the comments if you have any regular lifestyle practices that help you!

Leave a Reply