The night before a big game and the night before a big test have one substantial common factor: a well-balanced meal. We’ve heard this many times before, receiving lectures on the importance of hydration and nutrition, but why are we so stressed about the importance of a big balanced meal? Beyond being an energy supply, a well-balanced meal can signify a healthy, happy life. Mental health is nearly always associated with the functioning of our brain. We tend to disregard the impact a healthy, or unhealthy, gut can have on our mental beings and lives, while focusing primarily on the aspect of energy supply. Yet, these two go hand-in-hand to help us see the best versions of ourselves.
Lined with trillions of bacteria, our guts house a diverse community of microbiota that are crucial in many aspects of our lives. Increasing the nutritional intake of the foods we consume is one large facet. However, research has found extensive links to the health of our gut microbiome and our mental health. Gut microbiota diversity and health is directly impacted by our diets. In other words, meals highly composed of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can have positive effects on maintaining healthy gut bacteria. Conversely, processed nutrient dense foods that contain overwhelming amounts of sugars and fats can be detrimental to our guts. The processed ingredients of junk foods can be troubling to breakdown, and their by-products can be especially harmful and tough to digest. Although they are eventually broken down, the nutritionally worthless ingredients can pose more harm than good. These foods can give rise to inflammation in the gut, which can manifest more issues than discomfort alone.
This begs the question, what exactly is the link to mental wellbeing? The link between the health of our guts and our mental health lies in a second major feature of our gut microbiota: the physical and chemical connection between our gut and brain. The physical connection manifests in the vagus nerve, which connects the two and allows for signals to be sent between both organs. Millions of neurons reside in the gut which enhance this connection and explain the “gut feeling” phenomena we often experience. The chemical connection resides in the ability of gut microbes to produce neurotransmitters, such as GABA and serotonin, which can directly impact and reduce anxiety while improving mood. Some of the best foods that benefit your gut bacteria are: high-fiber foods, fermented foods, and probiotic foods. These foods quite literally may help you become your best self, allowing our gut bacteria to grow and expand. More specifically, these foods fuel good bacteria, which can outcompete bacteria for resources and prevent them from manifesting digestive issues. Furthermore, as these beneficial foods are broken down, they release a plethora of nutrients, which can be absorbed and utilized by bacteria and our body’s cells. Both benefit from the consumption of wholesome foods.
In short, although they won’t make the largest impact overnight, wholesome food choices may make the difference in the long run to enhance your mental wellbeing, while simultaneously providing you with a quality source of energy.

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Nathan Delacth is a recent graduate from California Lutheran University where he majored in Biology. He plans to attend medical school where he can pursue an MD/MPH in hopes of serving his community and joining the small but growing number of Black physicians in the medical field. Growing up with immigrant parents from Cape Verde meant two identities in countries he both called home. As an American, his desire to uplift the communities that helped him become the person he is means actively fighting longstanding healthcare inequalities plaguing African American communities while joining the growing 5% of Black physicians in the US. As a Cape Verdean, conscious of the tribulations and widespread poverty, his goal to establish clinics on the island of Fogo means residents will have access to basic healthcare regardless of financial status. Making resources accessible to those who need them the most has always been at the forefront of his efforts to strive for progression. In his free time, he enjoys playing soccer with friends, spearfishing in Malibu, and mentoring others in options trading.

1 COMMENT

  1. This article on the gut and your brain, actually is quite interesting. In my opinion, it is very helpful for healthy gut living. Very accurate and helpful eating tips. Thank You!

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