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Gut Health for Mental Health & 6 Nutrition Tips to Support your Overall Health

In our current climate of “information overload,” simplifying nutrition to a few things allows us to practice all the components that support our mental health (e.g., therapy, community, self-care, sleep). Nutrition information can be down-right confusing and overwhelming. It seems to change almost daily and what was once a “do”, is now a “do not.” It reminds me of the seminars I attended as a white belt and felt like the instructor was teaching the technique in Portuguese (I don’t speak Portuguese).

It gets more foreign when peers or even instructors start telling you what you should and should not eat, what supplement(s) Joe Rogan takes, or how many pounds they’ve gained or lost.Although mostly well intended, these types of conversations can be potentially harmful to the safety of our BJJ environment. Finding and using reputable sources for information is key to maintaining our safety, health, and empowering us to chose what meets our needs.

Gut health has entered the chat…

A conversation surrounding mental health is its’ relationship to our gut health. Let’s start with answering what exactly is “gut health”:

• “Gut” in this case refers to primarily our large intestine, where the majority of our bacteria call home

• “Health” refers to the composition of those bacteria (ratio of “good:bad” bacteria)

It is been said that our gut is our “second brain” as it has the capacity to influence our health equally to our cranial brain. This is primarily due to the fact that these two (brain and gut) talk to one another! Here’s an example of this connection: remember a time when you felt anxious or nervous, your brain communicated that to your gut and you experienced the “butterflies.”

It has been well researched that a healthy gut can aid in alleviating mood disorders (i.e., depression, anxiety, etc.) by repairing/stabilizing neurotransmitters (communicator molecules) in the brain. This doesn’t mean you’ll never get “butterflies” again, but it can help you in stabilizing your overall mood.

So, how can you promote a healthy gut?

• Consume probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods regularly to populate your gut with these “good” bacteria

o Probiotic-rich foods: kimchi, miso, kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh

o Prebiotic-rich foods: fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains

• Minimizing intake of refined sugar and processed foods to stave off the overgrowth of “bad” bacteria

• Practicing stress relief such as yoga, meditation, or other mindfulness activities

• Consume artificial sweeteners in moderation. Emerging research is linking excess consumption with poorer gut health.

Here are 5 nutrition basics you can do for your mental health:

1) Choose consistent meals throughout the day (i.e., aim to have something every 3-5 hours)

2) Balance your blood sugar by choosing fiber-rich foods

3) Avoid “all or nothing” mentality around food

4) Be mindful of your caffeine intake (<300 mg/day)

5) Try your best to get adequate sleep (7-9 hours/night)

*Keep naps <45 minutes

The content of this post, such as graphics, images, text and all other materials, is provided for reference and educational purposes only. The content is not meant to be complete or exhaustive or to be applicable to any specific individual's medical condition.

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