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August 16, 2022 3 min read

As far as mental health is concerned, one of the aspects that have been investigated for several years is diet, whose effects on the emotional state of people are more than accepted and taken into account by the scientific community.

But in addition to people's eating habits, attention has also been focused on different nutrients that could be recommended in order to improve the mental health of individuals, both preventing and serving as supportive therapy for various psychological conditions, such as mental stress, anxiety, and depression.

More specifically, and although it is still a novel topic, it can already be comfortably said that the presence of the gut microbiota has several implications for overall health. For mental health purposes, it has been discovered that there is bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut, known as the gut-brain axis, which includes neurological, endocrine, immunological, and metabolic pathways.

With this in mind, it can be noted that there is a close relationship between gut microbial composition and multiple effects throughout the body, including the brain. This has given way to a large number of studies that have linked the use of diet to promote healthy gut microbiota and correct mental well-being.

Let's find out more about it…

Food and dietary patterns as emotional regulators.

Nowadays, it is well known that eating habits that give more prominence to the consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and include appropriate amounts of proteins of marine and vegetable origin, moving away from cereals, meats, and products subjected to multiple industrial processes, as well as high amounts of sweeteners, natural and artificial, refined vegetable oils, and saturated and trans fats, are related to a lower risk of developing mental disorders and better emotional control.

An example of the above comparison is achieved by reviewing the benefits provided by the Mediterranean diet versus the negative effects of diets with Westernized patterns and their repercussions in the mental sphere.

Promotion of a good intestinal microbiota through food.

It is important to note that the influence of dietary patterns has been linked to the composition of the gut microbiota and the development of the diseases in question.

Specifically, diets that promote intestinal dysbiosis are more frequently practiced by stressed and depressed people. On the contrary, people with eating habits similar to those included in the above-mentioned Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of developing depression.

Although there are studies that have tried to clarify the specific relationship between bacterial composition, richness, and diversity with different psychological disorders, these have not been entirely conclusive. However, it is believed that the presence of bacteria that favor local inflammatory processes and the absence of species that produce anti-inflammatory substances corresponds to the development of mental conditions like depression and anxiety.

Following the same line of thought, the use of probiotic supplements has also favored good results in the management and control of the intestinal microbiota, there being diverse scientific evidence that demonstrates several mechanisms of action in favor of the mental health of individuals.

Although much more research is needed in this novel area, the evidence showing the great potential that the beneficial modification of the gut microbiota through diet and nutrition has for mental and general health is increasingly growing.

Scientific references.

Appleton, J. (2018). The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health.Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal,17(4), 28–32.

Conlon, M., & Bird, A. (2014). The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health.Nutrients,7(1), 17–44.

Derrien, M., & Veiga, P. (2017). Rethinking Diet to Aid Human–Microbe Symbiosis.Trends in Microbiology,25(2), 100–112.

Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2017). Brain-Gut-Microbiota Axis and Mental Health.Psychosomatic Medicine,79(8), 920–926.

Järbrink-Sehgal, E., & Andreasson, A. (2020). The gut microbiota and mental health in adults.Current Opinion in Neurobiology,62, 102–114.

Martinez, K. B., Leone, V., & Chang, E. B. (2017). Western diets, gut dysbiosis, and metabolic diseases: Are they linked?Gut Microbes,8(2), 130–142.

Osadchiy, V., Martin, C. R., & Mayer, E. A. (2019). The Gut–Brain Axis and the Microbiome: Mechanisms and Clinical Implications.Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology : The Official Clinical Practice Journal of the American Gastroenterological Association,17(2), 322–332.

Skonieczna-Żydecka, K., Marlicz, W., Misera, A., Koulaouzidis, A., & Łoniewski, I. (2018). Microbiome—The Missing Link in the Gut-Brain Axis: Focus on Its Role in Gastrointestinal and Mental Health.Journal of Clinical Medicine,7(12), 521.

Wieërs, G., Belkhir, L., Enaud, R., Leclercq, S., Philippart de Foy, J.-M., Dequenne, I., de Timary, P., & Cani, P. D. (2020). How Probiotics Affect the Microbiota.Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology,9, 454.

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