A very popular and trending phrase that’s been circulating the last few years is ‘gut health’. Not only for the uber groovy yogi anymore, it has now been embraced by everyone that is taking an interest in their health or looking to make changes. Many various products are being advertised to help or restore gut health and it’s often used in conversations regarding mental health, weight loss, cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety and even oral health. But what exactly is ‘gut health’. How exactly is your gut linked to your depression. They are miles apart….seemingly unrelated, right? Well, actually it’s VERY closely related and I’m going to explain to you how.

Your gut is essentially your gastrointestinal tract starting in your mouth and ending in your anus, but the large intestine or colon is where most of your gut bacteria live.

The colon’s primary job is to remove water, salt and nutrients from the forming stool moving through it, but trillions of live bacteria live here too and THIS is where the magic starts to happen. These bacteria are the essential workers needed for nutrient absorption, breaking down food, keeping the bad bacteria to a minimal, maintaining your immune system (also housed in your gut) and communicating information to the rest of your body. They feed off the indigestible fibre found in certain foods that pass through our bodies. These bacteria communicate via the vagus nerve. The largest nerve in your body. Starting in your brain, running all the way down your spine and branching off into your organs. Bacteria send chemical signals via this nerve to your brain to help maintain many homeostatic functions like hormones and blood pressure.

Neurotransmitters are produced in the brain and the gut that control fear, anxiety, feelings and emotions. Sooooo, imagine your gut bacteria is very low and over-run with bad bacteria and parasites. These crucial communications to and from your brain are hindered, the hormones being produced are imbalanced and your immune system is weak. The first symptoms you will most likely notice will be mental. Over time this could lead to more serious diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. (Studies have been done in both and linked to gut health)

Ok, so what the heck has this got to do with fermentation? Everything! Your addictions, mental health, cravings, metabolism, hormones……all develop due to the condition of your gut microbiome. Yip, it all starts there. Basically we are all completely controlled by independent micro organisms living in our digestive tracts.

We all know that feeling we get when we’re nervous or got a bad feeling about a situation. You feel it right in the gut. That is a brilliant example of the brain-gut connection.

Your brain sees you going into a stressful situation and communicates via the vagus nerve to your gut, where your bacteria release the appropriate hormones and chemicals for you to handle the situation. The old saying “trust your gut” is absolutely true. It’s literally your own body communicating with you.

So the next question would be “how do I keep my gut healthy?” and there are many ways.

  • Fresh whole foods:

Good bacteria feed on prebiotics. These are types of fibre that our body cannot digest, but bacteria can. They are found in a variety of fresh produce like bananas, wholegrains, onions, garlic, soybeans, asparagus, leeks, barley, oats, apples, flaxseed, seaweed and cacao. This is essential to keeping your bacteria healthy so eat your veggies!

  • Fermented foods and drinks:

Only one tablespoon of sauerkraut daily is enough to keep your gut full of a variety of bacteria. Consuming a variety of fermented foods is even better as they all contain different strains and the more variety, the better. These foods and drinks are live with trillions of bacteria of different strains all essential for a healthy gut biome. Make sure you buy your fermented foods raw and with live cultures and not pasteurised. Also, learn to make some yourself. It’s easy and very safe.


  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol and refined sugar.

On top of creating an imbalance in your bacteria, they are also stimulants which will negatively affect your nervous system resulting in mood swings, anxiety and sugar lows. They are also both highly inflammatory and will inhibit any kind of healing.

  • Exercise:

Ok, this is a complex one, but recent studies have shown that physical exercise has shown tangible evidence of improved gut health. It also decreases the risk of obesity and diabetes , improves lung function and blood circulation.

  • Meditation and breath work

Stress is a killer. We’ve known for a while that it can lead to heart attacks, high blood pressure even cancer. So it goes without saying that it will affect the bacteria living our gut as well. The autonomic and circulatory systems carry distress signals to the gut. Our immune cells are the messengers that transmit psychological stress to the gut. This stress and depression heightens inflammation and triggers the growth of pathogenic bacteria that encourage dysbiosis and a leaky gut. Dysbiosis is a condition that causes severe imbalance of microbiome in the gut. Both meditation and breath work are very powerful tools to help manage stress.

  • Cold exposure

Many of you might have heard of Wim Hof and his ice baths and breath work. It may look extreme, but there is science and lots of practicing individuals that back up his work. Research has shown that cold exposure mimics exercise and can completely change the configuration of intestinal bacteria. This microbial change is sufficient enough to burn fat, improve glucose metabolism, and reduce body weight.


  • Get outside and get dirty

Exposure to ALL bacteria (good and bad) is essential for the development of our immune systems. Over sanitization and cleaning does more harm than good. (I’m not talking about Corona, that we have to sanitize). When we breath in, we inhale billions of particles, bacteria, fungi and viruses. We touch them on door handles, pets, cell phones, kissing, park benches and the list goes on. Our body deals with all of these without us even noticing, using only our immune system. In turn, it gets stronger by developing antibodies or specific immune cells to fight. So get out there in nature and get yourself some good biome.


  • Sleep

Sleep kind of link these all together. A quote from sleep expert Dr Matthew Walker. “The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life”. Poor or disrupted sleep directly affects your immune response and weakens it. Imagine this going on for years. This is real for many people. Good quality sleep is equally important as food.

  • Supplements

Because our soils are so chronically depleted of nutrients, that also means our foods are too. Yes, even home grown organic veg. Sadly, this is one of the huge affects of modern agriculture and it’s not going to be easy to reverse. So although your veggies are still very important and you still get goodness out of them, supplements are becoming essential to incorporate into our daily lives. They give us the extra nutrients we need and variety we otherwise may not get.

So if you are looking to improve your gut health, you’ll see that it’s a whole lifestyle change that you’ll need to work on. Don’t tackle them all at once. Make small changes and keep consistent with them until they become habits and lastly, be patient. It possibly took you years to get to the point where you are now, so it will take time to heal again.

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