The start of the new year can be a difficult time, and many of us can feel overwhelmed with the pressure from resolutions we may have set for ourselves. With this in mind, it’s important to do what we can to boost our moods.
Gut health has been a hot topic for a while now, with a healthy gut linked to an array of benefits including improved digestion, immunity, disease prevention, and now; mental health. Have you ever had a “gut feeling” or “butterflies in your tummy”? Emerging studies are demonstrating the link between our gut and our moods- also known as the Gut-Brain Axis, which refers to the biochemical signalling that takes place between the gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system via the vagus nerve. 95% of serotonin, commonly referred to as the “happy hormone” is produced in the gut.  Having less than optimal gut health can have a detrimental impact on the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters, which can contribute to anxiety and depression.
Fortunately, there’s plenty we can do with simple diet and lifestyle changes to optimise our gut health and eat to boost our mood. Here are our top tips:
Probiotics refer to live microorganisms that when consumed, can have beneficial effects. There are around 100 trillion bacteria, both good and bad, already living in our digestive systems. Ensuring we have the right balance of good vs bad bacteria is essential for optimising gut health. We can do this by consuming more of the good bacteria and reducing the consumption of processed foods and sugars, which feed the bad bacteria. Probiotic rich foods include yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi. It’s a good idea to look out for terms like “live” or “active” when shopping for probiotic foods.
It’s also possible to boost your gut health with probiotic supplements- it’s important to find a high-quality product, specifically one that contains multiple strains of different bacteria, as opposed to billions of cultures of a single strain. It’s also worth noting that many probiotic supplements come in the form of capsules that are freeze-dried. This means that they are dormant, and become “activated” once ingested. However, there are emerging studies showing that often the bacteria are staying dormant and end up passing through the system without ever offering any of their supposed benefits. For this reason, we would recommend opting for a liquid probiotic if choosing to supplement, which would be live when you consume it.
Once you have populated your gut with the right bacteria, it’s important to feed them! Prebiotics refer to specialized plant fibres that feed the good bacteria. They act as fertilizers to stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, and are found in many fruits and vegetables you consume on The Pure Package, as well as complex carbohydrates such as fibre and resistant starch. A diet lacking in these foods can starve the good bacteria, leading to a less healthy gut. Prebiotic-rich food sources include onions, garlic, banana, asparagus, artichokes, and oats. Clients of The Pure Package have reported an increase in mood after consuming meals rich in prebiotic food, and have stated how bloating and sluggishness had rapidly improved while eating Pure Package meals.
Poor sleep can lead to digestive disruptions, which can in turn cause sleep disturbances. Improving one usually leads to improvements in the other, so if you’re looking to optimise your gut health, it’s worth looking at your sleep regime, or what is now being called “sleep hygiene”. Our hunger hormone, ghrelin, and satiety hormone, leptin, are both proved to be directly affected by sleep. Studies have shown us that following a poor night’s sleep, levels of ghrelin rise, and levels of leptin drop, meaning we find ourselves feeling hungrier, and experiencing more food cravings than when we have had a sound night’s sleep. This can cause us to make poor dietary choices that may lead to unwanted symptoms (gas, bloating, etc). Prioritising sleep is a good place to start if you are looking to get dietary symptoms under wraps.
Tips for optimising your sleep quality include sticking to regular sleep and wake times (yes – even at weekends!), reducing screentime in the 2 hours leading up to bedtime, increasing your exposure to sunlight – particularly in the mornings as this helps to regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythm, reducing alcohol consumption, and avoiding caffeine especially in the afternoons.
It’s common to feel nauseous before giving an important speech or presentation, or even to feel intestinal pain during times of stress. In fact, many IBS sufferers are not triggered by foods at all, but by stress alone, which is only made worse when trying to avoid food. For this reason, reducing stress can have significant positive effects on the body. The Pure Package can help to take away the stress surrounding food, and during a nutritional consultation, trigger foods can be removed from future meals, ensuring that you don’t have to stress about anything and can enjoy eating freely again. There are many different forms of stress management, and the best one is going to be the one that most suits your lifestyle. From aerobic exercise to meditation, gentle yoga to breathwork, or even soothing activities like knitting, painting or cooking, the most important aspect of stress management is taking time to be present. Practising mindfulness comes in a multitude of forms, but they all have the same end goal: to quieten the mind. Experiment with what you find most enjoyable- you could pick a few different activities to try, or focus on just one. Do not strive for perfection, but for consistency!
Most of us are familiar with the phrase “eat the rainbow”, but what does it actually mean, and why? It means, eat the biggest variety of fruits and vegetables as possible. That means not having the same broccoli and carrots with your dinner, or the same handful of berries on your porridge each morning. A wider variety of plant foods in your diet means a wider variety of nutrients for your gut microbes, helping them to populate and thrive. Aiming for 30 different plant foods each week is proven to optimise gut health and microbial diversity. And it’s not just fruits and veggies. Plant foods can include leaves, grains, beans, pulses, legumes, and even herbs and spices. Focus on eating a diversity of colours – reds, purples, oranges, greens, yellows. Each different colour offers a different range of nutrients, so combining them all is essential to maximise nutritional benefit. Bright colours are a good marker for the most nutrient-dense foods (whole foods – not skittles!). Think brightly coloured peppers, deep purple berries, vibrant green cruciferous veggies, the possibilities are endless.
Here at The Pure Package, we supply you with a range of delicious meals where you’ll find a huge variety of plant foods – far more than you could imagine buying in your weekly food shop, so you’ll easily meet 30 plant foods a week. We’ll feed you with all the vitamins and nutrients you need to keep your gut happy and healthy, without you having to cry over cutting a single onion.
Research on the gut-brain axis is new and very exciting, and it’s hard to argue with the evidence that gut health plays a role in managing and preventing some mental health issues. This year, don’t let the January blues get you down. Try our suggestions for optimising gut health to help combat low mood and anxiety.
Choose your Pure Package Plan now.