Is your gut causing your SAD?

Top tips on beating the winter blues—or seasonal affective disorder—from Medical Research Scientist and Nutritionist Dr Federica Amati.

Is your gut sad? The winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, affects around 2 million people in the UK and new research suggests that your mood during the changing seasons may depend on how happy your gut is.

A happy gut = a happy mind

Well, sort of. “The gut-brain axis is incredibly powerful and in constant communication,” says Dr Federica Amati, “if we are feeling unhappy, our gut knows and several mechanisms change” and vice-versa. If our gut microbiome (that’s all the good and bacteria) is out of sync this directly impacts our mental health, because the brain and the gut are connected by the vagus nerve, the largest nerve in the body, which is constantly sending signals to each other. So, anything that disrupts the microflora in our gut can have a knock-on effect on our mental health. “Hence why eating and food are so emotionally powerful” notes Dr Amati, “what we eat and our overall gut health directly impact our mental health so we need to think about the two as being intimately connected”.

The gut, the mind and the weather: a love story

It makes sense that the changing weather affects our mood. As the days get shorter and darker it’s harder to get outside and it’s been well-documented that spending time in nature has a positive effect on our mood. And, quite simply, when it’s sunny we feel sunnier. But actually, there are changes going on in our gut as the seasons change too. It’s likely that our diet gets switched up between summer and winter and this shift in food causes the microbiome in our gut to change, and not for the better. The gut microbiome is incredibly delicate and anything from changes in the weather and our diet to our activity levels and exposure to infections (which increase in winter) can disrupt it. Basically the winter months are not your gut’s favourite time of year.

Dr Federica Amati shares 3 ways to make your gut happier

1. EAT MORE FIBRE

It is crucial for gut health and getting enough of it during our lifetime is linked to lowering risk of premature death, cancer, type 2 diabetes and anxiety disorders to name but a few. Unfortunately, the majority of us struggle to get to even half of the recommended daily portion of 25g-38g per day. Enhancing our regular dietary fibre intake with a good quality food enhancing and fibre rich supplement powder, like Indi Body, can help us achieve this. Mix with your favourite plant based milk or water for a delicious drink, which delivers a variety of fibre sources along with adequate fluid intake for a smooth higher fibre intake transition.

2. USE WHOLE PLANTS FOR MENTAL HEALTH

We all know that eating a varied diet is beneficial but recent research shows how plants can act to help improve our health and wellbeing in clinically measurable ways. Polyphenols in dark plants and fruits such as cavolo nero and haskap berries counteract oxidative stress, and inulin from chicory root is proven to support lipid metabolism and a healthy microbiome profile. Eating a combination of these foods every day helps support our gut’s ability to produce feel-good serotonin, for better overall mood. Indi’s supplements contain carefully selected active plant powders that are minimally processed to maintain their beneficial effects and can help to improve our overall wellbeing.

3. GO FOR BRISK WALKS AFTER LUNCH

As days get shorter, making sure you go outside for some natural light and a brisk walk becomes even more important. Plan to take a walk in a green space after lunch, which will not only help your mood, it will also help your body’s ability to metabolise your food in the best way possible, minimising blood glucose spikes and avoiding a 3pm slump.

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