The Link Between Gut and Brain Health

Posted by Chrissy Barth, MS, RDN, RYT on February 25, 2022 at 2:35 PM

Mastering the gut microbiome can be a challenging process and appears to be the new buzz word today both in the news and in health science. The gut microbiome is the collection of microbes and all of their genes residing in our digestive tract including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Researchers are discovering more about the strong connection between the interactions of the bacteria in the body and a person’s overall health. Particularly, the gut and the brain. The brain and the gut communicate on a two-way street by sending signaling molecules to each other. These interactions can help to determine a person’s brain function and overall health.

The gut-brain axis has an impact in a person’s risk for psychiatric disorders and mental illnesses.  Examples include depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. The gut may also play a role in the development of autoimmune disorders, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems and even cancer. Stress can also harmfully impact the gut. It can cause the intestines to allow bacteria to spread throughout the body, known as leaky gut, which can exacerbate stress related symptoms and further increase harmful inflammation throughout the body.

Researchers are working hard to uncover more about the gut-brain axis. Eventually, they may be able to identify the exact role that the gut and certain bacterial strains have in negative health outcomes and specific diseases. But for now, there is a well-established link between a healthy gut and a healthy functioning mind and body.

In order to modify the gut and produce favorable health outcomes, it’s important to integrate the following tips into one’s lifestyle:

Tip 1: Feed your gut with whole plant foods as bacteria eat the fiber found in plants.

*Fruits and veggies

*Whole grains

*Legumes, beans, nuts and seeds


Tip 2: Eat more polyphenols.

Polyphenols are plant-based antioxidant compounds. The good guy gut bacteria promotes polyphenol absorption and polyphenols promote the growth and diversity of a healthy microbiome. We find these polyphenol powerhouses in the following:

*Plant foods: veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes, beans, and seeds

*Herbs and spices: turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, oregano, and rosemary

*Others: tea, coffee, dark chocolate, and extra virgin olive oil


Tip 3: Eat more fermented foods.

Fermented foods play a vital part in gut and immune health as fermented foods act as natural probiotics. These include:

*Dairy: yogurt and kefir

*Vegetables: sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles

*Soy: miso and tempeh

*Apple cider vinegar


Tip 4: Know your vitamin D status.

Vitamin D is more of a hormone than a vitamin where basically every cell in our body needs it. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is common (about 42% of the U.S. population is deficient in Vitamin D) and being deficient in this nutrient may alter the gut microbiome. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with increased inflammation in the gut. Sources of vitamin D include:


*Food: fatty fish like wild salmon, egg yolks, fortified foods (milk, dairy alternatives, and cereal) and sun-bathed mushrooms



Bottom line: feed your flora nutrition summary tips:

*Eat a whole foods based diet that includes good sources of fiber.

*Consume at least 30 different plant species each week.

*Include fermented foods into your diet.

*Limit your intake of highly processed foods.

*Avoid artificial sweeteners.

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” ~Michael Pollan


All of this is taken into consideration when designing the menu for clients of Soberman’s Estate. For more information, see our culinary experience page:


Lach G, Schellekens H, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. Anxiety, depression, and the microbiome: A role for gut peptides. Neurotherapeutics. 2018;15(1):36-59.

Markowiak P, Śliżewska K. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients. 2017; 9(9):1021.

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