It has been said that our gut—medically referred to as the enteric nervous system (ENS)—is our body’s “second brain.” The ENS consists of over 100 million nerve cells that span the entire gastrointestinal tract. These neurons communicate through the vagus nerve, enabling direct communication between the gut and the brain. Every action in your gut is linked to your brain, and it can influence various bodily functions, from digestion to mood regulation.
Gut health is known to directly correlate with determining the brain’s wellbeing and vice versa. One study examined 1.2 million IBS patients, finding that more than 38% suffered from anxiety and over 27% experienced depression.
Additionally, numerous studies reviewed by General Psychiatry suggest that gut-friendly dietary changes and other simple steps may help reduce anxiety. The journal also discovered the importance of a good daily probiotic, which may also help ease anxiety symptoms.
This well-known mineral helps reduce muscle tension, alleviate anxiety, and balance cortisol levels. It is crucial to replenish magnesium because the more stressed or anxious we are, the more depleted we become.
The most potent dietary sources of magnesium include raw, fresh oysters as well as certain animal organ meats. However, some effective ways to restore magnesium in the body include transdermal methods, such as magnesium sprays, Epsom salt baths, swimming in the ocean, or walking on the beach.
Protein contains essential amino acids that play a crucial role in producing important neurotransmitters that can directly reduce anxiety. For example, protein-rich foods such as fish or ground beef contribute to the body’s production of dopamine. When we fail to consume enough daily protein to meet our body’s requirements, our dopamine levels can decrease, potentially leading to episodes of anxiety and depression.
zinc and copper
Similar to magnesium, zinc and copper are two essential minerals that can help ease anxiety. Zinc and copper often go hand in hand: when food contains zinc, there is almost always copper as well.
It is best to obtain these minerals directly through food rather than supplementing. When supplementing, it is easy to oversaturate the body. However, when you consume these minerals through food, the body knows what to retain and what to eliminate. Foods that contain the highest amounts of these minerals include various types of seafood, animal organ meats—specifically liver—poultry, nuts, and seeds.
extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
EVOO contains numerous antioxidants, with two particularly important polyphenols: hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol. These antioxidants can prevent inflammation, combat oxidative stress, promote brain health, and increase healthy gut bacteria. Myriad studies have found that regular consumption of EVOO can help prevent various digestive disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and colon cancer.
As discussed earlier, the state of our gut has a direct effect on the health of our brain through the gut-brain axis. By consuming antioxidant-rich foods like EVOO, we can support our gut to improve our overall wellbeing.