How sticking with your new year diet could help you stay happy in lockdown
We had the plan in place to kickstart 2021. On 1st January our new healthy resolutions would begin – dry January, Veganuary, losing weight to name but a few.
And things were going well until the news of another lockdown hit and many of us went straight back to our old habits. After all, why should we put ourselves through any sort of diet when we we’re stressed and stuck inside? ’Pass me the chocolate’ I hear you say.
But there is another way of looking at it…
More and more of us are now starting to talk more freely about mental health, especially as a result of being in lockdown. Studies are now showing that lockdowns are having a negative impact on our mental health and because it is so important to look after ourselves and others during this time, our diet could play a big factor to ensure we don’t feel stressed, anxious or have low mood.
Because our gut and our brain are scientifically linked both psychologically and physically.
Our gut and our brain communicate to each other. In fact, our gut is known as our second brain because, just like our brain, the gut is the only other organ in the body with its own nervous system. The gut and the brain talk to each other continually where the gut advises the brain, and the brain tells the gut everything it needs to know about what is going on in a person's life, both internally and externally.
The brain can communicate when you are anxious about something. Have you ever felt sick when you’re nervous or feel in danger and have that ‘gut feeling’? That’s your brain talking to your gut and visa-versa.
There are so many well-known strategies for our brains when it comes to mental health such as mindfulness, meditation and grounding but equally, if we could practice good gut health too, especially in lockdown, it could unlock the secret to maintaining great mental health all of the time.
How does it work?
To work at its best, the gut relies and depends on something called the microbiota which is made up of trillions of microbes that live in the gut. Our gut contains 4 pounds of bacteria made up of both good microbes and bad microbes and the health of our gut is very much determined by the balance of these microbes. If we have more of the good microbes in our gut, the healthier our gut will be.
What do good microbes do?
Good microbes are very clever. Not only do they help us digest food and drink, they absorb the valuable nutrients that our body needs and produces important vitamins such as vitamin A and K.
Good microbes also influence our production of hormones such as oestrogen which in turn can help conditions such as endometriosis, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and perinatal menopause.
A healthy gut can also contribute to the levels of cholesterol in our blood which can help control our blood pressure.
Finally, good microbes help to produce serotonin (our ‘happy’ hormone) and more serotonin leads to a happier mood. Something that we really need especially during lockdown.
What can I eat to help my gut stay healthy?
If you can stick to the following diet on a daily basis, you’ll be on track to keeping your gut nice and healthy:
- 6 portions of vegetables
- 3 portions of fruit
- Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, rye, whole oats, barley
- Substitute meat for vegetable proteins such as chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils when you can (this doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian!)
- Olive oil
- Oily fish
- Ground linseeds
- Take a probiotic supplement
- Drink 2 litres of water
Plus avoid refined and processed food products and fizzy drinks that contain sugars or sweeteners.
Why not try it for yourself and see how you feel? Do you feel happier than before?
The human body can be incredibly clever when it wants to be!
So, before your brain tells you to reach for the biscuits, it may be worth thinking what your gut would say.
If you or someone you know is struggling, especially as a result of the lockdown, please do not struggle alone. I can offer a free 15 minute telephone conversation to see if I can help. Email Naomi@lifecarecounselling.com