The Impact Of Gut Health On Mental Wellness

At its essence, gut health encompasses the harmony and effectiveness of microorganisms within our digestive systems. As Dr. Matthew Barker and his devoted team at Integrative Pain and Wellness Centre suggested, this vibrant community, commonly known as the gut microbiome, greatly influences our overall well-being. It is thus crucial to grasp the importance of nurturing a healthy gut and recognise its far-reaching impact on our holistic health. 

Understanding gut health and the gut microbiome

Your gut, comprising your stomach, intestines, and colon, plays a vital role in digesting food and absorbing nutrients while eliminating waste. 

Though interpreted differently by researchers, medical professionals, and the community, gut health is generally defined as maintaining a healthy gut microbiome and minimising digestive symptoms. 

Within your large intestine reside approximately 200 diverse species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi collectively known as your gut microbiome. (Better Health Channel, 2023). 

What's the direct connection between gut health and digestive wellness?

One of the most noticeable effects of gut health is its influence on our digestive system. A well-balanced gut microbiome plays a crucial role in breaking down the food we eat, extracting vital nutrients, and ensuring optimal absorption. On the contrary, an imbalanced or disrupted gut can result in uncomfortable digestive problems. 

The mind-gut relationship: The Powerful Link

Emerging research highlights the strong connection between gut health and mental well-being. Often called the ‘second brain,’ the gut boasts a complex neural network communicating with the brain. Imbalances in the gut microbiome can impact brain chemistry, potentially causing mood swings, anxiety, and depression. (Barker, 2023) 

The Link between gut health and other factors

There are recognised connections between gut health and the following: 

  • cancer 
  • the immune system 
  • autoimmune diseases 
  • endocrine disorders – such as type 2 diabetes 
  • gastrointestinal disorders – such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease 
  • cardiovascular disease 
  • cancer 
  • sleep 
  • digestion.

How you can improve your gut health

Eat a high-fibre diet.

Fibre plays a significant role in your gut function, impacting nutrient digestion, absorption, transit time, and stool quality. Additionally, when gut bacteria break down fibre, they produce essential substances that can shape the development of gastrointestinal conditions, including bowel cancer.

Foods that are high in fibre include:
• Vegetables (e.g. Artichokes, Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato).
(Lui, 2023)
• Beans and legumes (e.g. Navy (Haricot) Beans, Small White Beans, Adzuki Beans).
​(Whitbread, 19 Beans and Legumes High in Fiber, 2023)​
• Fruit (e.g. Passion Fruit, Avocados, Prunes, Raspberries).
​(Fisher, 2023)​
• Bread and cereals (e.g. Whole Rye Bread, 100% Whole Wheat Bread).​
(Bouzek, 2022)​
• Nuts and seeds (e.g. Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds, Squash and Pumpkin Seeds).
(Whitbread, Top 10 Nuts and Seeds Highest in Fiber, 2023)​

Incorporate polyphenol-rich foods into your diet

Polyphenols, natural compounds found in plants, can positively affect your gut microbiome.

Include foods rich in polyphenols such as:
• Berries (Elderberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries, etc)
• Cocoa (Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, etc)
• Coffee and tea (Filter Coffee, Black Tea, Green Tea, etc)
• Spices (Cloves, Star Anise, Curry Powder, etc)
• Nuts and seeds (Flaxseed Meal, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, etc)
• Red Wine Olives (Black -/ Green Olives, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, etc)
​(Massy, 2023)​.

Gut health and cancer

Dr. D’Angelo states, “Prebiotics can stimulate growth and activity of various bacteria, creating a larger, more active pool that we think can ultimately stimulate the immune system. This, in turn, may translate into better cancer outcomes.” (Nebraska Medicine, 2023). 

 Further studies by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have revealed a process by which beneficial bacteria can leave the intestine, travel to lymph nodes, and reach cancerous tumours in other body areas. This discovery has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of certain immunotherapy drugs. 

According to Dr Andrew Y. Koh, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and microbiology and a member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Centre at UT Southwestern, scientists have been puzzled how gut bacteria can influence cancers in organs such as the lungs, breasts, or skin. (UT Southwestern Medical Center, 2023). 

In conclusion, understanding gut health and its intricate connection with overall well-being is of utmost importance. A balanced gut microbiome impacts digestion and plays a crucial role in mental health, immunity, and various diseases, including cancer. Individuals can positively influence their gut health by adopting a high-fibre diet and incorporating polyphenol-rich foods. Exciting research from institutions such as UT Southwestern Medical Centre sheds light on the potential of enhancing cancer treatments by manipulating gut bacteria, leading to hope for new medical possibilities. 

This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance. 


Barker, D. M. (2023, September 17). How Does Gut Health Impact Overall Well-Being? Retrieved from Integrative Pain and Wellness Center:

Better Health Channel. (2023). Gut Health. Retrieved from Better Health Channel:

Bouzek, A. (2022, May 27). 11 Best High Fiber Bread Choices. Retrieved from The Geriatric Dietitian:

Fisher, L. (2023, October 11). 16 of the Highest Fiber Fruits, Plus Delicious Ways to Eat More of Them. Retrieved from Real Simple:

Lui, N. (2023, May 9). The 9 Best High-Fiber Vegetables You Should Be Eating, According to a Dietitian. Retrieved from EatingWell:

Massy, H. (2023, February 22). Which foods are highest in polyphenols? Retrieved from Zoe:

Nebraska Medicine. (2023, April 4). Using the power of the gut to fight cancer. Retrieved from Nebraska Medicine:

UT Southwestern Medical Center. (2023, March 9). Healthy gut bacteria can help fight cancer in other parts of the body, UTSW researchers find. Retrieved from UT Southwestern Medical Center:

Whitbread, D. (2023, October 18). 19 Beans and Legumes High in Fiber. Retrieved from My Food Data:

Whitbread, D. (2023, October 18). Top 10 Nuts and Seeds Highest in Fiber. Retrieved from My Food Data:



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