Nutrition: A gut feeling

The Gut-Brain Axis

By Hannah Dentry, WAC Dietitian

From fecal transplants to fermented teas, we have seen a recent boom in products and treatments targeting gut health. If you have ever suffered from gastrointestinal distress, you understand how important gut health is. What you may not realize is that the bacteria that live in your gut (microbiome) can influence not only digestive health, but also mental and emotional health due to the gut-brain axis (GBA).

Via the GBA, your intestines and your brain are in constant communication. This two-way communication is powerful. Your gut bacteria can influence brain chemistry related to anxiety, stress response, and memory function. Gut bacteria may even play a role in psychotic disorders such as depression.

By including prebiotic and probiotic foods in your diet, you can positively influence your gut health!

Probiotics: The “good guys” of gut bacteria. Eating foods that contain probiotics as part of a balanced diet helps to establish a healthy, balanced gut microbiome.

Dairy based:

  • Fermented milk, such as kefir
  • Yogurt


  • Kimchee
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sourdough bread
  • Tempeh and miso

PrebioticsYour good gut bacteria (probiotics) use these foods as fuel.

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Raw garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onion
  • Whole wheat foods

Other ways to improve your gut health:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat your vegetables and whole grains (sources of insoluble fiber)
  • Manage stress
  • Stay active

Prebiotics and probiotics are more bioavailable (have an active effect on your body) when eaten in the form of food. You are also less likely to overconsume them when you eat them naturally instead of relying on supplements.

—Posted September 5, 2018

More Athletics & Wellness

Run, bike, and swim like never before
Busting Nutrition Myths
Weight loss and you