Mental Health and "Gut" Health + 7 Tips


As a psychotherapist who specializes in trauma and anxiety, I have come to appreciate and expand my knowledge about the interplay between mind, body and spirit. Though many clients come to me to heal their minds, we often look at their entire beings; their eating patterns, routines, rituals, supports, popular thoughts as well as addressing underlying core issues beneath their discomfort and tension. 

One element that I've seen transform clients' lives as they engage in healing mind and body is paying attention not just to their minds, but also their bodies.

And one of the biggest areas that need care and attention? the gut. Thought we all know it's important to "trust our gut", we also need to look at how what we’re feeding our actual “gut” with.


You want to look at if you're feeding yourself with nourishing foods and surrounding yourself with environments that are invigorating and replenishing, or possibly not.

Did you know: Your gut is the center to your immune system, and approximately 70 to 80% of the serotonin used by the brain is produced there?

This is exactly why your gut plays a tremendous impact on your overall health, health of your skin (avoiding rashes/acne outbreak) emotional balance, brain clarity and well-being. 

What are some things you may innocently be doing that are bad for your gut?

1)  On-The-Go-Eating

Today's society is all about "rushing" and getting more things done in less time. But when it comes to eating and digestion, it's important to take your time, breath slowly and allow the food to go down slowly so you can ingest and digest all the necessary nutrients in a calm, restful manner. It is ideal to set aside 20-30 minutes to eat you food, as this is how long it takes for the stomach to signal the brain that it's satisfied and full. If you eat when you're rushed, you end up consuming more food than your body actually needs. By slowing down you can listen to your hunger and thirst cues, and respond to them appropriately.

2) Ongoing Stress

Research published in a journal called Brain, Behavior and Immunity explained that when you’re under constant stress, your immune system is compromised, your nervous system is on edge and your gut health is compromised as well. Alongside this, sleep studies have proven that lacking adequate “shut-eye” reduces the number of friendly gut bacteria in your body, which impacts your overall mood and well-being.

Here’s a holistic prescription to implement daily routines of self care.

Do this when life seems calm, or when you’re noticing added stressors coming up. The more we routinely implement stress reducing activities, the more we strengthen the body to better manage stressors, be it daily ones or new, shocking level stress that comes up throughout life.


Some ideas; Implementing “rest days” into your schedule where you have time to slow your pace and care for yourself, attending yoga classes, adding a meditative practice, a morning prayer, a weekly support group, individual psychotherapy, or a scheduled coffee date with a trusted friend. All of these go a long way in strengthening your overall health!

3) Not Drinking Enough Water

When you don't drink enough you run the risk of dehydration, which blocks the natural flow needed for gastrointestinal health. The goal is to drink at least eight cups of fluid - ideally water -per day. 

When looking at the connection between constipation and, your gut and your well-being- you'll notice a strong correlation. When you're body is backed up with toxins that aren't able to be released, your intestines  aren't able to function properly, leaving you feeling unwell. Drink up!

4) Not Bulking Enough on the Fiber.

25-35 grams of fiber per day are recommended. These can be found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains. A few examples are oats, apples, broccoli, raspberries beans and artichokes. 

Eating foods with fiber helps with feelings of satiety, improves overall digestion and helps stabilize blood sugar levels. Ensuring your diet consists of high fiber foods is also a way to reduce the risks of developing colon or rectal cancer. 

5) Skipping Exercise. 

Physical activity impacts your mood by releasing the "feel good" hormones as well as altering your gut bacteria, which supports gut health. The more movement, the better you'll feel, inside and out. Exercise moves the digestive tract and gives it a chance to loosen up, and remove wastes with more ease. Those who don't exercise will often notice signs of constipation, symptoms of IBS and digestive complains or stomach cramps. It's recommended to work-out three times a week, this can be anything from a twenty minute walk, a weekly yoga class or dancing to your favorite song in the comfort of your own home. 


6) Those Processed Foods

Processed Foods {along with sugar} cause harm to the gut microbiome. When we eat processed foods that are far from their “natural form”, we off-balance the levels of bacteria in our gut. It’s ok to eat processed foods or snacks from time to time, but on a daily basis, eating processed foods impacts the health of our gut. Our bodies weren’t designed to digest all the chemicals found in processed foods. And, regarding sugar level intake, our liver and gut aren’t made to process the amounts we currently consume on a daily basis.

You’ll be doing yourself a favor by sticking to whole foods to keep your gut bacteria balanced. And, if you’ve been eating more sugar and/or processed foods for a while, the good news is that starting today, you can begin repairing your gut health by making one healthy choice. Every choice goes a long way.

7) Alcohol Intake

Aside for how alcohol impacts your mood, and can become a mood-altering behavior that avoid tending to the real problem, drinking is also related to dysbiosis- which is a bacteria imbalance in the body.

As well, drinking too much alcohol irritates the stomach lining, and relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter- which is what prevents stomach acid from flowing back into your esophagus, which helps with heartburn.

Reduce your alcohol and you’ll be inviting more emotional expression, and presence of mind. If something is bothering you, you’re better off acknowledging it early on than turning to a substance that provides short term relief {often exacerbating the problem in the long-run} and is bad for your health.

Skip the drink, or, if you need that perk, stick to one or two glasses maximum a week.

It’s about progress, not perfection. Follow the 80/20 rule and your mind, body and spirit will thank you!

At the end of the day, it’s all about balance. I wouldn’t ask you to expect perfection in your eating, patterns, or any choice points, but if you can follow the 80/2o rule where 80 percent of your choices are healthy ones, you’ll be in good standing!


If 80 percent of your foods are gut friendly, if you keep your stressors on the lower ranger and you keep your mind, body and spirit nourished with calming routines, you’ll be doing yourself a great favor!

A healthy body contributes to a healthy mind, soul and spirit- and allows for longer, richer living!

If you’re reading this and are seeking some one-on-one support to help you with cultivating a healthier lifestyle for your mind and body, feel free to reach out.

At Integrative Psychotherapy, our psychotherapists are ready to help you work through emotional blockages and help you learn to live with more balance and less stress.

Book your free 15 minute consult here. We look forward to helping you take your next step towards a better life today.