Feeling anxious? How your gut bacteria can come to the rescue!

Nadiya Hussain, like many of us, finds a peaceful state when cooking. She had always presumed that this was why cooking seemed to ease her anxiety – a kind of 'multitasking as mindfulness' – until now.

In the BBC documentary Nadiya: Anxiety and Me, Nadiya's meeting with Professor of Genetic Epidemiology, Tim Spector, leads to an eye-opening discovery about ingredients and it's one you might want to keep in mind next time you’re doing the grocery shop.

Nadiya learns from Tim Spector about the relationship between gut health and mental health.

You might not be aware of it, but your belly and brain are actually in conversation with each other. According to mounting evidence, the micro-bacteria that line our intestines can affect our mood, appetite, and resilience to changing levels of stress.

Tim explains – "Our guts are like our second brain… how you feed yours will have a huge effect on your other brain." This is because the gut microbes produce chemicals that regulate our mood.

Foods that can help reduce anxiety

Foods rich in polyphenols, also known as antioxidants are, according to Tim: "like rocket fuel for gut microbes." Polyphenols are found in brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices – so don’t shy away from adding colour and spice to your meals to maintain diverse gut bacteria.

Foods high in good, unsaturated fats like nuts are also great for reducing levels of anxiety, as are fermented food products like cheese, kefir or yoghurt, which you can eat on a daily basis.

So make sure you include some of these in your basket, because healthy food can keep your mind healthy too.

If you need to speak to someone about your mental health, the Samaritans phone line is manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can also call Childline.

Nadiya: Anxiety and Me is on BBC One on 15th May 2019 at 9pm.

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