What’s the link between gut health and mental health?

What’s the link between gut health and mental health?

  • Zespri SunGold kiwifruit
  • Zespri Green kiwifruit
  • Digestive Health

It’s widely accepted that what happens in your head can be felt in your stomach. After all, our language is full of expressions such as ‘gut feeling’, which are frequently used to describe the connection between our bodies and our minds. Recently however, nutritionists have been paying more and more attention to the specific scientific links that may exist between gut health and mental health. Sound interesting? Keep reading to find out more…

It’s all about communication1-2


The latest research into gut and mental health has focused on the two-way communication between the microbiota in our gut, and the thoughts and feelings in our brain. Known as the ‘gut-brain axis’, there is growing evidence to suggest that this could explain some of the intuitions we have about the relationship between our stomachs and our minds. Feeling butterflies yet?

The role of balanced bacteria


Your gut, or microbiome, contains trillions of bacteria. Some studies have shown that the diversity of this ecosystem could have a direct impact on some markers of mental health, including anxiety and depression1-2. Zespri Green kiwifruit contains components such as dietary fibre and polyphenols, which have been shown to positively impact gut microbiota3-6.

The benefits of probiotics


Another fascinating line of research, called psychobiotics, focuses on the effects of probiotics on mental health. One clinical study found that patients receiving daily probiotics were able to better cope with negative emotions, and showed signs of improved mood7. Of course, more research is needed to fully understand the connection, but many nutritionists are becoming increasingly interested in the field.

The Mediterranean diet and happiness


The health benefits of a Mediterranean diet have been known for a long time, but new research might suggest that they are even greater than we once thought. In a 2017 study, patients with severe depression who followed a Mediterranean diet experienced greater rises in happiness levels8. Don’t forget: the Mediterranean diet recommends a high intake of fruits and vegetables, and with a nutritional adequacy score of 11.4, Zespri Green kiwifruit is one of the most nutritious foods you can find!9

Eating for a healthier gut and mind

Though the science is not yet totally established, the above findings suggest that there are some smart food choices we can make to improve our gut and mental health. As just one idea, what about a ginger, carrot, kiwifruit, and kefir yoghurt smoothie? This savoury smoothie is packed full of ingredients that can help improve your microbiota, including probiotics. It also fits in very well to the Mediterranean diet. Lastly, but just as importantly, it is delicious – another key component for improving our mood and helping us to feel happy and healthy.


  1. Rossi, M. Gut Health and Mental Health: What’s the Link?. The Gut Doctor. Available online: https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/all-articles/gut-health-and-mental-health-link
  2. Clapp, M., Aurora, N., Herrera, L., Bhatia, M., Wilen, E., & Wakefield, S. (2017). Gut microbiota's effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis.Clinics and practice,7(4), 987. doi:10.4081/cp.2017.987
  3. Paturi G, Butts CA, Bentley-Hewitt KL, Ansell J. Influence of green and gold kiwifruit on indices of large bowel function in healthy rats. J Food Sci. 2014;79:H1611-20.
  4. Han KS, Balan P, Molist Gasa F, Boland M. Green kiwifruit modulates the colonic microbiota in growing pigs. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2011;52:379-85.
  5. Rosendale DI, Blatchford PA, Sims IM, Parkar SG, Carnachan SM, Hedderley D, Ansell J. Characterizing kiwifruit carbohydrate utilization in vitro and its consequences for human faecal microbiota. J Proteome Res. 2012;11:5863-75.
  6. O’Hara AM, Shanahan F. The gut flora as a forgotten organ. EMBO Reports. 2006;7:688-93.
  7. Tillisch K., et al. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. (2013) Jun;144(7):1394-401, 1401.e1-4. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043.
  8. Natalie Parletta, Dorota Zarnowiecki, Jihyun Cho, Amy Wilson, Svetlana Bogomolova, Anthony Villani, Catherine Itsiopoulos, Theo Niyonsenga, Sarah Blunden, Barbara Meyer, Leonie Segal, Bernhard T. Baune & Kerin O’Dea(2019)A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: A randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED),Nutritional Neuroscience,22:7,474-487,DOI:1080/1028415X.2017.1411320
  9. Darmon N, Darmon M, Maillot M, Drewnowski A. A nutrient density standard for vegetables and fruits: nutrients per calorie and nutrients per unit cost. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105:1881-7.