How Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Mood Are Linked to Your Gut?
Remember that time when you saw your crush and had butterflies in the stomach? Or, have you ever been advised to eat properly before any presentation or speaking gig?
There’s a reason why!
It’s no more a riddle. Our brain has a direct link to our gut. And this link runs both ways. When you’re hungry, you’re more susceptible to stress, anxiety and mood fluctuations. When you’re stressed and anxious, you will feel hungrier.
It is for this reason why many doctors now also consider one’s mental problems when dealing with GI conditions. Often, abdominal cramps, heartburns, and other related issues can be a result of stress, anxiety, and depression.
How Are They Linked?
As mentioned, your brain and gut communicate bi-directionally.
So, while you can just think about food and get your stomach activated with hunger pangs, you can use this dynamic even the other way around. By taking necessary measures for a healthy GI system, you can influence your psychology in a positive way.
Moreover, it’s much more than just about keeping your gut healthy.
Did you know that 90 percent of serotonin is manufactured in the digestive tract – and not in the brain as is prevalently assumed? (Source)
In fact, the gut bacteria produce many other neurotransmitters like dopamine, GABA, and norepinephrine, which are critical to our mental health.
There are many other ways, in different events, how our brain and gut microbiome interacts. The microbiome is a collection of bacterial cells that are located in the colon.
So, an unbalanced gut microbiome (this unbalance is also called dysbiosis) can have significant consequences on our mental health, including stimulating the biological stress response of the body that is regulated by HPA or Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal axis.
So, by controlling your dysbiosis, you can effectively control your mood, stress, anxiety, and psychiatric disorders.
Comes the obvious question then…
How to Control Your Gut Health?
There are many ways of course. And these “ways” must be clustered to work collectively for optimum benefits.
Foremost, you must work out daily. Being physically active gets your colon moving, improving your bowel movements and managing irritable bowel symptoms better.
Following, a lot of attention must be paid to your diet – what you eat, what you drink, how much you eat, at what time you eat, and so forth.
There are certain foods that are ideal to improve your gut bacteria and hence boost neurotransmitters. Adopt a plant-based diet and eat more vegetables, fruits, legumes, and beans. The likes of broccoli, green peas, raspberries, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, and whole grains are very good.
Add more fermented foods to your diet, including yogurt, tempeh, and kimchi.
In addition, eat more prebiotic foods (get a prebiotic supplement if needed), avoid artificial supplements, eat foods that are rich in polyphenols, and keep junk items at bay.
Now, before making any change to your diet, it’s essential to consult a certified health nutrition coach. This is more important if you have any existing health condition or you are trying to achieve any specific fitness goal.
There’s a need for more studies around the subject, especially how specific gut bacteria are related to various mental states. However, whatever empirical evidence and conclusive researches we have in hand, they are sufficient to understand just how crucial our gut’s health is in positively influencing us psychologically.
So, if you’re dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, or any other psychiatric disorder, probiotic might be the better answer than Prozac. Improve your diet and lifestyle to improve the health of your GI system. This will bring seamless benefits for your mental health.