The Link between Gut Health and Anxiety and Depression Disorders

We’ve all heard the saying, “Go with your gut.” However, many of us have probably never taken the time to really think about the science behind what that means.

For instance, have you ever wondered why you get butterflies before giving a presentation or going on a first date?

Or how about why you get stomach pains when you’re stressed out or feeling bad about something.

The reason you can feel anxiousness, stress, or sadness in your gut is because your brain and gut are so closely linked together. In fact, they are so closely tied because they constantly communicate via neural networks.

To gain a deeper understanding of how the gut can cause anxiety, depression, and other emotional responses, keep reading…

How the Gut and Brain Work Together to Influence Emotions

The central nervous system maintains a complex two-way line of communication between the gut and brain via the “gut-brain axis.”

Over the years, researchers have manipulated gut bacteria that affect this connection and have determined that microbes influence how the brain develops, particularly the regions that influence the stress response and conditions related to stress, such as anxiety and depression.

It’s also theorized that bacteria in your intestines can also send chemical messages to your brain.

In fact, we know that some strains of gut bacteria can secrete neurotransmitters. And we also know that the enteric nervous system lining the digestive tract contains millions of neurons that can respond to these neurotransmitters and send signals up to the brain.

David Wolf, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center, explains that…

“The key to the complex interaction is the enteric nervous system, which experts sometimes refer to as the ‘brain in your gut.’ Thousands of nerves line the intestines and signal muscles to contract to propel food along the digestive tract. Like the one in your head, your gut’s brain depends on neurotransmitters such as serotonin, the famous feel-good chemical.”

Even further, Dr. Chait explains…

“Around 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the intestinal tract. While the serotonin in your brain regulates mood, in the gut, it promotes the growth of nerve cells and alerts the immune system to foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria.

Serotonin also keeps the two systems in constant communication, so when stress hits, it’s no wonder your stomach starts to churn—or that GI problems make you depressed and anxious.”

There’s a lot of research that still needs to be done to pinpoint exactly how the digestive system causes mood swings and emotional disorders. However, as we just mentioned above, there is already a lot of solid research that proves the connection exists.

How to Heal Your Gut to Improve Emotional Health

First and foremost, if you are dealing with an emotional disorder like anxiety or depression, your first step needs to be seeking the help of a medical professional.

While your gut may be playing a role in causing your extreme emotional fluctuations, it is very possible that there are others factors in play.

That being said, it’s always worth taking a shot at improving your gut health while also following the recommended instructions from your primary care provider.

At the very least, your digestive tract will benefit from a little TLC.

Here’s what I personally recommend…

  1. Eat a healthy diet–It’s so important to pay attention to what you’re putting in your body. A diet full of lean proteins, healthy fats, and nutritious vegetables will give your digestive system the fuel it needs to stay healthy.
  2. Get tested for food sensitivities–Poor digestive health can easily be linked to food sensitivities. Getting tested to see if you have food sensitivities is relatively inexpensive and easy to do. Learn more about food sensitivity testing here.
  3. Exercise–Every system in your body is connected, which means total body health is important for maintaining the health of individual organ systems. Add at least 30 minutes of exercise into your routine every day.
  4. Take a quality probiotic–Probiotics are a great way to help maintain a healthy and balanced gut system. I recommend ProbioMax® Daily DF. You can order it here.

For more information on how the gut system influences our emotions, immune health, and chronic health conditions, I recommend you check out my article on The Digestive System: The Body’s Second Brain.

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