Have you heard about the gut-brain connection? Your digestive system has a big impact on your mental health!
Have you ever experienced anxiety and stress, and your stomach feels funny and uncomfortable? Have you felt nauseous from feeling worried? This is because the gastrointestinal tract is connected to your brain and very sensitive to emotions, which means that symptoms can be triggered by your feelings.
Your gut or digestive system is responsible for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients, while your mental health is connected to your brain and refers to your emotional and psychological well-being. How are these two connected so closely that your stomach would be affected by a negative mental state or vice versa?
The gut-brain axis
The gut-brain axis is a bi-directional communication pathway between the gut and the brain. This communication pathway has several different mechanisms, including neural, hormonal, and immunological pathways.
The gut-brain axis is a communication system that allows the gut and brain to communicate. The gut sends signals to the brain via the vagus nerve, while the brain sends signals to the gut via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This communication system allows the gut and brain to influence each other.
When we are stressed, the HPA axis is activated, which leads to the release of cortisol - a stress hormone. Cortisol can cause changes in the gut microbiome, leading to inflammation and increased permeability of the gut lining. This can result in the release of inflammatory molecules, which can travel to the brain and trigger the release of cytokines, which can cause inflammation in the brain and can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
On the other hand, when the gut microbiome is healthy and diverse, it can produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which have anti-inflammatory effects on the brain. SCFAs can also stimulate the production of neurotrophins, which are proteins that promote the growth and survival of neurons in the brain. This can lead to improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of mental health disorders.
How your gut can affect your mental health
The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiome. These microorganisms play a critical role in maintaining our overall health, including playing a massive role in our mental health.
One of the ways that the gut microbiome influences mental health is through the production of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that help to manage various aspects of mental health. The gut microbiome produces neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA - these are essential for regulating mood, anxiety, and stress.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in controlling mood, appetite, and sleep. It is estimated that 90% of the body's serotonin is produced in the gut; studies have shown that changes in the gut microbiome can lead to changes in serotonin production and function. Dopamine is another neurotransmitter that is produced by the gut microbiome. It is involved in the regulation of motivation, reward, and pleasure and is also implicated in the development of certain mental health disorders, such as addiction and schizophrenia.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is involved in the management of anxiety and stress. Studies have shown that alterations in the gut microbiome can lead to changes in GABA production, which can impact mental health.
One study published in the journal Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease found that people with depression have a less diverse gut microbiome than those without depression. Another study published in the journal Psychopharmacology found that probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria found in the gut, can improve mood and cognitive function in healthy adults.
Strategies to implement to improve gut and mental health:
- Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet rich in fibre, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Try to ditch and switch your white bread for gluten-free bread, use gluten-free pasta such as pea fusilli and gluten-free grains like quinoa to avoid inflammation in the body that could harm your mental and overall health.
- Take probiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria that can provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. They can be found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, milk kefir or water kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha or taken as supplements like gut build vegan kefir powder, Rawbiotics - gut, Rawbiotics - daily, gut body powder and gut-brain powder.
- Manage stress: Stress can harm the gut microbiome and your mental health. Practices such as meditation and deep breathing can help reduce stress, therefore improving gut health.
- Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can disrupt the gut microbiome and increase the risk of mental health disorders. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to protect your mental stability.
- Exercise regularly: Exercise has been shown to improve gut health and mental health. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week to boost your vitality and wellness.
In conclusion, the relationship between gut health and mental health is complex and multi-faceted. The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in this relationship, producing neurotransmitters, influencing the immune system, and affecting the activity of the gut-brain axis. Improving gut health through strategies such as a healthy diet, probiotics, managing stress, getting adequate sleep and exercising regularly can have a massive impact on how you feel mentally.
You can shop for the products mentioned in this blog at our online store or at our shop situated at Shop 116, Blueberry Square, Blueberry St, Honeydew. Our wonderful staff would love to help with any questions you may have about gut health and can provide you with guidance on what may be best for your body. Come and explore the many beneficial products that can aid you in switching to a healthy and happy life.
So remember, your gut and mental health have an important relationship, and if you look after your gut - you are looking after your happiness. Here is to happy gut bugs and many years of vitality!