The gut-brain connection is very much a two-way street – each affects the other.
Do you experience “having butterflies” in your stomach? How about a gut-wrenching experience? Or feeling nauseous before giving a public speech? These are just some of the signs that your gut and your brain are connected.
The gut-brain connection, also called the gut-brain axis, has been in the spotlight as mental health issues become more highlighted in recent years. Studies are looking into how keeping the gut healthy might alleviate the symptoms of mental health disorders.
The gut and the brain are physically connected by the vagus nerve, which is responsible for controlling the signals from the brain to different organs in the body. The gut-brain axis also involves chemicals, such as hormones and neurotransmitters that transmit messages between the gut and the brain. These chemicals are affected by the gut microbiome, or the composition of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in the gut.
When there is an imbalance in the gut microbiome, such as an overgrowth of a particular bacteria, it can contribute to mental health problems, such as anxiety, stress, and depression. On the other hand, mental health problems can also lead to gut health issues, as they can cause changes in the gut microbiome.
Here are some ways that gut health affects mental health:
A Leaky Gut Triggers The Release Cytokines
The gut has a thin lining that acts as a barrier, preventing molecules and other elements from entering the bloodstream when they are not supposed to. When this lining is compromised, you have a “leaky gut.” Among other things, a leaky gut can trigger the release of cytokines, which are pro-inflammatory proteins that increases the blood flow around an infected area. Cytokines are essential for regulating immune response, but the downside is that they can cause low mood and lethargy.
Gut Microbes Are Important In The Production Of Serotonin And Dopamine
Half of the body’s dopamine and up to 95 percent of its serotonin are produced in the gut. These two neurotransmitters are called happy hormones as they are responsible for controlling your mood and are associated with the feelings of happiness. When your gut is unhealthy, it could affect the production of serotonin and dopamine, which can impact mental functions, including sleep and mood.
Irritable Bowels Are Linked To Higher Levels Of Mood Disorders
Millions of people suffer from irritable bowel, which can be a debilitating experience. Irritable bowel can cause higher levels of mood disorders, even to the point that some patients think of committing suicide. Irritable bowel due to an unhealthy gut brings significant distress, anxiety, and depression to those who suffer from it.
Low Levels Of Bacteria Could Lead To Depression
Studies have found that people with low levels of certain gut bacteria, such as Coprococcus and Dialister, may suffer with depression. As mentioned above, gut bacteria are a precursor for the production of dopamine and serotonin that are crucial for brain functions. A few experiments have shown that a probiotics-rich diet can improve the symptoms of mental health disorders, although more proof is needed.
Common Symptoms Of An Unhealthy Gut That Could Affect Mental Health
If you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed, you might want to check your gut health.
Here are some of the symptoms, and addressing them could help you deal with any mental health issues you may be facing:
- Poor quality sleep
- Skin irritations
- Autoimmune disorders
- Food intolerances
Mental Health Issues Associated With Gut Health
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Bipolar disorder
Keep Your Gut Healthy
Given the apparent connection of your gut health to your mental health, it is vitally important to keep your gut healthy. It is essential to keep the balance of bacteria in your gut to ensure an optimal overall health condition.
Some of the things you can do include the following:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Eat prebiotics food to help the bacteria grow
- Eat probiotics to restore the balance in your gut microbiome
- Get enough and good quality sleep
- Be physically active and exercise more
- Find time to relax, and reduce and manage your stress
- Avoid taking antibiotics unless essential
A healthy gut means a healthy mental condition. When you are experiencing any form of psychological disorder, you can start addressing the symptoms by helping your gut to heal. Keep it healthy and be happier!
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