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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Barsky

Your Mental Health Can Be Related To Your Gut Issues—Here’s How

In the past, many people believed that mental health conditions were solely rooted in the brain. Now, our understanding has expanded. We know that the brain and body both play a role.

There is a deep connection between your mental and physical health. But how does your physical health actually affect your mental health and mood?

Exploring how the gut microbiome works can give some insight. Your gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacterial cells that absorb nutrients from your food and protect your digestive system from pathogens.

It’s also known as your “second brain” because of its influence on your mental health! Here’s how the second brain in your gut influences your mental health and emotions.

Gut-Brain Axis

Your vagus nerve connects your gut and brain. This component of your automatic nervous system enables you to breathe, swallow, and digest your food. It relays messages between your brain and digestive organs.

This is why stress can easily affect your digestion; have you ever felt nauseous while stuck in an anxiety-inducing situation? Furthermore, your diet and gut health can affect your mood because of your vagus nerve. Eating a poor diet and throwing off your digestive system can contribute to higher levels of anxiety.

Stress and the Vagus Nerve

What happens when you’re stressed? Stress can affect the functioning of your vagus nerve. In turn, this can lead to inflammation.

This means that the communication between your gut and brain can be impaired. Overall, this can fuel a cycle that is difficult to break out of. Physically, you may not feel your best, and your emotional health can suffer, too.

Microbial Imbalance

When you have a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, your whole body feels better, and your mental health will likely be more stable, too. But what happens if harmful bacteria become dominant because of dietary changes?

This upsets the balance, and it can lead to a condition called “dysbiosis.” Dysbiosis can contribute to inflammation, and an imbalance that favors harmful bacteria can leave you feeling stuck in an emotional rut.

For instance, eating too much sugar or too little fiber can upset the delicate balance in your gut and increase your risk of develop depression.

Nutrient Absorption

A healthy gut microbiome allows you to effectively absorb the nutrients from your food. If you’re not getting all the vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients you need, you might struggle with your physical health.

This is true for your mental health as well. A diverse microbiome populated by beneficial bacteria provides the fuel that your cells need and acts as a preventative mechanism against inflammation. A microbiome imbalance can make it harder for you to properly digest your food, and you might not feel your best.

Hormone Regulation

Your hormones have a huge impact on your mood. Long-term hormone imbalances can contribute to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Your gut actually plays a major role in hormone regulation, so a healthy gut microbiome is key if you want to ensure that your hormones are balanced.

Your gut microbiome contributes to serotonin production, which is a hormone that makes you feel happy. In addition, the condition of your gut microbiome contributes to the production of the neurotransmitter GABA, which makes you feel relaxed and helps you let go of stress and anxiety.

Basically, a healthy gut microbiome can boost your mood and make you more resilient against stress.

Are you concerned that there is a link between your mental health symptoms and your gut health? Talking to a therapist can help you move forward. Reach out to me today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.

To learn more about depression treatment or anxiety treatment, click the links!


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