Working through anxiety and depression can often feel lonely. Rest assured, these feelings are more common than you’d think. Every person has a unique journey through life, and every feeling you feel is justified, both the good and the bad. If you are someone who identifies with the above feelings, it is important to evaluate what may be the cause of them.
Mood can alter and interfere with digestive health, the opposite is also true, as characteristics in the GI tract can cause reminiscent mental responses. Psychological conditions, like anxiety and depression, receive such a definition because of their effects on mood. Psychology often affects physiology, primarily gut health, leading to a symbiotic relationship between an individual's mental state and physical wellbeing.
Let us put this into a real-life situation for you: if a person's anxiety led to stress hormones seeping into the digestive system, interrupting typical processes, and causing gastric distress, a similar event of physical discomfort could result in stress. The rest of this article will focus on the relationship between gut health and anxiety and attempt to identify how gut bacteria can contribute to feelings of depression.
Gut Bacteria's Role in Anxiety
Your gut microbiome is essential to your health. A balanced digestive system will include all necessary bacteria and organisms to ensure a healthy and productive GI tract.1 When your microbiome is not balanced or lacks specific microorganisms and bacteria for gut health, problems can occur.
However, these problems do not only occur in the intestines or digestive system.2 Your whole body is affected, and for many people, their mental health is at risk. When your microbiome is out of whack, it struggles to communicate healthy signals to the brain through the vagus nerve. At this point, inflammation kicks in, contributing to reduced production of calming compounds and mood-promoting chemicals. As a result, this can cause feelings of panic or worry. And, some people may even begin to feel sad or depressed.
How Gut Bacteria Contributes to Depression
A healthy gut microbiome includes microflora, which is essential to transmitting signals to the brain, often carrying mood-boosting and calming chemicals.3 Unfortunately, when your digestive system does not balance good bacteria, inflammation can occur, interrupting these brain signals and affecting mood. When someone with an already anxious personality lacks microflora, your digestive system begins fighting off inflammation and stress hormones. This process makes the microbiome even less effective and ultimately contributes to low mood and depression.
A stable digestive microbiome contributes to a positive mood and confidence or feelings of safety. Thankfully, there are ways to improve gut health and counteract the adverse effects of an unhealthy microbiome.
Healthy Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
We know this is a lot to take in. Luckily, there are ways to reduce an unhealthy microbiome's potential adverse effects and maintain a healthy connection between gut bacteria and mood.
Like any system in your body, your GI tract requires maintenance and attention. To ensure a healthy microbiome, you need to eliminate unhealthy habits, improve your diet to promote gut health, and focus on wellness.4
Some of the worst things for your gut health include sugar, processed foods, gluten, and alcohol. Your diet should consist of fresh and locally sourced organic foods and water. Water intake is extremely important, especially when it comes to gut health. It is advised to drink 3.7 liters of fluids a day for men and 2.7 liters for women.5 Not drinking enough? Check out our favorite tips to help increase water intake.
Next, you want to focus on consuming probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics help eliminate or overcrowd harmful microbes in your gut, encouraging the development of healthy gut bacteria. Prebiotics nourish and support good microbe growth and health. Both prebiotics and probiotics can be found in supplement or food form.
Finally, focus on developing an exercise routine, and don't forget to take a multivitamin. Both contribute to a healthy microbiome and strengthened immune system.
Feelings of anxiety and depression are extremely common, and should never be ignored. Your mental health is of utmost importance and figuring out what may be contributing to upset feelings should be a priority. Take each day with ease. Do something that makes you happy at least once a day. Mental health is a journey for each and every one of us. We are in this together.