Could your gut health and anxiety be related?

You might not realize it, but your gut health and anxiety level are directly related. This is why, before a big event, you may feel “butterflies” in your stomach, or you may even feel sick during a stressful situation. It’s not just during these big events that your gut health and anxiety are linked – it turns out that your gut may actually be ruling your day-to-day mood.

“For a long time we knew that the brain controls the gut and how it works, but now we’re getting more and more evidence about how the gut can affect our emotional state,” says health psychologist Dr. Meg Arroll. “We are just beginning to understand how gut health is linked to bad mood and anxiety.”

The good news is that ensuring you have a healthier gut can be as easy as investing in one of the best blenders and making a probiotic-rich smoothie every morning. So if you think your gut might be giving you up when it comes to everyday anxiety, sleep anxiety, or even sexual anxiety, here’s how to give it the boost it needs …

How Does Gut Health Affect Anxiety?

Your gut health and anxiety levels are linked because the gut contains more nerve cells than the brain and contains many neurotransmitters associated with mood. This is why the intestine is sometimes considered to be your second brain.

“The gut, which houses the enteric nervous system, is often referred to as ‘little brain’ and the actual brain is referred to as ‘big brain’ when we discuss gut-brain interactions,” says Dr. Arroll.

The connection between the two is called the gut-brain axis or GBA. “When you feel an ‘instinct’ or ‘butterflies’, it is most likely signals transmitted through this GBA,” says Dr Tina Tan.

When you think of the gut, you can imagine the food being digested in your stomach, but it’s the microbiome inside the large intestine that is really important. This is the part directly related to anxiety.

It’s because researchers found that low levels of gut microbes (the trillions of microorganisms that live primarily on the internal surfaces of our intestines) increase the risk of anxiety and depression, while higher amounts decrease it. So if you don’t give your gut the TLC it needs, it can have a big impact on your emotional well-being.

Anxiety Written on Tiles

(Image credit: Getty Images / SCIENTIFIC PHOTO LIBRARY)

How To Fix Gut Anxiety

You can change the state of your gut microbiome by taking probiotics – friendly gut microbes – which can help calm an anxious mind. “Probiotics are live bacteria found in foods, such as yogurt, and in probiotic supplements – they help populate the gut microbiota,” says Dr. Arroll.

Just swapping in your daily soft drink might help. “Research on brain activity revealed reduced activation in the part of the brain that controls emotional processes in participants who consumed a fermented probiotic drink, such as kombucha.” The benefits of Kombucha also include more energy and less headache, so it’s worth a try.

Best of all, on average, it only takes about two months to change your gut health. “Studies looking at the effect of probiotics on depression have shown that within eight weeks mood and function improved,” says Dr. Arroll.

Here’s how to correct your gut health and anxiety levels, according to Dr. Arroll …

  • Go for fermented foods
    “Kefir, yogurt, miso or sauerkraut have been shown to help improve gut health. One study found that fermented milk helped prevent stress symptoms in college students. ”
  • Eat well
    “The Mediterranean diet increases beneficial gut bacteria and reduces your risk of becoming depressed by 30%. “
  • Don’t take unnecessary antibiotics
    “Antibiotics kill wide ranges of bacteria, they’re not sophisticated enough to just kill the nasty types. If you must take them, follow the advice of a healthcare practitioner.
  • Sleep well
    “The first studies have shown that better quality sleep is linked to a greater diversity of species in the gut microbiota. “

Bottle of supplements

(Image credit: Getty Images / Grace Cary)

Which probiotic is good for anxiety?

Knowing whether to choose prebiotics or probiotics to help with gut health and anxiety can be confusing. In that case, to relieve anxiety, you should look for a probiotic that contains lactobacilli and bifidobacteria on the label. These are the most popular “friendly bacteria” used in probiotic supplements. “The more diverse and balanced the gut microbiota, the better,” says Dr. Tan.

Here is our selection of the best …

How do you know if your gut is healthy?

Besides your daily mood, your bathing habits may be the fastest way to assess a gut health problem.

“Your stool itself may be the best test of what’s going on inside your gastrointestinal tract and the health of your gut,” says Dr. Tan. “Talk to your doctor if you have any problems, such as regular constipation or diarrhea. ”

Anything you can do, even just using natural laxatives to keep your bowel movements regular, can make a difference.

This is because, even though your gut is healthy now, it can easily become exhausted, which is why it is essential to take care of it.

It’s best to keep a diary of your eating habits and anxiety for eight weeks to see if there is any change. If you continue to have anxiety or if it starts to get worse, see a healthcare practitioner for further advice.

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