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The Gut-Brain Connection: How Your Gut Health Affects Your Mental Wellbeing

woman with stomach pain.

An optimally functioning gut has trillions of microbes living harmoniously to provide essential nutrients while protecting the body from potential pathogens. These microbes also communicate with your immune system and the rest of the body through hormonal and neural messengers known as the gut-brain connection axis. Many studies show a connection between gut health and mental wellbeing, demonstrating the importance of maintaining it.

A healthy gut is an integral part of mental wellbeing. As one way of measuring gut health, note the color of your stool, an effective indicator of digestion health. Another sign of good digestive function would be having regular, firm bowel movements rather than watery ones.

You can add beans, berries, lentils, asparagus, and artichokes to your diet if it’s low in fiber. These foods also include antioxidants. Eating these foods will encourage healthy gut health. Prebiotics are healthy plant fibers that help beneficial microorganisms grow in your gut. They can improve your sleep by fostering the growth of good bacteria in your stomach.

Antimicrobial medication use may alter the equilibrium in your digestive system, which can cause anxiety and sadness related to the gut-brain link. Some cancer therapies, including antibiotics, can alter gut health. Diets high in sugar can harm gut health and cause digestive problems, including diarrhea.

How does the gut-brain connection work?

Trillions of bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and other microbes live in our gut and send signals back to our brain via the vagus nerve, linking our gut with the nervous system. This communication pathway is known as the gut-brain axis. Its two-way feedback allows for interaction between brain and gut microbes.

The GI tract is highly responsive to emotions. Everyone has experienced “butterflies in the stomach” or tension in the pit of their stomach when worried or afraid. This is because our GI tract reacts to emotions like anxiety, sadness, anger, or joy by sending signals throughout our bodies that cause increased heart rates and digestive problems.

The Importance of Gut Health for Mental Wellbeing

The complex ecology of the bacteria in your stomach (your gut microbiome) plays an essential role in digesting nutrients, from vitamin and mineral absorption to regulation of metabolism and appetite. According to research, your gut microbiome can even influence mental wellbeing.

Enhancing gut health requires making dietary and lifestyle changes, such as increasing fiber consumption (via vegetables, beans, whole grains, and nuts), probiotic-rich yogurt or fermented food like kombucha and tempeh, and adequate sleep and stress reduction. Limiting processed food and sugar and fat intake, and taking regular exercise are key factors. Also, certain medications, such as antibiotics, may deplete or destroy healthy gut bacteria. When the chemicals in the gut are imbalanced, depression and anxiety become more likely.

Exercise also plays an integral role in improving gut health and mental connection as it increases the diversity of gut bacteria. Try adding more movement to your day with walking or light yoga practice! You can enhance your gut health by eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products that have not been further processed. Avoiding foods that include unnatural additives and excess sugar is also crucial.

Gut Microbes That Affect the Brain

Focusing on gut health through diet and lifestyle is an effective way to promote overall wellbeing. “You are what you eat” is more than a platitude; it’s also true for gut health. Your gut microbiome aids food digestion and other essential bodily processes. These microorganisms significantly impact your immune system, general health, appearance, and mood. An intact gut microbiome can also help you stay healthy.

Your gut plays an integral part in strengthening your immune system. In addition to compromising your defenses against poisons or dangerous organisms, poor gut health is also linked to autoimmune illnesses, conditions in which the immune system targets healthy cells instead of harmful invasive ones.

How to Improve Gut Health?

Focusing on your diet is vital for the gut-brain connection. Your gut health starts with drinking plenty of water. Water flushes out toxins from the digestive tract, while sugar, salt, and unhealthy fat consumption should be limited. Unprocessed foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unflavoured dairy, and lean meats, may provide optimal nourishment for healthy gut bacteria, while antibiotics destroy them, making you more vulnerable to infection.

Finally, try to reduce stress. Stress can lead to brain-gut connection anxiety,  inflammation in the gut, and bacteria imbalances. Meditation, yoga, and exercise can help manage stress levels to enhance gut health and mental wellbeing.

Conclusion

Gut health is a complex issue with multiple contributing factors that can dramatically affect your emotions, thoughts, behavior, and overall wellbeing. An unhealthy gut can even lead to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Constant stress can damage the gut microbiome, exacerbating mental health issues. Adding exercise and stress-reduction techniques to your lifestyle may prove beneficial.

Diet is critical when it comes to gut health. Fermented foods, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, proteins, and plenty of water have proven beneficial. Probiotic supplements may also encourage beneficial bacteria in your gut to flourish. However, some antibiotics or radiation therapy treatments can destroy beneficial bacteria in your microbiome. It’s recommended you consult a dietitian or your health provider to understand the gut-brain connection and a diet to enhance it.

 

About the Author: Elisha Shah has been writing for years about the right diet, healthy eating habits, and healthcare. She often works with Health Habitat, which is led by Prachi Shah, one of the leading clinical nutritionists in India, to educate and help people around the world related to their diet and other health problems. Her educational background in food and nutrition provides a solid foundation and credibility to approach many diet-related issues. She especially enjoys sharing scientifically backed pieces on modern-day lifestyle problems.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-suffering-from-a-stomach-pain-5938358/

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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