How your gut affects your mental health
With all the daily stresses we have to face, it is little wonder more and more people are struggling with their mental health. In the past, people might have seen their doctor and begun a course of antidepressants (bad idea.) Others try to battle through it, preferring to exercise through the dark shadow looming over their lives. However in recent years, more and more studies have shown that there could be a new course of action – to look closely at the health of your gut. Perhaps we should now look to naturopaths and dieticians for advice and information on treating mental health issues rather than just our local GP? (Great idea.)
Whether you are feeling low or severely depressed, we now know that whilst not a magical cure, good gut health can positively affect our mental health.
The science of gut health
We have all heard the expression ‘listen to your gut.’ Most of us have also experienced ‘butterflies’ when nervous and even IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) type symptoms when facing large amounts of stress. Scientists have now discovered that our gut actually ‘talks’ to our brain. When you are healthy, good bacteria is kept safely in the lining of your gut, living in harmony (symptom free), letting your gut and brain send positive signals to one another. This is called the ‘gut-brain axis’. When unhealthy, the bacteria breeds and blocks the messages being sent to our brain. These changes to our gut bacteria have now been linked to feelings of anxiety and depression. In a recent study, scientists also found that exposure to stress changed peoples gut bacteria, their stress response and their behaviour. Probiotics containing ‘good’ bacteria given were shown to reduce the stress response, confirming the relationship between our gut and mental health.
Sleep & gut health
It’s long been known that our mental health is closely linked to the quality and length of our sleep patterns. Poor sleep can make us groggy, anxious and irritable. New evidence suggests that gut microbiota can actually influence our wake/sleep cycles and quality of sleep. A recent study found that people who suffered with poor sleep patterns were more likely to have higher levels of bad bacteria, and were then more susceptible to mental health issues. Interestingly, this correlation has only been associated with female participants so far.
IBS, depression & anxiety
Remarkably, half of IBS sufferers claim to have had periods of depression and anxiety. In turn, this has lead us to the age old chicken and egg question – could people with IBS reduce their depression and anxiety by looking after their gut health? Or was their IBS caused by depression and anxiety in the first place? The two are heavily interlinked. Additionally, in theory, a person’s sore stomach could be the source or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. There are numerous environmental factors affecting our mental health at any moment. Now is the time to stop overlooking the relationship between good gut health and a positive healthy mind. Good gut health is something that we can easily manage!
Looking after your gut
So what can we do to help keep our gut and mind healthy?
Probiotic treatments in mice have been shown to reduce the amount of cortisol they produce, decreasing their anxious and depressive behaviours. To date, there are few studies in humans. However, it is proven that people who eat a balanced diet have lower rates of mental illness as adults and adolescents.
To maintain a healthy gut and therefore a healthy gut-brain axis, The Natural Society recommend the following:
Increase ‘good’ gut bacteria
To increase good bacteria, eat fermented foods rich in probiotics such as live yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut. Alternatively, invest in a good quality probiotic supplement and take regularly (Inner Health Plus is a goodie.)
Eat a healthy and balanced diet
This includes eating a range of vegetables, fruit, beans and non-processed foods. Fibre is also important, but make sure your source is not just through processed grains which can wreak havoc on your health.
Avoid antibiotics where possible
Antibiotics are designed to destroy all bacteria that cause infections. This means that any good bacteria is eliminated along with the bad. Try to avoid antibiotics where possible by looking at natural alternatives. A naturopath or dietician will be able to advise you on the best course.
Listen to your gut
Your nervous system and gut are wired to react to certain foods which don’t work well with your body and you may feel better avoiding them. We have all come back from lunch feeling bloated and lethargic, maybe experiencing stomach pains. These are symptoms we shouldn’t ignore and are signs that your gut is sending unhappy signals to your brain. Make a note of what you have eaten and try avoiding it next time.
Many studies have shown that regular exercise and good bowel health are directly related. So, get out and get moving! Whether you’re a gym bunny, a lover of long walks, or a cycling fanatic (we all know one of those), get your gear on and get at it. It will not only improve your mood but your gut health too.
So with all that in mind; get active, eat healthily and always look after your gut.
Our team at Easy Consulting are firm believers in – healthy gut, healthy mind! Which is why we fuel ourselves with the best stuff. If you need a team on the their game to help with SEO, Social Media Marketing, Website Design, Branding, Content Writing, call our crew on 0452 527 992 now!