When was the last time you thought about your gut health? If you’re like most people, the answer may be … never. And yet, your gut health has a huge impact on your life, affecting your physical and emotional wellbeing.
If your gut is out of balance, you may experience physical symptoms, such as GI distress, bloating, and weight gain, but your mood may suffer as well, with increased stress, heightened anxiety, or mood swings. And these symptoms just scratch the surface.
Do you want health and happiness? Start in your gut! Increasingly scientifically studied, your microbiome (the trillions of microbes in your gut) has an enormous impact on how you feel—physically, emotionally, and—yes—even mentally.
For every single human cell in the body, scientists estimate there are 1.3 bacterial cells. These bacterial cells are a normal and necessary part of the functioning human body—and soon you are going to be trying to figure out how to get more healthy bacteria!
Most of the microbiome bacteria call the gastrointestinal tract home. So, it is not surprising that they have an enormous impact on our digestive system. And, it makes sense that if you want to improve your digestive system, starting with your state of mind is also a wise move.
While you may realize that the brain influences the makeup of the gut’s microbiome, you may be surprised to find that the gut creates neuroactive compounds that actually have a huge impact on how the brain works.
A healthy human microbiome consists of 10-100 trillion microorganisms. Some of these bacteria are known for secreting serotonin—our feel-good chemical. How much serotonin is produced in your gut? Ninety-percent of your body’s mood-boosting serotonin is produced in your gut! If your gut is not healthy, you will not feel happy.
Additionally, gut microbes secrete neurotransmitters like GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that provides calmness, anti-anxiety, relaxation, and feeling of well-being. In addition, they secrete dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls our energy, excitement about new ideas and motivation, and is associated with the “pleasure system” of the brain that promotes feelings of enjoyment.
Reduction of Stress and Anxiety
Certain gut microbes also have the ability to reduce stress and anxiety. As long as your microbiome stays in balance, you are well on your way to health and happiness—including mental health and happiness!
Microbiome Under Attack
The problem is this: your microbiome is under attack every day. A typical modern lifestyle—with processed foods, artificial sweeteners, high stress, lack of sleep, and other environmental factors—damages the beneficial microbes in your gut, leading to dysbiosis (unbalanced gut)—which directly impacts our mental health.
What does dysbiosis look like? GI discomfort, stress, bloating, digestive issues, mood swings, anxiety, the inability to relax, and any number of other problems related to your health or your mood. Does that sound familiar?
Help Your Microbiome to Help Your Mental Health
The truth is, the benefits of a healthy gut extend far beyond just having an effective digestive tract. If our gut health has been compromised, it contributes to a vicious cycle of mental and emotional stress that triggers digestive problems that in turn causes additional mental and physical stress.
So, what do we do?
Address the Top Four Offenders
While there are several things that impact our gut health, the top four that contribute most to the breakdown are antibiotics, processed foods, sugar, and stress.
Antibiotics: While they address infections and save lives, antibiotics also disrupt the integrity of the intestinal microbiome. Restoring microbial balance following a course of antibiotic therapy is incredibly important—including the use of prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.
Processed Foods: Our bodies were not intended to process the amount of chemicals that are in processed foods, and they are terribly destructive on the microbiome. Chemicals also aid in the breakdown of the intestinal walls, which impacts nutrient absorption and contributes to the flow of toxins to the brain. Avoid purchasing and eating processed food as much as possible. Eat primarily whole foods, including lean protein, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables.
Sugar: Bad bacteria that is in our intestinal tract loves sugar—but it also helps them grow and create an imbalance and often an overgrowth of the bad. Cut back on uses of sugar, including the elimination of any artificial sweeteners. Instead, use honey or pure maple syrup, or Stevia leaf sources that have not been over-processed.
Stress: In extremely serious cases, those with stress-induced gastrointestinal problems should seek professional help to learn effective ways to cope with stress. Those who are dealing with everyday stress may want to start by managing stress through meditation, making time for exercise, listening to calming music, and spending time relaxing at the end of a busy day.
Restore Microbiome Balance
Support your healthy gut microbiome by weeding out contaminants, seeding with probiotics, feeding the good microbes with prebiotics, and protecting with a daily multivitamin.*
While the gut microbiome and its impact on overall health is continuing to be widely studied, there is already mounting scientific evidence supporting the fact that having and protecting a healthy microbiome can have a significant impact on our health—mental, emotional, and physical.
* Many probiotic products promise high CFU counts, but use cheap, ineffective strains that have little to no impact on the microbiome. For a recommendation on quality and effective probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, vitamins, and health supplements, contact Wendy Bost.
WENDY BOST is a Certified Health Coach and Independent Ambassador with Plexus Worldwide. Wendy offers supplement consulting to clients throughout the United States and Canada, helping individuals who are struggling to meet their health, nutrition, weight-management, and other wellness goals and objectives. Contact Wendy with questions about the gut-brain connection, health supplements, and/or resolving health issues naturally by addressing root cause issues, including balancing blood sugar, improving gut health, and reducing inflammation.