In times of change and upheaval, it’s perfectly normal to feel a little anxious or stressed. But when that feeling hangs on long after the stressor has passed, it might be time to go deeper…all the way to your gut.
What does your gut have to do with your mental wellbeing?
Well, they don’t call it the ‘second brain’ for nothing: your brain is connected to your gut by an information super highway known as the vagus nerve. What happens in your brain can transform the way your gut works…and vice versa.
Seem impossible? Imagine this: the nervous system in your gut actually contains more nerve cells than your spinal cord! You’ve probably experienced this connection without giving it much thought. Think about the last time that stress ‘tied your gut in knots’.
Your “feel good” hormones come from your gut
You may be surprised to know that the vast majority of the “feel good” neurotransmitter, serotonin, produced in the body isn’t made in the brain…it’s made in your gut. For a long time, it was thought that gut-built serotonin wouldn’t affect the rest of your body…but that time has passed.
Researchers are diving into the connections between mental and digestive wellbeing and part of the attention is focused on the trillions of tiny critters that call your gut home.
Probiotics can be your ally during stressful moments
Your immune system has a role to play here too. It is thought that there is increased chronic inflammation in those with depression and anxiety. And inflammation can begin in the gut. Along with diet and stress, both gut bacteria – and the serotonin produced in the gut – may influence inflammation. At this point, science offers more questions than answers but what is clear is that the connection between the health of your gut and your brain is complex. And while there is no probiotic on the market approved for use in mental wellbeing, early studies have shown potential success for probiotics in depression and anxiety.
Happy Gut…Happy You!
Your gut is called your ‘second brain’ for a reason…so treat it well. Eat as many high fiber plant foods as you can and consider adding a quality probiotic that is known to help support a healthy intestinal flora. While it may not ease the stress of change, at least it will keep your gut happy!