When we think about anxiety and stress, we rarely consider what’s going on in our gut. Since there is a connection between our gut and our brain, digestive issues can have an impact on our overall wellbeing. The plethora of microbes living in our gut not only can affect your physical health, but it can also influence your mental health. It is perfectly normal to feel a little anxious and stress from our daily lives. But when these feelings linger on after the stressor has passed, it might be time to explore deeper… all the way into your gut!
There are over four hundred species of bacteria in your belly right now. This can truly be the key to the quality of your health. Disturbances to the microbial balance of your gut can lead to some microbes becoming more present while others are diminished. Think of garden – there are less likely to have weeds growing if you have lush vegetation, but without this vegetation, the weeds could take over and wreak havoc.
How Does the Gut Impact Our Health?
Well they don’t call if the “gut feeling” for nothing. Your brain is connected to your gut by an information super highway known as the vagus nerve. What happens in the brain can transform the way your gut works, and vice versa. Just think about the last time that stress or anxiety left you feeling like your gut was tied in knots.
With trillions of both good and bad bacteria living in our gut, maintaining a natural balance of our gut microbiome is essential for our wellbeing. Good bacteria found naturally inside your gut have a protective effect against other living organisms that enter your body. These good bacteria also helps the body prevent harmful bacteria from rapidly growing in your stomach. A disruption in the balance of the bacteria in our gut can actually cause us to feel anxious or stressed.
Your Mental – Digestive Connection
You may also be surprised to know that the majority of that “feel good” neurotransmitter, serotonin, produced in the body isn’t actually made in the brain. Did you know that serotonin is actually produced in your gut? The connection between your mental and digestive wellbeing all comes down to the trillions of tiny critters that call your gut home.
How Can Probiotics Help?
Probiotics, or the beneficial live bacteria that are in our bodies, have become increasingly popular as a way to improve health and wellbeing. Probiotics work by introducing the friendly bacteria into the gut, which helps to keep the gut healthy and main a balance. By maintain a healthy balance, we can naturally reduce stress and anxiety. If harmful bacteria begin to dominate your intestines, essential vitamins and enzymes are not produced, leading to many health issues, including the development of stress and anxiety.
Your immune system has a major role to play here too. Along with diet and stress, both gut bacteria and the serotonin produced in your gut, can influence the functioning of your immune system. The more healthy bacteria that is present in your gut, the better functioning your immune system will be.
Best Probiotic Food Sources
Can a yogurt a day keep stress away? Cultured dairy products like yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, and kefir are the best-known food sources for getting friendly bacteria in your diet. Equally effective probiotic food sources include cultured/fermented vegetables like cabbage, eggplant, cucumbers, squash, and carrots. Ideally, you should aim to get a good supply of probiotics from these diverse food sources.
A Happy Gut for A Happy You
Your gut isn’t called your second brain for nothing – so treat it well! Eat high fiber plant foods as often as you can, and make sure to also include probiotic rich foods to help support your healthy intestinal flora.