Could your anxiety be coming from your gut ?
Do you suffer from anxiety? depression? brain fog? mood swings?
Your gut may be the answer.
I suffered from all of these. And I had no idea they could be connected to my gut health. Until I started to heal my digestion; and my mood and depression started to lift. I felt more clear-headed without unexplained moments of memory loss or irritability.
Research has linked brain function to gut health and the science now tells us that many gut disorders are directly linked to neurological conditions.
Our microbiome (the bacteria that live in our digestive tract) houses 1.64 kg or 3 pounds of bacteria which includes about 100 trillion microorganisms in healthy individuals. This means we are basically walking bacteria as we are made of 10x more bacterial than human cells!
Our digestive system is extremely influential of our health and dictates more than just our pooping habits.
It houses 70% of our immune system and is referred to as the second brain as it is connected to the brain via the vagus nerve. This second brain is also known as the enteric nervous system.
When you encounter digestive dysfunction like leaky gut, IBS, or SIBO, research has shown you are more prone to experiencing anxiety and depression. In fact up to 70% of SIBO and IBS sufferers experience these mood disorders.
This is due to several reasons.
Firstly, more neurotransmitters are made in the gut than the brain, and are also produced by our gut bacteria. These neurotransmitters include serotonin (the happy hormone) and GABA (the relaxing hormone).
Another reason is if your digestive system is not functioning properly you won't be absorbing the nutrients necessary for brain function. These nutrients include:
B-vitamins: important for neurotransmitter communication, especially B12, B3, and B6.
Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6):
The brain is made primarily of fat (about 60% more precisely). Deficiency in essential fatty acids has been linked to anxiety, depression, Alzheimer's, and schizophrenia.
Activated vitamin D receptors have been shown to increase brain nerve growth and low levels have been associated with lower brain function.
So what are some signs of an unhealthy gut?
- Unexplained bloating or bloating after meals
- Strained bowel movements
- Excess gas
- Acid Reflux
What can you do to start supporting your gut health?
1. Manage your stress
When you are in a stressed state your body cannot digest properly and your digestion is put on hold leading to undigested food and nasty symptoms like gas and bloating. Eat in a relaxed environment, chew your food 30 times, and practice deep breathing before your meal to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (your rest and digest state).
Our gut flora is so important for our overall health. It is responsible for producing certain vitamins like b vitamins and vitamin K, defend against pathogens, and digest indigestible fiber. Certain strains have been shown to be particularly effective in treating anxiety and depression; Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacterium bifidum, bifidobacterium longum, (minimum 2 billion CFUs each).
Everyone tells you to drink more water, you get it. But the reality is that we simply do not drink enough. Many of us are dehydrated and don't know it. Water helps our bodies produce stomach acid, flush out toxins, increase transit time, and supports our liver to metabolize fats into energy. If you feel like you have trouble drinking enough water, add some lemon or fruits in your water, invest in a BPA free water bottle and aim to refill it every hour!
What are some signs of impaired brain function?
- brain fog
- memory loss
- mood swings
- panic attacks
What can you do to start supporting your brain health?
Another one they keep telling you about. And no you can't hack your way out of sleep, sorry!
If there is one thing you should do out of any recommendation it should be this one. Your brain regenerates itself during deep sleep and gets rid of toxins that can accumulate and lead to chronic diseases and dysfunction. Aim for 7-9 hours. Every night.
2. Omega 3
Your brain is primarily made of fat. Essential fatty acids feed your brain and decrease inflammation. Deficiency has been linked to dyslexia, Alzheimer's, ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
With as little as 2 grams per day, the use of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the severity of these conditions while simultaneously improving mental function.
Food sources include fatty fish like wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, seaweed, herring, and oysters. You can also supplement with a quality algae or fish oil source. (Always look for a a reputable company that performs testing and pay attention to the amount of EPA & DHA which are the essential fatty acids that provide these health benefits)
Regular exercise helps increase blood flow to the brain which helps deliver oxygen and nutrients. Just 30 minutes has been shown to increase cognitive function and stimulate cell growth in the part of the brain responsible for long term memory. Exercise has also been shown to promote healthy gut bacteria. Whatever it is, cardio, strength training, weights, yoga, find a practice that works for you!