It’s a complicated relationship between the gut and the brain, as we know from experience. Do you ever get “butterflies” in your stomach? That’s a perfect example of the gut-brain link. But what’s new for many of us is the idea that our guts could be causing our anxiety!
A growing body of research is revealing a strong connection between our mental health and our gut. A recent review of several published studies indicates that anxiety may be alleviated by regulating gut bacteria. In another study, participants who displayed higher levels of anxiety, stress and irritability, when they were shown negative images, were found to have more of a certain type of gut bacteria. And in a study with mice, those who were raised without gut bacteria displayed “altered” molecules in the brain, which has been linked to anxiety-like behaviors.
“The research is still just scratching the surface,” writes Dr. Robin Berzin, founder and CEO of Parsley Health in a recent blog, “but one strong theory proposed by a scientist at Brown suggests that when the gut microbiota is unbalanced, the intestinal wall becomes permeable. This allows bacteria to pass into the bloodstream, increasing the risk for psychiatric disorders through several pathways. Cleaning up your diet and including probiotic-rich foods are key factors in good gut health.”
To help you get started toward a healthier gut and mindset, here are a few simple tips from parselyhealth.com’s recent article, “How to Reduce Anxiety Through Your Gut.”
Exercise is beneficial to your gut microbiome by helping it to “diversify,” according to a study in the October 2018 issue of Frontiers in Microbiology. What’s more, exercise helps prevent constipation by boosting gut motility.
Get your sleep!
Microbiome diversity in your gut is also linked to better sleep.
Steer toward unprocessed foods
Cut out processed foods as much as possible. All those low-fat granola bars and packaged snacks may have nice-sounding words on the label like “Gluten Free,” “All-Natural,” or “Organic,” but that doesn’t mean they are good for your gut. Eating healthier means eating plenty of unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Packaged foods are highly processed and usually contain preservatives, sodium, hidden sugars and other additives you don’t want. Focus instead on foods that are naturally packed with antioxidants and probiotics to encourage healthy gut bacteria. Additionally, cutting down on sugar is helpful for your gut by reducing inflammation, which has been associated with many chronic diseases, including depression.
What’s great about all these tips for improving your gut health is that they are also clinically proven to boost your body’s production of dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward.
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Anxiety might be alleviated by regulating gut bacteria