An unhealthy gut is an unhealthy brain

Did you know mental illnesses may begin with your gut? It’s true! Gut bacteria plays just as large a role, in mind “health,” as the brain! With proper intake of food, the gut can resist stress and other mood disorders (such as depression and anxiety). The brain and the gut are directly connected through the vagus nerve. It is a two way connection. A troubled stomach/intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Consequently, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, depression, or stress.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (46.6 million in 2017). Source: Mental Illness includes conditions that range from mild to moderate to severe. Conditions like anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Do you know which is known as the most common mental illness in the United States?

a.) Anxiety disorders

b.) Depression

c.) Sleep disorders

d.) Eating disorders

The answer is A! Do you know that eating a proper diet supplemented by taking a simple prebiotic or probiotic as needed may prevent the development of a common mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders?

Photo of vegetable salad in bowls

What can cause poor gut bacteria?

  • Antibiotics. Talk with your physician to see if there are any alternatives to taking an antibiotic or if taking a probiotic during/following the course of antibiotics is recommended.
  • Diet. It is important to stay away from saturated fats and foods high in sugar. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables should be plentiful in one’s standard diet. Also foods such as yogurt, kefir, almonds, olive oil, etc. are a source of good gut bacteria.
  • High levels of stress. Meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can all achieve lower stress, as can anything one finds to be calming and relaxing.

At what age is gut bacteria most influential on the brain?

Adolescence! The brain is undergoing major changes in connectivity and processes, so keeping the gut healthy is very important. Consuming probiotics during puberty to facilitate optimal gut functioning can improve one’s mood and cognition (such as learning and memory).

Take-away message?

Keeping your gut healthy through a nutritious diet, adding stress reduction activities to your routine, and supplementing with probiotics as needed is a great way to increase your ability to resist mental illness.

*Marano, Hara E. (2017, May). A Bug in the System. Psychology Today, 31-32.

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