The gut is more and more being referred to as our ‘second brain’ and for good reason. Describing emotional moments as ‘gut-wrenching’ or saying we get ‘butterflies’ when we’re nervous comes from emotions being felt in our stomach. Your gut is susceptible to an emotional spectrum, including rage, anxiousness, sadness, and happiness.
In addition to being the ‘second brain’, the gut is connected in many ways to our brain. Therefore, poor gut health can lead to poor mental health. The connection between the gut and the brain is known as the ‘gut-brain axis.’
THE GUT-BRAIN AXIS
It’s not just that ‘gut-feeling’ though. The gut and brain are constantly sending signals to each other, in back-and-forth communication. This communication has been proven to be incredibly helpful for human survival. For example, during ‘fight or flight’ when a human saw a stressor the brain would send signals to the gut to divert blood flow towards organs such as the heart and lungs, to prepare the body to either fight or run away from the threat.
However, this connection between the brain and the gut means that poor gut health can directly influence your mental health. Gut issues can affect, or be the cause of, mental health issues.
HOW ARE THE GUT AND BRAIN CONNECTED?
The gut is connected to the brain through neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters send messages to your hormones and the brain.
The neurotransmitters that are produced by your brain control your feelings and emotions. Cells in your gut produce neurotransmitters which can also affect your emotions. One of the chemicals produced by your gut is serotonin. In fact, 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin is produced by gut bacteria. Serotonin is known as the ‘happy hormone’ because it influences your mood and the feelings of happiness. With this in mind, can you see how low mood and mental health issues are so closely linked to gut health?
The gut microbes also produce gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is that neurotransmitter that helps you feel zen and relaxed so if you’re an anxious person or find yourself worrying a lot, then you might be lacking GABA!
The gut has 500 million neurons which connect to the brain via the nervous system. The largest nerve that connects your gut and the brain is called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve controls messages sent to the gut, heart, lungs and other vital organs.
A lot of research has gone into the vagus nerve and how this influences or is connected to various mental and physical health concerns, such as depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and anxiety. This is the polyvagal theory.
HOW DOES THE GUT CAUSE OR AMPLIFY ANXIETY?
If 95% of your body’s serotonin is manufactured by your gut bacteria, then what happens if your gut bacteria is imbalanced? Serotonin production is reduced and, as a result, you will be more susceptible to low mood. It is incredibly important to maintain good gut health so that your body can continue to produce the ‘happy hormone’ to balance your mood.
I previously mentioned that the gut microbes produce GABA. Well, GABA is an ani-anxiety neurotransmitter. If you have anxiety, you most likely have low GABA.
Without enough GABA you will find it harder to calm down, fall asleep and reaching your parasympathetic nervous system.
So, if your gut bacteria is imbalanced and you are suffering from gut dysbiosis, then you are less able to produce neurotransmitters, including GABA. As a result, you are less equipped to regulate feelings of fear and anxiety.
The relationship between certain gut bacteria and the synthesis of mood-affecting neurotransmitters is symbiotic.
Anxiety can also put extra strain on the gut, causing it to not function properly. Therefore, you can become trapped in a vicious cycle of anxiety and gut issues. This is why many will experience constipation or loose stools when they’re anxious, or feel sick before a nerve-wracking experience.
Therefore, it is incredibly important to break this cycle by focusing on improving and maintaining good gut health to have a healthy mood.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The good news is that fixing this is quite simple and not as complicated as many people think. I’ve seen it first-hand in my Private Practice with hundreds of clients. Contrary to popular belief, probiotics are not the answer. Many probiotics out there are can trigger histamine issues and exacerbate anxiety further.
We need to address the dysbiosis before implementing probiotics and even then, the strains used should be carefully chosen.
There are of course, other underlying root causes to anxiety, such as heavy metals, and the best way to find out is by running lab tests.
I understand that working with me on a 1:1 basis and running labs is not financially viable for everyone and this is when my GI protocol comes into play. It is a best-selling protocol that has been proven to be successful for hundreds of individuals!
Regardless of the approach that you decide, there are a few things that you can do in the meantime to calm your anxiety whilst you work on the underlying root cause. I’ve been recommending a good quality, full-spectrum, organic and high potency CBD oil to my clients and it has been an absolute game-changer to many!
The one that I recommend is the one by Dreem Distillery. I’ve managed to get my community a 20% discount using the code PAULA20 at checkout. I recommend taking at least 20-25mg (underneath the tongue) whenever you start feeling those anxious feelings coming.
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