How Your Gut Health Affects Your Mental Health

Researchers are currently looking into how our gut health is connected to the way our brain functions, with recent research revealing how poor gut health may have a detrimental effect on our mental health.

The digestive system, hosts the majority of our microbiome which consists of trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms. These microorganisms play a critical role with our health and can influence digestion, metabolism, body weight, immune regulation as well as a healthy functioning brain, including mood.

Studies have shown that people with increased inflammation of the digestive system, have the potential to create an imbalance of the microorganisms in our gut microbiome through an overgrowth of bad bacteria, causing poor health.

Gut bacteria and your brain

Observations from leading researchers note that any disruption of the normal bacteria balance in our microbiome, can cause the immune system to react with an inflammatory response which leads to the development of gut health symptoms that can escalate and impact on other parts of the body including your brain.

The complex system of communication and connections between your microbiome and your brain is commonly referred to as the ‘Gut Brain Axis‘. Researchers also speculate that, in early stages of life, infections of the gastrointestinal tract could negatively affect the mucosal membranes, causing a disruption between the brain/gut microbiome connections and normal brain development.

Healthy body healthy mind

All high-level athletes understand the relationship between healthy body, healthy mind. Melbourne’s favourite football player and coach Ron Barassi often uses the phrase ‘healthy body healthy mind”. Not that Ron Barassi is a leading researcher in the field of health, but he has many years of experience and understands that both mental and physical fitness are needed to perform at the highest levels in sport and fitness.

Of course, not all of us can or want to be athletes, but if we look after our gut health, we can influence positive mental health which may assist with reducing the effects of depression and anxiety, to ultimately feel happier and healthy.

Good gut health improves mental health and sleeping patterns.

One aspect of life we all recognise, is how a lack of quality sleep results in feeling flat, unmotivated and sluggish which contributes to procrastination and depression in some people. The obvious solution is to get more sleep but for many people it’s not that easy.

A small case study conducted by Dr. Michael Breus, found in a group of young males, after two nights of sleep deprivation, researchers discovered a significant decrease in beneficial gut bacteria and changes to the microbiome.

Further research on our body clock (the circadian rhythm), have discovered that our gut bacteria plays an important role in regulating our body clock and how we sleep. To back this theory researchers also discovered that gut microbes move around the digestive system, according to a rhythm and is thought to provide regulation of our body clock and governs our sleeping patterns.

Looking ahead

The gut health, mental health connection has become evident and has captured the interests of researchers. Besides the symptoms and conditions above, there are many other mental health conditions that are specifically related to poor gut health.
What we now understand, is our gut health and our mental health are connected, so we need to be paying more attention to balancing our gut health, our mental health and our complete physical wellbeing.

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Sources:  Pychom, Daily Telegraph, Dr. Michael Brues