How to Manage Anxiety through Gut Health
It’s normal to become anxious when there is something you fear or when you face an unfamiliar situation (like this pandemic!). Your fight-or-flight response gets activated and so your breathing quickens and gets more shallow, your heart rate increases…these 2 reactions alone can lead to feeling anxious!
While this anxiety response is normal every now and then, anxiety disorder is a whole other story. It happens when a person stays in fight-flight and fails to go back to the rest-and-digest response. When this happens, the feeling of anxiety interferes with a person’s daily life so much that it feels very challenging to maintain even basic well-being and productivity.
There are a lot of things that can trigger anxiety: A traumatic experience, health problems, work or personal relationships, financial stress, or school challenges are common triggers. When we experience anxiety, inside your brain, a chemical imbalance occurs. The hormones that are responsible for mood, energy, and how we handle stress (neurotransmitters) can get thrown out of balance.
Cutting-edge research tells us another culprit plays a role in anxiety: Your gut microbiome.
Yes, your gut and nervous system are interconnected.
Have you experienced “butterflies in your stomach” during a presentation?
A “gut-wrenching” experience?
A “knot in your stomach” when facing an uncomfortable situation?
Well, your gut and brain are in constant communication.
In fact, the gut has this mesh-like network of neurons along its walls, called the enteric nervous system (ENS). It receives and sends signals from and to both the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). It sends signals to the brain via the vagus nerve.
So how does your gut microbiome cause anxiety?
Consider your ENS as your second brain. It has profound influence on your emotions. How? It produces and moves serotonin, the neurotransmitter that maintains mood balance.
95% of serotonin is produced by the gut microbiome.
The health of your gut microbiome definitely influences your mood, how you deal with stress, and in the development of anxiety disorder.
So how do you keep your gut microbiome healthy so that it becomes a source of happiness and ease?
Boosting Your Gut Health
The goal is to increase the good microorganisms in your gut while decreasing the bad ones. Your diet plays a key role in helping you achieve this.
Your diet is not only a source of nutrition for your body: It also feeds the trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes in your gut.
Here are some changes you can apply to your diet to improve your gut health:
- Eat varied foods with plenty of good quality protein and plants at each meal.
- Reduce or totally get rid of highly processed food.
- Eat fiber (because your gut bugs eat it too!).
Please note that an abrupt switch to fiber-rich foods can make your stomach bloated, so just take it easy by doing it gradually and drink more water.
Since antibiotics are hard on your gut microbiome, make sure to compensate by eating more plant-based food if you are on antibiotic therapy.
Taking probiotics is also important for gut health, especially ones containing Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus. Studies show that this particular strain of probiotic greatly lessened anxiety on test subjects. This bacteria is naturally occurring in Parmesan cheese.
Your gut is at the root of your health. Today we focused on the gut/mental health connection and I hope what I shared here is helpful for you.
It is my passion to work with people like you whose health symptoms are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I can help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.
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Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!