Did you know that the health of your digestive system can negatively AND positively affect your mental health? You might think this is a load of old codswallop, but there is plenty of scientific research that shows that you can improve your mental health using your gut. Is your bowel affecting your mental health?
The bowel is the epicentre for your emotions.
The gut and brain are linked with what is called the “gut-brain axis”. According to psychology, the bacteria in the gut communicates with the brain through this information highway. If the digestive system becomes imbalanced, with bad bacteria outweighing the good, then this can have a negative effect on the communication and a knock on effect with both your physical and mental health.
This may mean, as I have talked about before, causing physical symptoms with problems such as IBS or Leaky Gut Syndrome – inflammation and pain for instance. There is some evidence to link digestive problems with mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and some bipolar disorders.
How can the gut talk to the brain?
The gut houses a huge community of bacteria and other organisms, which are vital for breaking down our food and excreting toxins from our body, plus absorbing vitamins and nutrients to keep us healthy.
Symptoms from IBS for instance, seem to occur because of a disturbance with the gut-brain axis. After all, stress is one of the major factors with IBS. This explains why, often, patients with IBS symptoms in the gut, also suffer with mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. And why some doctors misunderstand the syndrome, thinking it’s “all in the head”.
It is also widely known that up to 90% of the serotonin that we produce (the so-called Happy Hormone) is actually produced in the gut by cells lining the digestive system.
So, imagine there is a disruption to the gut-brain axis – the gut becomes unwell. The link between the two communicates a disturbance to the general health of the digestive system, which then causes a breakdown from the brain in other areas of the body.
Perhaps you can see a pattern with your mental health and your digestive health symptoms. When you think about it, has your digestive health declined along with your mood, but for one reason and another, you haven’t noticed the link?
How can you improve your mental health using your gut?
This connection exaggerates the importance of keeping your digestive system healthy, so that it can continue to produce these feel good hormones.
If you want to repair the gut-brain connection again so that it is working more effectively, the first thing you need to think about is what you are putting into your digestive system. Food.
Recent research has shown good results when testing the effects of prebiotics on mental health.
Prebiotic foods are vital for positive bacteria to thrive in the gut. In fact, there is some evidence that even without probiotics, if you have enough prebiotics in your diet, you can grow plenty of good bacteria to keep your gut flora healthy. Foods such as lentils, onions (raw or cooked), baked wheat flour (easily found in bread), bananas are all easy prebiotics that you can eat on a daily basis and will help your bacteria community to flourish.
Of course, I’m not trying to convince you to swap antidepressants for prebiotics. And if you have a serious mental health condition, I would always encourage you to see your GP to discuss help. However, improving your diet can only lead to positive changes in your health and wellbeing, even if that is supporting medication that you are taking alongside it.
If low levels of bacteria are to blame for some mental health disorders, it seems obvious to give the bowel a kick-start to creating more good bacteria by using probiotic treatments too.
If you suspect symptoms that are showing up in your bowels are also affecting your mood, you might want to think about having a “reset, steady and go” flush out with a colonic.
I offer an option to have a colonic and add in a probiotic implant, which is the bee’s knees of bacteria balance – adding in a big hit of ready-made positive bacteria to start to change the balance for the better.
Research has shown that even short-term changes to diet and lifestyle can positively alter gut flora.
So, really what have you got to lose? Why not give it a go and see if you can improve your mental health using your gut. By making some small changes to your diet, you could make some big changes to your mood.
p.s. If you just want to have a chat about feeling low and any negative digestive system symptoms that are getting you down, please do book a consultation and we can have a chat about how a colonic hydrotherapy treatment or one of my other holistic treatments may help you.