Our gut and brain are closely connected and in constant communication with each other. Known as the ‘second brain’, our gut almost has a mind of its very own, housing more neurons (nerve cells) than that of the brain and the spinal cord put together! While our guts' inner workings affect our digestion, it also has the ability to influence our mood and mental health.
Your gut produces happy hormones
We rely on a healthy digestive system for the production of a number of neurotransmitters important for our mood. Over 90% of the body’s serotonin – our body’s ‘happy hormone’ – is made within the gut, along with other hormones involved in regulating our mood and sleep such as dopamine, GABA, and melatonin. When the gut becomes irritated or inflamed by things like a poor diet, alcohol, infections, or medications, this can upset the natural balance of gut microflora, affecting not just our digestive processes and comfort, but our mental wellbeing too. In some cases, poor gut health can be at the root cause of, or at least a minimum contributing factor to issues like depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
Mood, stress and gut health
Research shows that our gut bacteria can influence our emotional behaviour as well as how well our body responds to stress. But it goes both ways. Stress and anxiety can have a huge impact on our balance of gut bacteria causing dysbiosis and the gut to become ‘leaky’. This can result in low-grade inflammation, a weakened immune system, and cause disruptions to brain neurochemistry, potentially making people more vulnerable to mood-related issues. Research has also shown that gut health and anxiety are closely linked, with improvements in mood found after regulating gut bacteria. This may also explain why a significant number of people with chronic gut disorders like IBS, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are also affected by anxiety and depression.
How to improve your gut – and your mood
Along with having a nutrient and fibre-rich diet, a number of natural herbs and supplements can help to reduce inflammation and support a healthy gut microbiome. Glutamine, slippery elm, marshmallow, and chamomile can all naturally help to nourish the gut lining, calm irritation and support a happy gut for a happier you.Want a happy gut?