Many of us have “butterflies in our stomach” when it’s, in fact, the mind that’s anxious. Certain emotional/stressful situations make us feel nauseous while our brain’s the one detecting the stressful signals. Ever wondered why do we have “gut” instincts whilst our mind perceives a threat? And why our tummies have to react when our brain is processing the signals? What’s the link?
Our gut health has got a lot to do with our emotional health and vice versa. The two systems can be considered as a two-way street where the traffic is flowing in both directions — from the gut to your brain and the brain to your gut. Medical experts refer this to as a “gut-brain connection.” The two systems are interrelated, meaning they work somewhat according to the rule of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”
So, if your gut health isn’t up to par, problems arise in your brain and the other way around. Here at Microbiome Plus, we, therefore, suggest our consumers keep their gut health balanced in order to achieve an optimal emotional health.
Your gut is your “second brain”
We now know that there’s a vast ecosystem of bacteria functioning in our guts. The 20th century scientists call this ecosystem as the “second brain.” However, this brain isn’t similar to our first (actual) brain—meaning it can’t think, reason, make decisions or solve problems.
Still, mounting evidence shows that your gut health greatly impacts your emotional health and mood.
One of the multiple reasons could be the “microbiome feelings of your brain” as shown in this study. The study describes the “gut-brain axis” as made up of an array of multichannel routes that transmit the gut signals to the brain. These channels include nerve cells, the gut hormones, chemicals called cytokines, brain chemicals derived from gut bacteria, and the gatekeepers of the gut and brain barriers.
A messed-up gut microbiome can drive psychological problems
Studies reveal that if your gut bacteria are out-of-balance, psychological issues like depression and anxiety ensue.
Factors like antibiotic use and diet impact brain function by shaping the gut microbiome. For instance, mice fed a high-fat diet showed an altered gut bacterial balance and increased vulnerability to anxiety-like behavior.
Likewise, there are reports on antibiotic use leading to psychiatric-side effects, suggesting a link between the impaired microbiome and emotional issues. After all, antibiotics mess up the balance of gut bacteria, which in turn, can wreak havoc on your mental health. This is where the benefits of probiotics come into play to restore the disturbed bacterial balance of gut.
Your gut makes mood-regulating brain chemicals
Your gut bacteria make about 95% of the mood-enhancing brain chemical called serotonin — one of the major “happy” brain chemicals that influence mood, sleep, and digestion. If there’s a riot in the tummy bugs, your mental wellbeing starts declining and you may feel unnecessarily low or depressed.
This is why experts reveal that the brain chemistry can be tweaked by shaping the balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria found in the gut.
Irritable bowels start off when you’re stressed
More than half of the people with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) suffer from mood/emotional problems. The brains of these people are extremely sensitive to painful signals from the bowels, and a trivial amount of stress can cause an IBS-flare up. While many factors contribute to mental distress in people with IBS, an imbalanced-microbiome is believed to be the major culprit. This causation further highlights the link between digestive and emotional health.
For the same reasons, some people with IBS improve with relaxation therapies implemented to curb stress, anxiety or depression, further emphasizing the role of emotional health in gut functions and vice versa.
Irritable bowels can convey signals to your brain, just as an irritable brain can send signals to your gut. An upset stomach can trigger or generate from psychological problems. To restore the health of your microbiome and your mental wellbeing, it’s imperative that you maintain a balance in the number of beneficial bacteria in your gut. You can accomplish this balance by adding probiotic-rich foods or supplements. But be sure to talk to your doctor before trying out a new supplement.
- The Second Brain: Is the Gut Microbiota a Link Between Obesity and Central Nervous System Disorders? Curr Obes Rep. 2016;5(1):51-64.
- Lerner A, Neidhöfer S, Matthias T. The Gut Microbiome Feelings of the Brain: A Perspective for Non-Microbiologists. Microorganisms. 2017;5(4):66. Published 2017 Oct 12. doi:10.3390/microorganisms5040066.
- Rogers GB, Keating DJ, Young RL, Wong ML, Licinio J, Wesselingh S. From gut dysbiosis to altered brain function and mental illness: mechanisms and pathways. Mol Psychiatry. 2016;21(6):738-48.
- Bornstein JC. Serotonin in the gut: what does it do?. Front Neurosci. 2012;6:16. Published 2012 Feb 6. doi:10.3389/fnins.2012.00016.
- Galland L. The gut microbiome and the brain. J Med Food. 2014;17(12):1261-72.