What Is Meant By Gut Health
The term gut health refers to how well your digestive system is working. Your digestive system is also known as your gastrointestinal tract or your gut. Your gut is where your body digests food, absorbs energy and nutrients, and gets rid of waste products. It includes your throat, food pipe, stomach and intestines.
Your gut contains trillions of tiny bacteria and other microorganisms. But unlike harmful bacteria that can make you ill, the natural bacteria found in your gut are good for you. This is because they help to break down the food you eat. They might also support your immune system .
You might also hear the bacteria in your gut called good bacteria, friendly bacteria, gut flora, microorganisms, microbiota or microbes.
Where Does The Gut Microbiome Come From
Your orignal gut microbiome is acquired in early childhood. It is passed down at birth from your mother and subsequently from other family members and your environment through your mouth. These microbes you acquire from your environment colonise the digestive tract.
Your mothers and your close familys microbiome and the type of birth you had, can affect the microbiome that you develop. Babies born vaginally have other bacteria in their gut compared to babies born by Caesarean section.
What you feed on in the first week after birth also affects your gut levels of bacteria. Studies show a direct correlation between breastfeeding and total numbers of microbial species.
After that, diet, genetics, stress, antibiotics, chemicals, disease, and many other factors determine how your gut microbiome ends up, and how the microbes in the digestive tract shape the immune system.
The first major change is usually when a baby stops breastfeeding and starts eating solid food. Different types of bacteria become dominant and its microbiome changes to a more adult-like state.
Diet plays a key role that continues throughout your life. Changes in diet can alter your gut bacterial makeup in as little as 24 hours.
Most of us have an enterotype, like a gut fingerprint, with our own unique bacterial signature. In healthy people, most of those bacteria are symbioticboth we and they benefit from their presence in our gut. A smaller number are pathogenic .
Glutamate Transmission In The Brain
Dr. James Giordano, Pellegrino professor of Neurology and Biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center, also not involved in this research, commented that this is a very well done study that controlled for several potentially interfering variables, and in so doing, demonstrated the role of certain gut microbiome species in providing chemical modulators that are known to have both direct and indirect effect on brain chemistry involved in cognitive and emotional function.
Namely, these gut species, Eggerthella and Eubacteriumventriosum, have been shown to produce butyrate an important precursor molecule to GABA, a brain chemical that functions in regulatory control of glutamate, he explained.
Additionally, these species were shown to produce serotonin, which has direct effects upon the enteric nervous system, the gut-brain axis, and in these ways, can affect serotonin levels and activity in the brain, which in turn, are important to aspects of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral function.
Overactivity of glutamate transmission in the brain has been shown to contribute to several features of depressive and anxiety disorders, and thus, gut microbiome contribution to GABA-mediated and serotonin-mediated control of brain glutamate activity may be an important mechanism for maintaining mental health.
Dr. James Giordano
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Using His Pain To Inspire
Michael is using his past pain and experiences to let others know that there is hope for healing from depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, inspired by his knowledge of what feels like to not want to be alive.
Hopefully, I can save a life. I can help somebody else because I know that the feelings that I have, I had, what I go through every single day, every single week, every single month. I know Im not alone and I understand that for me its okay to not be okay.
We should all take stock of our state of mental wellness. Whether it be through conventional wellness practices, or simply talking to other people to achieve longevity, taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Gut Health And Mental Health
So, we know that the bacteria in our gut have a bigger role to play in our health and wellbeing than we realised. But how do they affect your mental health?
If you have ever suffered from difficulties with your mental health, you will know that stress is a major trigger for many disorders. Capable of setting off panic attacks, increasing anxiety and leading to depression, stress is a factor that many people have to manage daily to maintain their mental health.
Scientists have discovered that the gut microbiome plays a very important role in allowing us to manage stress normally.
Researchers looked at what happened when there are no microbes living in the gut. This helped them to understand exactly how the gut microbiome influences our lives. They discovered that, without gut microbes, a process called myelination does not happen as usual.
Myelin is a substance made up of protein and fatty substances which forms a layer around nerve fibers. It acts as insulation, preventing electrical signals from escaping and helping them to reach the right place. Without myelination, nerve signals stay isolated. Myelin also helps our brains to stay fluid and adaptable.
Gut microbes seem to be instrumental in helping to form the genes that tell us how to create myelin.
In short, we need myelin for our mental health, and we need our gut bacteria to make myelin.
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How Is Gut Health Linked To Health In Other Parts Of The Body
While C. difficile colitis and irritable bowel syndrome are conditions directly related to gut health, your digestive system has implications for broader parts of your body, including the:
Some early studies have shown that maintaining a good microbiome in the gut can help reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Studies indicate good gut health can reduce inflammation in the body, so there is reduced stress on the heart and lowered risk of erythrocytosis, which can impact the kidneys. Further research is being conducted to see how the gut microbiome impacts these areas as a multisystem benefit.
Meet Our Expert Panel:
Shawn Manske, ND, is the Assistant Director of Clinical Education for Biocidin Botanicals, supporting clinical education, research, and product development.
Mahmoud Ghannoum, PhD, is a microbiologist, NIH-funded researcher at Case Western University, and co-founder of BIOHM. Through his research, Dr. Ghannoum established that fungal organisms constitute an essential part of the microbiome.
Alexander Martinez is the CEO, chairman, and Co-Founder of Intrinsic Medicine an entrepreneur inspired to make a public health impact informed by his own patient journey.
Jacques Jospitre, Jr. is a board certified psychiatrist and co-founder of SohoMD, a national Teletherapy and Telepsychiatry platform for integrative and personalized mental health care.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
This article was updated on November 29, 2022.
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How Is Gut Health Connected To Mental And Physical Health
Tags: Healthy Eating , Digestive Health & Disorders , Depression , Nutrition , Heart Health , Urinary & Kidney ,
Have you ever felt foggy or had difficulty concentrating when you haven’t been eating well?
Your gut health is connected to other aspects of your health, both physical and mental, and keeping your gut working at its best can bring benefits that extend far beyond your digestive tract.
Our Franciscan Health expert, Vinshi Khan, MD, gastroenterologist with Franciscan Physician Network Gastroenterology in Lafayette, weighed in on the link between your gut health and your mental and physical wellbeing.
“It is a very overlooked subject,” said Dr. Khan. “People do not think that gut health has implications, but it has very far-reaching implications, both day-to-day and long term.”
What Does The Latest Science Tell Us About Our Brain Our Gut And Our Mental Health
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Over the past few years, Ive gotten a lot more interested in the mind-body connection and its implications for overall health. And thats led me to pay closer attention to the gut mine in particular.
Ive noticed that I instinctively place my hand on my stomach when Im anxious or upset. And while I can assure myself that theres nothing to be nervous about when Im entering an unfamiliar social situation, my gurgling stomach tells a different story.
These arent scientific observations, of course, just more intentional accounting of what we all feel intuitively that our gut has something to do with mood, and our mood has something to do with our gut.
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It seems like yall are curious about this relationship, too. Danielle, a 32-year-old in Los Angeles, sent us this question: What is the latest research on the gut-brain connection and its relationship to mental health?
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Why Does Gut Health Affect Mood
Ultimately the mechanisms behind what may be at play between gut health and mood are still unknown, according to Lowry. But researchers have begun this work and have hypotheses.
For starters, the gut is home to its own nervous system, the enteric nervous system, Lowry says. It doesn’t “think” like the brain does, but it does control digestion and nutrient absorption processes. And it communicates with the brain. Big changes in the gut’s enteric nervous system may send signals to the brain that trigger mood changes, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. This may explain why disorders like irritable bowel syndrome , Crohns disease, and ulcerative colitis are often tied to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
About 90 percent of the bodys serotonin production is produced in the gut, and not the brain, too, says Naidoo. Serotonin, sometimes nicknamed the happy chemical, helps regulate mood. Gut bacteria produces a library of neurotransmitters that can affect how we feel, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, according to a Brain Research paper published in 2019. These chemicals are key players in triggering intense feelings of happiness, reward, or anxiety, Lowry says.
How To Improve Your Gut Health
If you’re looking to improve your gut health, here are several things you can do.
- Effectively digest your food. After a meal, itâs important to be in a relaxed state to produce the gastric juices needed to absorb food. Gastric juice is essential for the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients necessary to support a healthy body and brain.
- Mind what and how you eat. Eat healthy snacks and meals and stay away from junk food. One way to do this is to prepare pre-planned meals, have some fruits or granola bar to snack on when hungry. Also, take time when you eat to fully savor the food, enjoying every bite.
- Exercise. It can be hard to stay active regularly. Scheduling some exercise time can encourage you to work out. Alternatively, take a walk around your neighborhood. This can help you reduce stress and improve your physical and emotional wellbeing.
- Drink plenty of water. Aim to drink between six and eight glasses of water a day to boost the digestive process.
- Seek help. A therapist who specializes in anxiety can help you manage chronic worrying.
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How Can Poor Gut Health Contribute To Poor Mental Health
Clearly, the gut affects the brain. Recent investigations demonstrate that the gut microbiome is actively involved in processes linked to brain development, physiology, psychology, and behavior, explains Dr. Ghannoum. Specifically, the gut microbiome plays a critical role in the regulation of mood, anxiety, and pain. In addition, Dr. Ghannoum states that the microbiome influences specific brain functions, including signals sent between neurons and the creation of new neurons.
This means that when the health of the GI tract is off, eventually it affects mood and brain health, Dr. Ghannoum explains. Research has shown that dysbiosis can contribute to the development or continuation of many systemic diseases including mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Did you know that the vast majority of serotonin in our bodies is produced in the gut? That means that if our GI health is off, it can cause poor mental health. Additionally, certain microbes may produce inflammation, which is a known contributor to anxiety and depression.
Additionally, those with celiac disease are at higher risk for bipolar disorder. People with irritable bowel syndrome are at greater risk for both anxiety and depression. And yes, an unbalanced microbiome will clearly increase the likelihood of mental health problems.
How Do I Keep My Microbiome Healthy
Your gut is filled with TRILLIONS of microbes that make up each persons microbiome. These little friendly bacteria are working overtime each and every day to produce about 50% of the dopamine found in your body and up to 90% of the neurotransmitter serotonin. These two neurochemicals are responsible for your mood, your happiness levels, pleasure and joy.
These little guys can also influence your appetite to make sure you eat things that make them healthier. Your diet essentially dictates which microbes live and die, and as a result, the bacteria that survive can send signals to your brain telling you to eat the food that they like most. This is why after going on a health kick for a few days, eating healthy foods becomes easier over time, whereas the opposite is true if youve been off the wagon for a while.
This is why research is showing that people who take care of their microbiomes have an easier time dealing with mental and emotional health, as people with a rich and diverse microbiome have more good microbes working away to build your serotonin and dopamine levels.
In a 30 day study, subjects showed a decrease in anxiety and depression after consistently eating dairy products packed full of probiotics, as these probiotics were able to help cultivate their microbiomes and produced higher levels of serotonin. The other half of subjects that consumed dairy products with no probiotics saw no change in their moods.
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Can Probiotics Help My Mental Health
We dont know yet. Some studies suggest that changing your gut bacteria could influence your mood. Many of these studies use probiotics to change the type or number of gut bacteria people have. But theres not enough evidence that probiotics are helpful in treating or preventing any mental health conditions just yet.
If youre struggling with your mental health its very important to speak to a GP who can offer you advice and support.
If youre worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. If youre covered by your health insurance, youll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.
Why Gut Health Is Mental Health
What scientists are uncovering about the gut-brain connection.
The following article is based on excerpts from Ben Angel’s book, Unstoppable: A 90-Day Plan to Biohack Your Mind and Body for Success. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound. And be sure to order The Unstoppable Journal, the only journal of its kind based on neuroscience, psychology and biohacking to help you reach your goals.
Andrii Zastrozhnov | Getty Images
Healthcare entrepreneurs have something in common. Each one shares a story of a personal health scare or concern for a loved one’s health that spurred their ambition to not only heal themselves, but to set up companies that aim to help others perform at their best.
So what does this have to do with your gut and mental health? In my 90-day journey to regain my health and wellbeing, I interviewed some of these healthcare pioneers to help me discover what I needed to do to biohack my body and mind, and my journey began by first healing my gut.
As more exciting new research finds that probiotics are having a neuropsychological impact on the brain by ameliorating depression and anxiety-like behaviors, it’s worth keeping in mind these seven signs that your gut is affecting your mental health.
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What Does Your Guts Brain Control
Unlike the big brain in your skull, the ENS cant balance your checkbook or compose a love note. Its main role is controlling digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down food to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption to elimination, explains Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, whose research on the enteric nervous system has garnered international attention. The enteric nervous system doesnt seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brainwith profound results.
The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around, Pasricha says. Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system that trigger mood changes.
These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety, Pasricha says. Thats important, because up to 30 to 40 percent of the population has functional bowel problems at some point.