We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘gut feeling’ – that intuitive sensation you get about a person or a situation. Indeed, there’s an increasing understanding that the gut works like a ‘second brain’ and indeed, the two systems are closely linked, influencing, and impacting each other. So, when it comes to regulating your mood, gut health testing could be a good place to start.
Your Gut Microbiome and Stress
You gut microbiome is the name given to a collection of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that live in the intestinal tract. This ecosystem is complex and plays a vital role in your health, working to keep harmful pathogens at bay while helping the body absorb nutrients.
When the body is exposed to stress, it directs all major resources to the muscles and brain, ready to deal with the perceived threat. This, and the related release of cortisol, can have a bad impact on your gut health and, in turn, your mood.
At the same time, if your gut microbiome is imbalanced to start with, your overall mood can be affected. A balanced healthy gut microbe population can improve your ability to withstand stress, but an imbalanced one can make you more prone to mood disorders, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
The connections between the gut microbiome and mood.
Your gut and brain are linked by the vagus nerve. This major connection enables you to breathe, digest food, and swallow automatically. This nerve is also able to send messages to your brain from your digestive system and vice versa. Scientists have discovered that this connection makes the gut-brain link an important contributor to mental health, illnesses that affect the brain, and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It explains why stress can impact your digestion, causing that feeling of butterflies, cramps, constipation, and diarrhoea, and also in turn, why digestive problems can make you feel unhappy.
What can happen if the gut microbiome is out of balance?
A balanced gut microbiome will still contain some ‘bad’ bacteria, but the numbers of beneficial microbes tend to outweigh them.
When the gut microbiome is balanced and functioning optimally, it is able to support the immune system in helping you to fight illness and infection. But when it’s out of balance, the bad bacteria can start to do harm, leading to inflammation and associated side effects including fatigue and low mood.
Poor gut health can also negatively impact the body’s ability to produce serotonin – the happy hormone – which helps to regulate your mood. 90% of your serotonin is produced in the gut so if your microbiome is impacted, you may notice quite significant effects to your state of mind.
A diverse diet for better mental health.
To support your health, your gut microbiome needs diversity to help keep it balanced. Eating a diet full of nutrients, vitamins, prebiotics, probiotics, and fibre can encourage a diverse microbiome. This can help control inflammation and in turn, improve both mood and anxiety levels.
How can probiotics help?
Probiotics can help to support human health by keeping the gut ecosystem balanced. By doing so, beneficial bacteria can thrive and contribute to your health and wellbeing.
Probiotic bacteria naturally live in the gut but are also found in supplements and fermented foods, like kefir and yoghurt. Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Lactococcus species all help support your body and improve mental health.
Keeping your hormones happy.
One of the important functions of your gut microbes is to transform food into short-chain fatty acids. These communicate with cells that produce serotonin – the happy hormone. Serotonin helps to regulate your mood and manage stress and anxiety. The happier your gut, the happier you may feel overall, thanks to the work of those tiny microbes.
Your microbiome and your mood
The link between the microbiome and your mood is quite clear but, it’s important to know that everyone’s microbiome is unique. If yours isn’t balanced, it’s not just a case of eating more yoghurt to fix the issue. Lots of factors can impact the gut microbiome, from diet to stress, smoking and alcohol to sleep. It’s important to look at your gut health holistically, understanding all the things that can be influencing how it functions, as well as understanding the current landscape of your microbiome and exactly who is living there. The Blue Horizon Microbiome Test can help address this.