The link between gut health and anxiety

The link between gut health and anxiety

Most people don’t know that your gut health plays a tremendous role in your mental health journey. How? the complex gut microbiome. Recent studies in the last decade or so have discovered that the gut has its own nervous system.

The gut, brain connection is the science that the brain directly affects the stomach and intestines, explains Harvard Medicine. For example, even just thinking about eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. The connection goes both ways. An unhealthy intestine could send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send alerts to the gut.


Discovering the root of your anxiety is an essential step towards having a handle on it.  Anxiety comes in many forms for all age groups. Some of the periods are unexplainable and expressed through terrifying panic attacks. 

Therapy can show dramatic improvements. Food therapy is a legitimate treatment for it too. 

The term “gut microbiome” refers specifically to the microorganisms living in your intestines, says Healthline. Humans have about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in their digestive tract. Even though some microorganisms are harmful to our health, many are incredibly beneficial and even necessary to a healthy body.

When your body exposes itself to stress, there are a series of changes. Stress causes the body to release cortisol. This factor can affect your gut microbiome. If your gut microbiome feels imbalanced, your overall mood can take a toll too.

Adding certain foods to your diets, such as probiotics and high-fibre foods, can help balance your anxiety and overall mental well-being. Focusing on good digestion is helpful too. 

Revamp your diet

According to Healthline, you should identify the foods that contribute to a healthy gut. An unhealthy gut can cause potential problems. Replace highly processed, high-sugar and high-fat foods with whole foods. Whole foods must offer myriad benefits. 

Bone broth and salmon are collagen-boosting foods. They help to protect your intestinal wall and improve your digestion. 

High-fibre foods include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oats, peas, avocados, pears, bananas and berries. They are full of fibre and aids in healthy digestion. 

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, mackerel and flax seeds. Omega-3 reduces inflammation. It helps to improve digestion.

Eat probiotics and prebiotic-rich foods.

Probiotics and prebiotic-rich foods can take care of your gut too. They influence the balance of good bacteria in your microbiome. A microbiome is gut flora. 

Probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, kvass and high-quality yoghurt. These foods add adversity to your gut. 

Prebiotic-rich foods feed your good gut bacteria. Jicama, asparagus, chicory root, dandelion greens, onions, garlic and leeks are high prebiotics.

Good digestion is a must.

Gut health is primarily influenced by good digestion. Being parasympathetic – a rest and digest state – is imperative to digest properly. 

If uncomfortable and stressed, you wouldn’t produce the gastric juices which properly absorb food. Nutrients, vitamins and minerals will be unable to support a healthy brain and body. 

To get to that restful state, practice some deep breathing before eating. Several apps can guide you too. 

Tips for reducing stress and anxiety

Stress is a normal part of life. It is impossible to avoid, but you can manage your stress and reduce its impact on your gut. 

Take short breaks and breathe.

Breathing correctly can help when you are feeling stressed. Every couple of hours, stop what you are doing and do a minute of slow, quiet deep breathing. Your breathing must be silent and through your nose. Push your stomach out when you inhale. Let it deflate when you exhale. 

Say no

You can’t do everything and please everybody. That is a recipe for stress. Know your limits and when you are close to reaching them. Do not accept additional responsibilities when you do not have the capacity. 

Exercise or do yoga

Physical activity can reduce your stress levels. Fifteen minutes is sometimes all you need. Exercising releases a chemical called endorphins. The endorphins interact with receptors in your brain and trigger a positive feeling in your body. 

Focus on things you can control

Unfortunately, you can’t control everything. You can control how you want to react to problems. Your reaction is a choice. For example, accept that you gut problems and curb your symptoms. Worrying will only make the symptoms worse.

Find a therapist

Seek a therapist who specialises in anxiety. It is challenging to deal with chronic worry and fear alone. A skilled cognitive behavioural therapist may be helpful and show you what to do.   

Balance is the key to a healthy gut.

The body’s systems are separate entities, but they are also well-connected and influence each other’s activities. The gut and the brain are prime examples of how one can affect the other. 

Promising research has shown that probiotics and prebiotics have positive effects on depression, anxiety and stress resilience.

If you feel concerned, consult a medical professional.


Cover for the whole family


The Medical Society covers you and your family for whatever unforeseen illnesses may come your way, offering affordable health care for adults. Adult members are covered for an array of Primary health care treatment benefits.  

From only R89 per month, members are covered for unlimited nurse room visits, as well as dietary advice from professionals. 

Adults also receive chronic illness monitoring, advice and prevention, for conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. 

Treatment for minor medical conditions such as sprains, cuts, bruises and burns is also available. 


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