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The Brain-Gut Connection & Your Mental Health

Have you ever had a gut feeling about something? Or perhaps you’ve had to come to a conclusion about something and said, “You know what, I’m going to go with my gut!”

Well, your gut probably knows more than we realize, in fact, it’s often called the second brain, and while the enteric nervous system (ECS) doesn’t exactly have the ability to think, it can communicate with your brain, which begs the question – Is there a link between gut health and mental health? 

What Is The Brain-Gut Connection?

Believe it or not, what happens in your brain, can impact your gut, and this communication goes both ways, allowing your gut to also influence your brain. When the gut is unhealthy, the interactions between the human gut microbiome and the brain can affect mental health, and when there’s an imbalance in the brain, this can get communicated with the gut, causing it to react. 

It may seem unlikely, but disturbances in the gastrointestinal (GI) system can both cause, and be the result of stress, anxiety, and other mood disorders. So if you experience unexplainable gastrointestinal symptoms that you just can’t seem to pin down, it’s possible that this could be the case.

It may be worth your while considering all the underlying stressors that may be contributing to your digestive discomfort as it can be difficult healing your gut issues without addressing emotional issues that may be plaguing you as well.

The Brain-Gut Connection According to Studies

The enteric nervous system (ENS) is capable of triggering large emotional shifts in individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other bowel issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and pain. For a long time, it was believed that anxiety and depression aggravated these conditions, however, studies show that the reverse is also true.

Research also suggests that irritation in the gut can send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that cause mood changes. There’s a lot of talk about the link between gut health and anxiety, so it should come as no surprise that those with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or any other functional bowel disorder could develop depression and anxiety.

How It Works

Inflammation that occurs in the gut puts a lot of stress on the body’s microbiome via the release of cytokines and neurotransmitters. The intestines then become increasingly permeable, which means that these cytokines and neurotransmitters are able to pass through relatively easily, which in turn aggravates the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. The release of these rogue molecules affects the brain in various ways, often leading to anxiety, depression, and even memory loss.

You & Your Gut

Perhaps you’re wondering “How can I improve my gut health?” Well, one way to ensure you look after your gut health is by investing in high-quality probiotic supplements, such as Reuterina Daily Probiotic, while also ensuring that you stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, adequate amounts of protein, and carbohydrates. Remember to also choose your snack wisely.

Your gut health is clearly capable of affecting your mental health in more ways than one, and now we know that the condition of your mental health can also affect your gut health, meaning that the two are intrinsically linked to each other ﹘ Healthy gut, health mind.For more information, or to get in touch with a professional, you can check out: www.safmh.org/help-desk/ where you’ll be directed to one of many helplines, like the SA Depression & Anxiety Group Suicide line: +27 (0) 800 567 567 / +27 (0) 11 234 4837

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