The relationship between gut health and depression

Think about those times you ate something that did not agree with your stomach. You feel upset, moody, and anxious because you are trying to dash to the nearest bathroom. The gut can influence your brain and vice versa. In other words, if you have an upset stomach, you will be upset.

The gut-brain axis (GBA) is a communication system between the central (brain and spinal cord) nervous system and the enteric (gastrointestinal) nervous systems. It links emotion with intestinal function. The gastrointestinal system is known as the second brain, including 95% of the happy neurotransmitter, serotonin.

Boost your mood and help prevent depression by improving your gut health:

Strengthen Digestion

Leaky gut syndrome, also called intestinal permeability, is caused by damage to the intestinal lining. As a consequence, bacteria and undigested food can make its way into the bloodstream, leading to impaired digestion and absorption of nutrients, stomach upset, discomfort, inflammation and disease.

Improve your gut health by limiting irritating foods and drinks including spicy food, coffee, alcohol, and caffeine. Keep a food journal and gain some insight into what is making your stomach upset and contact your physician or dietitian to gain more insight into possible food allergies. Eat at small frequent meals which will ease the digestive process.

Help Healthy Bacteria

Dysbiosis occurs when unhealthy bacteria outnumber healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. It has been linked to conditions including anxiety, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome.  Improving the healthy microbiota in your body can help prevent and treat anxiety and depression.

Increase prebiotics in your diet by including foods like banana, garlic, onions, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, acacia gum, chicory root and increase probiotics by including fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles. Limit or avoid the foods that favor the bad bacteria like sugar, alcohol and processed fats.

Rest and Digest

When we are stressed, chemicals are released in the blood to help us escape from danger. However, when our sympathetic nervous system kicks in, we have decreased blood flow and digestive enzymes available in the stomach. Meaning impaired digestion and more stomach upset.

Activate the parasympathetic nervous system and facilitate digestion by relaxing while you eat. Take 3 deep breaths before you begin your meal. Eat in a calm, relaxed setting. Step away from your desk and try eating without distractions (TV, phone, computer, etc).