How Gut Bacteria Affects Your Mood and Mental Health

By Leon Vance

In modern science it is often assumed that the digestive system is just a means of processing nutrients to provide energy for your body. However, recent research has been discovering that it is so much more. 

In addition to helping efficiently digest food, the gut microbiome also plays an important part in your nervous system. 

There are over 1,000 unique kinds of bacteria living in the gut, each with their own specialized functions. In addition to helping efficiently digest food, the gut microbiome also plays an important part in your nervous system. Much of your gut microbiota are in constant communication with the brain and immune system. The brain and gut work in tandem to control how your body functions, and are greatly affected by your mood. 

How your gut affects mental health

While stress and depression have clear impacts on mental health, they also influence how your gut processes food. In the same way that one’s expression changes when they get upset, anger and stress also causes the gut to contract. In this state, food is digested faster, but it is also processed less completely, providing less nutritional value. In addition, stress can easily lead to an overactive gut, which can cause discomforting side effects in the form of symptoms such as indigestion. On the opposite side of the spectrum, an overabundance of depression and sadness cause the gut to lose energy and work slower. This can lead to loss of appetite as well as other digestive difficulties. 

In the same way that one’s expression changes when they get upset, anger and stress also causes the gut to contract. In this state, food is digested faster, but it is also processed less completely, providing less nutritional value. 

While it is normal that we experience a range of emotions throughout our day-to-day lives, an imbalance of these emotions can lead to the side effects described above. While we no longer live our lives as hunter gatherers, we still retain much of the genetic programming of our ancestors, including the function of the gut. When we become overly stressed out, our body goes into “panic mode” as if we were running from a predator. Oftentimes, the stress we experience does not come from a life-or-death situation, but the gut cannot tell the difference at a microbiotic level, which leads to the often excessive negative reaction. This is critical to understanding how our bodies react to unfamiliar situations. 

Stress and Your Gut

Some scientists consider the gut the “second brain”. Considering how much influence it has on how your brain processes stimuli, this may be a correct judgement.

Some scientists consider the gut the “second brain”. Considering how much influence it has on how your brain processes stimuli, this may be a correct judgement. Being partially in control of your mood and how you handle high-stress situations, it is important to treat your gut the same way you treat your brain. Taking care of your gut by providing it with nutritional fuel is one of the best ways to keep yourself and your gut microbiome healthy. Ensuring your gut microbiota are in good condition by consuming a healthy array of prebiotics and probiotics is an essential part of this process.

Taking care of your gut by providing it with nutritional fuel is one of the best ways to keep yourself and your gut microbiome healthy. 

Self Care and your Gut

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