The Role of the Gut Microbiome on Anxiety and Depression

Most people deal with feelings of stress and sadness from time to time. For many, the amount and frequency of these feelings have increased dramatically over the past year due to the global pandemic. However, what people may not realize is that there is a connection between their gut microbiome and anxiety and depression.

Understanding What Gut Microbiome Is All About

The gut microbiome has emerged as a key player in health and disease. It consists of millions of bacterial cells housed mostly in the colon. The gut communicates directly with the brain and can even influence behavior via the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is comprised of fibers that are embedded in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. What makes the vagus nerve so essential has to do with its connection to the human autonomic nervous system. This nervous system allows a person to swallow, digest, and breathe naturally. 

The vagus nerve fibers also communicate with the brain about the status of the gut. Essentially, the vagus nerve helps conduct the important work of the digestive tract. This includes causing necessary secretions, muscle movement that pushes food, and relaying messages related to feeling hungry or full. When necessary, the vagus nerve can start the process of releasing anti-inflammatory substances to help heal digestive inflammation. 

Gut Bacteria Also Has an Effect on a Person’s Mood

It may seem hard to believe, but the role of gut microbiome extends past digestion and can actually influence feelings of anxiety and depression. When an individual feels stress, it responds by going into safe mode in order to avoid what feels like perceived danger.  The body shuts down what it considers to be non-essential activities.

In addition, the stress reaction involves digestion, which can be slowed down in order for the body to focus more on activities related fight or flight. This means that when a person feels stressed, their digestion system can be directly impacted. This imbalance of the gut microbiome can cause a rise in mood disorder symptoms. When there is a negative impact on the gut microbiome, anxiety and depression levels often increase. 

When the vagus nerve cannot respond the way it normally does because of an overload of stress, it prevents anti-inflammatory molecules from being released. Conversely, a body with a healthy gut microbiome is often better able to deal with situations that provoke feelings of anxiety and depression. 

How Serotonin and GABA Influence the Mind and Body

Serotonin is an important chemical that sends signals between a person’s nerve cells. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is a precursor of serotonin. This amino acid is introduced to the body via food consumption. Tryptophan deficiency increases anxiety and irritability in humans and may modulate aggressiveness and the response to stress in animals.

Gut bacteria also produce GABA, which is the gamma-aminobutyric acid that also helps regulate moods. When the body experiences stress or other strong emotions, GABA helps a person relax. When the digestive system is interrupted, this process becomes compromised. 

Gut bacteria doesn’t just affect mood disorder symptoms like stress, anxiety, and depression. They also influence a person’s sleep, bowel movements, and levels of nausea. 

How to Eat to Keep Gut Microbiome in Harmony

Eating a balanced diet filled with a variety of anti-inflammatory and plant-based foods helps keep the digestive system in balance. Nutritionists and dieticians recommend people incorporate foods high in probiotic substances, such as nuts, seeds, and legumes. 

High-fiber foods and complex carbohydrates can also keep the digestive system flowing smoothly. Complex carbs include things like whole grains, starchy vegetables, wheatgrass, and quinoa. Approximately ten million Americans enjoy the benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet, which can help promote good gut health. 

A person who finds themselves concerned there may be a tie between their gut microbiome, anxiety, and depression levels should consider consulting an expert. Trained clinicians in the dietary and digestive fields can assess a person’s dietary intake and its relation to any mood disorders they may experience. Implementing suggestions from a professional about ways to change a person’s dietary intake can help, particularly over the long haul. 

Another approach involves using intravenous (IV) nutrition. IV nutrition can deliver key nutrients, vitamins and electrolytes quickly and directly into the bloodstream for complete absorption. People often report that IV nutrition helps improve sleep, reduce stress, increase energy and reduce inflammation.

Digestive Health Treatment in California

Neuro Wellness Spa is on the cutting edge of providing a vast array of treatments that help provide healing for a person’s body and mind. Our trained clinicians can help you identify and address digestive health issues you may be facing. These treatments not only leave you in better physical health but also improve your mood. 

If you are interested in knowing more about the digestive health treatments Neuro Wellness Spa specializes in, contact us today. 

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