Many people are aware that stress can affect their gastrointestinal tract’s function. From suffering with diarrhea when you are stressed out to feeling butterflies and getting indigestion when you are nervous, anxiety can definitely do a number on your digestion.
But did you know that more scientists are suggesting that the opposite may also be true? That’s right: good or bad digestion may add to a person’s anxiety, depression, and stress.
How Can a Person’s Digestion Affect Their Mental Health?
Scientists are discovering that having the proper gut flora (microbes such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi) contributes to normal brain function and also affects a person’s mental well-being. In fact, there is an exquisitely complex relationship between gut and brain health that travels both ways: they affect each other (G. De Palma, 2015).
A person’s gut flora is seeded at birth, from microorganisms that are present in the mother’s birth canal. From there, it can be affected by many things, from the environment to the foods and other things that a person ingests.
So how can you strengthen your gut flora in order to help maintain lower anxiety and depression levels? There are some things you should avoid and some things you should seek out.
What to Avoid When Cultivating Good Gut Health
There are some foods and other substances that are notoriously bad for a person’s gut health. These things may feed non-beneficial types of gut organisms or suppress or kill good ones. Some of the main things to avoid when you are trying to encourage a healthy gut microbiota are:
- Processed foods
What to Seek Out When Nurturing Good Gut Flora
In addition to avoiding foods or substances that may harm your gut flora, you can actively work to improve it by introducing beneficial microorganisms into your body.
Sources of good gut flora include:
- Fermented vegetables such as kimchi
- Lassi (an Indian drink made with yogurt)
- Kefir or yogurt made from whole, organic milk
- Natto (fermented soy)
While it’s best to get your good bacteria through the foods you eat, you may wish to use a probiotic supplement from time to time, as well, if it is difficult for you to fit good sources into your diet.
As strange is it might seem, eating your way to good mental health may be just what the doctor ordered.
- G. De Palma, P. B. (2015, June 5). Microbiota and host determinants of behavioural phenotype in maternally separated mice. Retrieved from Nature Communications: DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8735.