Known as the gut-brain-axis, the connection between gut and mental health are tied closely together. So close in fact, that healthy gut function is linked to the body’s central nervous system. These functions receive signals from the gut to the brain. These signals, also known as neurotransmitters, can be caused by both “good” or “ bad” bacteria.
The health of your gut is determined by the millions of bacteria found in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. When the human body produces more “bad” or unhealthy bacteria, the chances of having both bad gut and mental health issues increases. For example, studies have shown that poor gut health is associated with inflammation, digestive issues, anxiety and other issues including mental health.
How do “bad” bacteria affect mental health?
Bacteria have the ability to “speak” to our nervous system. The ability of the human body to overproduce “bad” bacteria within the gut can lead to the immune system over responding. This can then lead to inflammation or other diseases throughout the body as well as the brain.
The way your gut communicates to your brain is influenced by which bacteria, “good” or “bad” is doing the communicating. Studies have shown that when “good” bacteria communicate via neurotransmitters, people tend to lead a healthier quality of life. Meanwhile, individuals that have more “bad” bacteria communicating, appear to suffer from depression, irritable bowel syndrome and other illnesses.
Additionally, many treatments for these diseases involve medication that can possibly produce “bad” bacteria as a side effect. For example, many antibiotics aid in affecting your body’s “good” bacteria. Antibiotics have ingredients that will attack your “good” bacteria while treating the “bad.” How? While both “bad” and “good” bacteria are being attacked, the “good” bacteria are not being replaced. As a result, it allows the remaining “bad” bacteria that hasn’t been affected by the antibiotics, to outnumber and reproduce more “bad” bacteria. Thus, the call and response cycle of the gut-brain-axis continues.
Will my gut talk to me? Yes! Your gut will let you know that your overall health is being affected by “bad” bacteria. Pay attention to the signals from your digestive system. These signals are meant to give you a heads up about what is happening, or what may occur in the future.
Be Good. After understanding how gut health can affect mental health, the best way to combat bad gut health is to develop a good gut lifestyle. A good gut lifestyle includes:
- Increasing your probiotic and prebiotic intake
- Focus on good digestion
- Decrease sugar consumption
These small yet simple changes can influence the quality of life you lead. Don’t let bad gut health affect your good life.