Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach before an important event? Have you ever felt nauseous and anxious at the same time?
There is a bidirectional relationship between our digestion and mood. The health of the gut affects mood, and mood can affect our digestive processes.
Let’s explore the ways digestion and mood are intertwined. 1. The Gut-Brain Axis
The gut and the brain are intimately connected through a network of nerves, hormones and neurotransmitters. The vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves that connects the gut and the brain. This system allows for communication between the two, and permits signals to be sent in both directions. Did you know, the thought of eating can release digestive juices well before food arrives in the stomach? The gut is also responsible for the production of hormones and neurotransmitters that can affect your mood. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being, is produced in both the gut and the brain. However, around 95% of the body's serotonin is produced in the gut! 2. The Microbiome and Mood The microbiome is the collection of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that live in the intestinal tract. These microorganisms play an important role in digestion, immune function, and neurotransmitter production.
Studies have shown that people with certain types of gut bacteria are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. For example, those with lower levels of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus (two types of beneficial gut bacteria), are more likely to experience depression and anxiety compared to those with higher levels of these bacteria. Both Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium have been shown to increase the production of GABA - a neurotransmitters that promotes a calming effect in the nervous system. 3. Inflammation and Mood Inflammation within the gut can also affect mood. When the gut becomes inflamed, it can produce cytokines - small little proteins that can affect the immune system, digestive function, and the brain. These cytokines cause damage to intestinal cells, leading to hyper-permeability (leaky gut) and food sensitivities, impaired digestion, and alterations and the gut microbiome. High levels of cytokines have been linked to depression and other mood disorders. The inflammation causes a decrease in neurotransmitter production and metabolism, an increase in nerve cell damage, and a decrease in nerve cell production. The end result = depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory changes, and other mood disorders.
If you are struggling with mood swings, anxiety, depression, brain fog, or have recently been diagnosed with IBS - you are not alone. Speak with your naturopathic doctor at Kingsway Wellness to discuss testing and treatment options. For more information on how naturopathic medicine can help, click here.