How Is Your Mental Health Affected by the Health of Your Gut and Why?
6 minute read
Good mental health is just as important as physical health, and often more important. Despite the field of mental health developing much later compared to other fields of medicine, it has progressed significantly in recent decades.
Anxiety and depression are on the rise, so looking after your mental health is essential. Oddly enough, one way to promote mental health by optimizing physical health, specifically the health of your gut.
The Inflammation-Depression Connection
Inflammation is designed to fight infections, but the body is not perfect and inflammation can also do real damage. When inflammation becomes systemic, it is a serious problem.
Chronic inflammation is the underlying cause of many diseases and has killed more people than anything else. For this reason, our bodies have mechanisms in place to control the inflammatory response.
Cytokines are chemicals charged with the responsibility of directing inflammation towards a threat or infection. Individuals with depression and other mental health diseases have been found to have higher levels of these cytokines, which means inflammation is more widespread in their bodies.
Cytokines also trigger neurochemical changes, and any imbalance causes behavior change and contributes to mood disorders.
These cytokines are increased by way of the immune system. When your gut is unhealthy and toxins can easily permeate the intestinal walls, inflammation is released to target all of the wandering pathogens.
In doing so, the inflammatory response becomes systemic. When it reaches your brain, the damage done can trigger mood changes and mental health deterioration.
Because of the inflammation connection, many scientists believe that antidepressant medications only help in the fact that they relieve inflammation. These drugs provide anti-inflammatory benefits as well as neurotransmitter regulation.
By reducing inflammation, neurotransmitter behavior returns to normal. This explains why natural anti-inflammatory therapies may outperform prescribed antidepressants in studies.
From Gut to Brain: Your Highway to Health
There is a valuable link between the health of your gut and optimal mental health. Given the gut-brain axis, it is possible that probiotics can improve your gut, which will, in turn, protect your brain and boost mental health.
Mental health professionals currently rely on an array of medications and drugs to treat the symptoms of mental health conditions. The problem is that not every drug works for every condition and not for every person.
A system of trial and error is in place, which means effective treatment and symptom relief may take some time. In addition to this many medications come with unpleasant side effects, essentially treating some symptoms but causing others.
With probiotic therapy, this may be avoidable. A healthy bacterial community in your gut promotes digestive health, a stronger immune system, and better mental health. With probiotics cleaning up and strengthening your gut, your brain also receives care by way of the gut-brain axis.
What You Eat Goes Straight to Your Head
Your diet impacts your gut health, which in turn impacts your mental health. Sugar has been identified as a major problem when it comes to both physical and mental health.
Your blood-brain barrier is designed to allow for the passage of small molecules into the brain to protect it from oxidative damage and inflammation.
When your blood glucose levels are off-balance, it is easier for toxins to cross this barrier into your brain. More toxins in the brain mean more inflammation.
Inflammation reduces the levels of beneficial neurotransmitters, which increases states of anxiety and depression. In the same way allergies to certain foods like gluten, trigger similar reactions and an increase of inflammation to the brain area.
Your mental health also relies on efficient mitochondrial activity (for cell energy) and glutathione levels (protection against oxidative damage). High blood glucose levels and the subsequent high toxicity levels deplete glutathione and impair mitochondrial activity.
When this happens, oxidative damage can interfere with brain function and the result is anxiety or depression.
You need to watch what you eat. Following an anti-inflammatory diet is the best approach to preventing any chemical and behavior changes in your brain and will keep your moods steady and happy.
| Related: The Best Strains of Probiotics for Weight Loss |
The best foods to incorporate that will keep both your gut and your brain happy include:
♦ Berries: These are full of antioxidants that prevent oxidative damage and inflammation while supporting the functions of your immune system.
♦ Fatty fish: Tuna and salmon are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which have long been known to provide protective benefits for your brain. These fatty acids reduce inflammation and provide essential nutrients to your brain for maintenance and repair.
♦ Green tea: As one of the healthiest beverages you can drink, green tea reduces oxidative damage by eliminating free radicals. As a way to safeguard your brain cells from damage, green tea consumption has been linked to reduced risk for neurodegeneration and poor mental health.
The Bottom Line
Depression and other mood disorders are common today and impact millions every year. Sadly, many other health conditions are associated with these diseases, which is bringing the country’s health down each day.
By promoting intestinal health you can prevent inflammation from damaging your body and your mind. Your gut is as powerful as your brain when it comes to controlling your health, so keep it balanced and keep your mind happy.